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updated December 07, 2007

Diabetes diet: Need some motivation?

  • Having trouble following your diabetes diet? Tackle your barriers one by one — and discover motivation you didn't know you had!
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Filed under: Diabetes

( Your diabetes diet probably focuses on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It's the same healthy-eating plan that's best for everyone, but it's not always easy to follow your diabetes diet. Consider these five barriers to healthy eating — and common-sense strategies to overcome them.

Barrier: Healthy foods are expensive.

Fresh fruits and vegetables can put a serious dent in your food budget. But the money is well spent. Consider it an investment in your health. Then get creative about saving money in the produce aisles:

  • Stick to seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables that are on sale.
  • Shop at local farmer's markets or fresh produce stands.
  • Choose whole fruits and vegetables, rather than the chopped, sliced or bagged variety.
  • Buy only as much fresh produce as you know you'll eat.
  • Try frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • Grow your own vegetables in a pot or garden.

It might help to look at your total grocery bill, too. The more you spend on fruits and vegetables, the less you're likely to spend on chips, cookies and other junk food.

Barrier: You love ethnic foods.

From jambalaya to wontons, food is an expression of culture. But all cuisine can be prepared in healthier ways. Challenge yourself to make healthier versions of your favorite ethnic foods.

  • Recipe says fry the food in oil or butter? Try baking or broiling it instead.
  • Recipe calls for cheddar cheese or nuts? Use half the recommended amount.
  • Recipe for a baked good calls for 1 cup butter? Try 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce.
  • Recipe calls for frosting? Drizzle a glaze made with a sugar substitute — or skip the frosting entirely.

For more ideas, check out diabetes cookbooks that focus on ethnic foods.

Barrier: Your family doesn't get it.

From weeknight dinners to holiday gatherings, food is often the center of family life. If your family members don't seem supportive of the changes you're trying to make, help them understand why healthy eating and portion control are so important. Your diabetes diet helps you:

  • Feel better
  • Control your blood sugar level
  • Lose excess pounds
  • Prevent diabetes complications, such as heart disease, kidney damage and nerve damage

Remember, change may be hard for your family members, too. But healthy foods and portion control are good for everyone. With your family's support, healthy eating can become a way of life.

Barrier: You want to be social.

It's hard to turn down a dessert or snack when it's offered to you, especially if everyone else is joining in. But you can eat sweets or other treats once in a while without feeling guilty or sabotaging your diabetes diet. Just plan ahead.

  • Join the team for pizza after the game, but only one slice.
  • Enjoy happy hour with a diet soda in hand. If you order alcohol, opt for one light beer or a glass of dry wine.
  • Show up at the neighborhood get-together with enough good-for-you snacks to share.
  • Meet your best friend for dinner. Suggest sharing a meal, or ask the server to put half the meal in a take-home container before it's served to you.
  • Say yes to dessert once in a while. Just remember to scale back on the carbohydrates in your meal to compensate.
Barrier: You don't have the energy to focus on your diabetes diet.

You're busy. It may seem that following your diabetes diet only adds to your stress level. But there's a catch. If you don't follow your diabetes diet, you may feel even worse. So make it easy:

  • Stock the kitchen with good-for-you foods that are easy to prepare or grab on the go.
  • Gather diabetes-friendly recipes — and use them to plan simple meals ahead of time.
  • Post your diabetes exchange lists prominently.
  • Keep your food log handy.

If you're prepared to eat healthy foods, you won't need to give your diabetes diet a second thought while you're busy juggling other demands.

Barriers be gone!

Your motivation to stick with your diabetes diet will likely improve as you begin to tackle your barriers to healthy eating. And your hard work is sure to pay off. Look forward to feeling better and maintaining better control of your diabetes. Believe that what you're doing matters — and that you're worth it.

©1998-2009 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Terms of use.

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