In my previous article Why Should I Care About My Blood Sugar, I talked about the seriousness of high blood glucose levels and how they affect your health. In this article I would like to deal with some of the barriers to working on blood sugar levels, and eating healthy, as well as give you some ideas to get you started on this journey. If you don’t struggle with high blood sugar, but want to improve your overall health, this may also be a good place for you to start.
Let me address some of the challenges of making changes:
We are so busy doing all the things we think we need to be doing. We also don’t want to ask for help. I think often we are spinning our wheels trying to accomplish things we think we need to do and letting go of the things we actually do need to do. We forget to put a priority on things that we can’t ignore, because they don’t sound like we have accomplished anything.
We know we need to eat, but who wants to cook, if it means healthy meals? It’s so much easier and more acceptable to eat a meal, that doesn’t support anyone’s health goals, at a restaurant or fast food location. Imagine the response when someone says “let’s go get pizza”. Now visualize the response when you say “let’s go home for broccoli and baked chicken thighs”. The second one will go flat, but you will get a lot of enthusiasm for pizza. Positive reinforcement is training us to develop such bad habits, no wonder we have a health epidemic on our hands!
We have to stay strong, we have to decide that our health is something we can’t live without…literally!
Honestly, how long do you think it takes to steam broccoli and maybe heat up an already baked chicken thigh? Six minutes, ten at the most! If you can’t even do that, buy bags of frozen vegetables; dump them in a pan, add a bit of water and cook them on the stove in 6 minutes. How easy is that? All it takes is a bit of reprioritizing and some advance planning and work.
In fact, if you can’t even do that, you can stop and pick up a rotisserie chicken and fill a container at the salad bar at the local grocery store. Now you have dinner for the whole family in 15 minutes.
It’s not sexy, I know. It’s not the sports bar, or the place with the slides for the kids, or the place that serves shakes made without milk (which is why they can’t legally call them milkshakes…what are they made with?). But how exciting is diabetes? Foot pain, then neuropathy? Vision diminishing to the point of blindness? Dialysis? Shots in the stomach after every meal? Trips to the doctor, the diabetes specialist, and the kidney doctor and the cardiologist; as well as endless medications along the way with all those side effects. Do you want to be popular? Or do you want to fight for your health? How much money would you give to regain your health after all of that?
Be willing to take the time you need to maintain your health!
Fit Good Food Choices into Your Time
I find when people think it costs more to eat healthy, they think of some of the special foods they think they have to buy. Usually it’s the dairy and meat, because the cost of locally grown, pasture raised animal products is not subsidized, and does cost more. Personally, I would rather consume less of a better product; but I understand there are those who have large families and less is already happening. Perhaps you need to raise your own, or find a friend who will raise them for you. Reach out, see what you can figure out.
Organic vegetables and fruit do cost a bit more. First of all, don’t buy fruit out of season, unless it’s frozen while it’s in season. Of course fresh strawberries in February are more expensive. Wait until they are in season and sold at your favorite farmer’s market, and make them a treat. You don’t need to buy the lettuce in plastic tubs, buy the heads in the refrigerated section, they are usually cheaper. The price of organic vegetables has come down so much, that it’s very close to the price of conventionally grown ones. Just look for in-season and locally grown, and support your local organic farmers when you can. Buy conventional when you can’t get organic, but get organic as much as possible.
Money is a factor, but don’t let it stop you. Think how much money you will save by not purchasing chips and bread and cereal and pastries and ice cream and fast food…
Just know, if your option is the dollar meal because it’s so cheap, you will pay in the long run, and you don’t get to choose how you pay. Co-pay alone for cancer patients can wipe them out financially. Losing you of a heart attack will wipe your family out in many ways.
Now let’s talk about actions we can do to improve our blood sugar levels!
Start with a plan
Start with a plan to make more of your meals at home, and make them from great ingredients. If you need to do a pantry purge, feel free to eliminate the distractions.
Start with the food you do know how to make that are more conducive to your health: vegetables (preferably non-starchy), fresh, frozen, steamed, sautéed, fermented, cooked…you name it. Figure out a way to make them the most important part of your meal.
You can make them delicious. Most people love stir fried vegetables with some chicken added. Sautéed vegetables in coconut oil or a bit of butter. Add a healthy sauce, if you find a good recipe. A salad with lots of bell peppers, carrots, peas, garbanzo beans, and a delicious dressing made from great ingredients. Have you ever had roasted cauliflower? These can be some great family favorites, if you give them a chance. Some people even make their “rice” out of cauliflower.
Make vegetables the largest item on the plate.
I’m not talking about a couple green beans, I’m talking about half a pound to a pound of these on your plate, when it’s cooked it’s not that much!
Will you always do this? No, but make it your goal to eat at least half a pound of vegetables at all your meals. Even breakfast? Even breakfast!
One of my favorite breakfasts is spinach, sautéed in coconut oil, with a bit of feta cheese and a sprinkling of pecans at the end of the sauté.
Kick the processed carbs out of your breakfast!
As a culture, we love our sweet breakfasts. Perhaps that isn’t the best idea for our health. Many other countries start their day with a savory breakfast, some have beans and rice, others miso soup and rice. If you are dealing with pre-diabetes or diabetes, this may be the time to consider gong the extra mile and start with vegetables. Yep, you heard me. Perhaps a nice vegetable soup, or maybe one of those green smoothies with lots of veggies and some berries to sweeten it up. Steel cut oats or rice may be an option, as long as you don’t pile it with sugar and fats.
Food Choices Start in the Grocery Aisle
Just say no. In fact, don’t even go down those aisles. You know the ones I mean, the cereal aisle, the cookie and cracker aisle, the fake food aisles that pose as family food in a box. Since when did apples come in a box? How does cheese come in a box? Is it really cheese? Or is it some chemical powder colored orange? If you really think about it, it doesn’t even sound appetizing!
When you go to the check out, look at your cart. Are you proud of your food choices? Or do you want to hide that package of cookies and deny they are yours? Are there beverages in cans? Read the label, are you proud of that choice? Does it say “sparkling water from a trusted spring”, or does it mention a bunch of chemicals that you can’t even read? Or are water and sugar the first two things on the can? Oh, it’s fruit juice? Look at the number of grams of sugars on the label. Now compare that label to the soft drink labels. If there are just as many grams of sugar, you aren’t doing yourself a favor!
Look how much money you are saving, and the time it took to go down all those aisles is also saved!