You’ve probably sussed it out by now: diet is the key to beating your type 2 diabetes, ie you can keep your blood glucose levels under control by avoiding certain foodstuffs. Easy enough to do at home. But what can you eat when you are out and about?
There is no cure for diabetes and the consequences are horrendous—heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage, severe digestive problems, persistent infections etc.
However you can avoid these consequences by eating a diet that is (1) low in sugar, (2) low in fat, (3) low in salt, (4) high in fibre, and (5) digested slowly. This means focusing on natural, unprocessed foods that are mostly plants. You also need to avoid eating all dairy products (milk, cheese, butter etc) and all eggs from your diet, and drink plenty of water.
Following this kind of diet is easy when you are at home and have a virtually unlimited choice and therefore full control over what you eat.
What do you do when you are outside your home—on the go, at work or out socialising with friends?
Bringing your own lunch to work in a small plastic picnic box is the smart thing to do. That way you have the same control over what you eat as you do at home.
You can easily make up a nutritious, diabetes-beating lunch of cold beans or other protein (such as lean meat), a mixed salad, and some carbs in the form of wholemeal bread. Or you could go for low-fat hummus with pita bread and carrot sticks.
Snacks are also important at work. Raw carrots or celery cut into short sticks are ideal and are satisfying to crunch on. If you find them a bit boring you can liven them up with low fat dip, such as soy yoghurt.
Fruits—apples, pears, grapes and raisins—can be used for a quick pick-up.
Just remember that raisins are dried grapes and packed with natural sugar, so don’t eat too many of them (maximum one-third of the number of grapes you would eat).
There are plenty of non-dairy yoghurts you can add into the snack mix. However, you need to read the labels carefully for added ‘flavour-enhancing’ ingredients, such as sugar, fat and casein, the dairy protein.
Air-popped corn is one of the few processed foods that can be recommended as a snack. It is naturally high in dietary fibre and antioxidants, low in calories and fat, and free of sugar and sodium.
The problem is that commercial popcorn contains large amounts of added fat, sugar, and salt which entirely negate its healthfulness. Thus, read the labels carefully before you buy. Or best of all, pop your own corn at home in the microwave. It’s easy.
A delicious, protein-rich snack you can make at home and bring to the office in small resealable plastic bags is roasted chickpeas. Simply preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse, drain, and blot dry a can of chickpeas. Toss the chickpeas with a tablespoon of olive oil and spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until they look golden brown and crispy.
As a type 2 diabetic you need to stay hydrated and should drink several litres of water over the course of your working day. You can also boost your energy levels with coffee or tea.
But your coffee has to be drunk ‘plain black’, without any sugar. Avoid dairy milk. If you must have it ‘white’, add a non-dairy creamer.
Alternatively you can drink several cups of green tea, another marvellously stimulating drink, a day.
If you have not brought your own lunch to work, you can go to a sandwich shop where sandwiches are made to order.
Because you choose the bread and decide what goes into them, depending on the choices available, you take back some of the control you have at home over what you are going to eat.
Choose whole-grain breads and wraps for your sandwich, since these have more nutrients than white bread and usually have a lower GI value.
When sandwiches are made to order, you’re able to specify what items to be added in (such as vegetables) and what to leave off, such as fattening mayonnaise or sauce high in sugar.
You should, of course, choose freshly-sliced lean meat over processed (deli) meats, as the latter tend to be high in fat and sodium. Turkey and chicken are your best bets as long as they are not part of a heavy mayonnaise-based salad.
But go easy on bread if you are trying to diet by reducing your carb intake. Instead consider going for soup or putting your protein on a salad. You can also get any carbs you might need from a piece of fruit.
Nowadays, supermarkets and local grocery (convenience) stores sell ready-to-eat sandwiches and other light meals and snacks, which you can eat on the go.
They offer some good choices, especially in the refrigerated section, where you will find perfect delicacies such as popsicles made from frozen low-fat non-dairy yoghurt.
But always read the labels before making your choice.
Raw vegetables such as carrots make great snacks, as most vegetables are low in calories and low in carbs, so the rise in blood sugar they cause will be minimal. Plus they’re a great way to get vitamins and minerals in your diet.
Best choices are packets of pre-cut vegetables plus low-fat dips (provided you read the label and eliminate dips containing flavour-enhancers such as sugar or salt).
Or, for another quick snack you can pick up in your local grocery, drop small pieces of fruit into a tub of plain unsweetened non-dairy yogurt.
Sometimes, when you are out and about with family or friends, it is impossible to avoid burger joints or similar establishments.
The problem is that the average fast-food meal (burger and fries) can deliver 1,000 calories (half the recommended daily intake for an adult) or more. It can also give a massive boost to your blood glucose, as most of these foods, especially the buns and the French fries, have high glycemic index values.
Where an item on the menu is described as “jumbo”, “giant”, or “deluxe” you can be pretty sure that it is high in sugar and fat as well as calories.
Your best bet is to go for a kids’ burger without the cheese. This will deliver a reasonable meal with lower carbs and fat, and plenty of protein. But skip the fries, and go for salad, baby carrots, or apple slices instead.
Alternatively you could try a kebab house and try a shish-kebab (spit-roasted lamb) or similar with a mixed salad in wholemeal pita bread—a far, far healthier choice for a type 2 diabetic.
Coffee shops are unavoidable if you want any sort of a social life. And there’s no problem—as long as you avoid the jazzed-up specialty coffees that are usually loaded with sugar and cream.
You should also ignore the sticky buns.
Your best bet is to keep you drinks order simple. Go for unsweetened tea, American (plain black) coffee or an espresso.
You could also try a ‘skinny’, a latte made with low-fat non-dairy milk. If it is flavoured make sure that the syrup used is sugar-free. Check the nutrition facts to be certain you are getting only what is good for you.
It goes without saying that you cannot indulge yourself with a Danish pastry or other kinds of cakes and confectionery.
However, if you really must nibble, try a toasted scone with raisins. The outside of a lightly toasted scone will be crunchy while the inside should be warm, moist and sweet from the raisins.
But don’t eat more than one as it will have a relatively high GI value. And, because it is full of raisins, you don’t need to put any butter or jam on it.
Avoid vending machines. Virtually everything they sell is chock-a-block with sodium, fat and/or sugar.
But if you must have a pick-up from a vending machine, choose a small bar of plain dark chocolate with raisins. But only eat half of it. Give or throw the other half away.
As you can see, sticking to your diabetes-beating diet when you are on the go is not too difficult provided you give the matter a little forethought.