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In today's busy world, it's difficult enough for most of us to get a meal on the table at all - let alone following a healthy meal plan every day.
When you are in a rush, it's easy to forget about eating right or even eating at all. In our haste, we do not always make the best food choices.
But it is possible to meet the demands of your day and still eat in a healthy way. The secret? Plan ahead. Just half an hour of planning can give you a week's worth of healthy and tasty meals and snacks.
Think Now, Eat Well Later
Successful, lifelong diabetes management always entertains the idea of adjusting one's eating habits to optimize blood-glucose control. Although it's different for everyone, meal planning that includes healthy and tasty foods can be difficult. Whether it's a meal for one, for just the two of you or for a family of six, quick and easy meal ideas are important to master.
Meal planning for people with diabetes has improved and "relaxed" somewhat over the past 15 to 20 years. People with diabetes now can choose from a wider variety of foods than we once believed. Since nothing is considered "off limits," keeping a wide variety of foods on hand will make meals more enjoyable and easier to fix.
Look through your kitchen to see what you may have on hand. Making a list that takes into account the items you already have helps cut down on the time you spend in the grocery store.
Two basic ways to modify a recipe involve changing either an ingredient or a cooking technique. Keep your pantry stocked with ingredients that will help you make those changes.
When you need to go shopping, tackling the grocery store one section at a time will help eliminate head-aches and frustration.
In the meat section, look for items that are precooked or ready to serve (heat-and-eat items). Rotisserie chicken, prepackaged/precooked roast, preseasoned fish or pork cutlets are often available. Check the product labels for sodium and fat content.
Individual boneless, skinless chicken breasts are available quick frozen, which makes them easy to throw on the grill or in the oven in the exact amount you want to use. Cut them into strips or cubes, and they will cook even faster.
Canned, frozen or fresh, vegetables are a quick complement to a protein source. You can purchase individual servings of nonstarchy veggies frozen in microwavable containers. When you use canned vegetables, remember that you can rinse them to wash away much of the added sodium content.
Fresh veggies that cook quickly include asparagus, broccoli and zucchini. Prepared salad is usually found bagged in the produce section, sometimes with croutons and dressing included in the package.
Keep ready-to-eat veggies such as baby carrots, raw broccoli and cauliflower available for a quick, nutrient-dense, low-carbohydrate snack.
To include a starch with your meal, you might consider different varieties of packaged rice with flavorings already added or perhaps microwaved baked potatoes. Check the product labels for carbohydrate content, sodium content, and types and amounts of fats to be sure that your selections are healthy choices for your special needs.
Prepared pizza crust works in a snap. Top it with a few cut-up veggies and low-fat mozzarella cheese.
Also, it never hurts to pick up a couple of convenience frozen meals; they work well in a pinch. Be careful to purchase lower-fat, lower-sodium, portion-controlled meals. A frozen meal can provide servings from the starch, vegetable and protein groups. Add fruit, pour a glass of nonfat or reduced-fat milk, and you have a quick, nutritious meal.
Have a Snack!
Planning ahead for snacks, in addition to meal planning, can help cut calories and unwanted fat from your meal plan. For those who routinely use snacks to balance blood glucose, the quicker and easier, the better.
Keep on hand some fresh fruits and vegetables, prepackaged baby carrots or broccoli cuts, grapes, bananas, bagels (get snack-sized bagels instead of the huge "gourmet"-type ones), graham crackers, soda crackers, low-fat string cheese and single-serve cans of fruit or vegetable juice.
If you need to snack at work, keep food portable and easy to carry by packaging it in small containers or plastic bags. Use foods that do not require constant refrigeration and do not leave a mess to clean up.
Keys to Success
Learn to recognize your meal plan as a tool for good health. It is not a set menu or diet. It is a guide that will allow you to take charge of your eating habits and your health. Seek support from your family and friends, who can eat the same healthy foods you do. Use personal motivation to help shift your focus of thinking to the positive changes in your health status.
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Heather Kelsheimer, MS, RD, CDE, is a registered dietitian currently working in an outpatient diabetes clinic in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.