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Stock Your Kitchen for Diabetes Health

By Michelle Leifer
WebMD Feature

Eating healthy, balanced meals is the key to managing your diabetes. Good nutrition not only helps you control your blood sugar levels, but it also lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol and keeps cravings at bay.

When you have the right foods on hand, it’s much easier to stick to a healthy meal plan. Not sure what to stock? Add these must-haves to your shopping list. 

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Beans

“Kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans are all great for blood glucose control,” says Jessica Bennett, a dietitian at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “They’re high in fiber and take a long time to digest.”

Beans offer a lot of options. They make a tasty side dish, or you can add them to salads, soups, casseroles, and chili. They’re also a great stand-in for meat because they’re high in protein but low in fat.

Dried beans are a better choice than canned. They contain less sodium. Soak them overnight and they’ll be ready to cook in the morning. If you go for the ones in a can, rinse them first. That’ll keep the salt down.

Salt-Free Seasonings 
Spices are a great way to jazz up your meals without adding calories or carbs. Just be sure to avoid ones with salt.

“Red pepper flakes, oregano, curry, cinnamon, turmeric, and garlic powder [not salt] are all great options,” Bennett says.

Whole Grains

They’re packed with fiber, but finding them isn’t as easy as it may seem. Some foods only contain a small amount, even though it says “contains whole grain” on the package. Read the ingredients label and look for the following sources to be listed first:

  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Whole oats/oatmeal
  • Whole-grain corn or cornmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Brown rice
  • Whole rye
  • Whole-grain barley
  • Whole farro
  • Wild rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Quinoa

Bennett suggests the following ways to get more whole grain into your meal plan:

  • Bake with whole wheat flour instead of white.
  • Start the day with a half-cup of high-fiber bran cereal. “Choose one with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and less than 6 grams of sugar."
  • Use whole wheat pasta.
  • Make a sandwich on whole-grain bread.
  • Try recipes that use less-common whole grains like barley or bulgur.
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