Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
If you’ve been living with diabetes for a while, you must have made a lot of changes to your lifestyle, aimed towards creating a healthier you. On the other hand, if you are newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you are probably rummaging through the information overload, wondering what you should follow and what you should avoid. Hoping for the best results, we end up adopting a lot of new ‘healthy’ habits to cope with a condition like diabetes, sometimes even getting rid of our old ‘bad’ habits in the process.
While not every advice works for everyone, there are generally some things which are perceived as thumb rules. But only because some things are preached unanimously, does not mean they really work. We took a look at the practices that people with diabetes follow and narrowed down a few of them which might appear to be good, but can actually harm you.
1. Extreme/Fad Dieting
You’ve probably heard that your extra kilos are contributing to your diabetes and have decided to shed it all off by going extreme. Let me stop you right there! Fad diets are inarguably a quick fix for all your weight issues. You might even be disciplined enough to add some exercise to your routine. But once you are off the diet, you are bound to fall right back into your usual routine and eventually settle into your usual weight range, if not higher.
The plainest reason that such dieting is not advisable is that it is extreme. It cannot be sustained for a long time, and definitely not for a lifetime. Furthermore, such diets also lead you to inadvertently leave out essential nutrients. This could take a serious toll on your health, and probably increase your risk of developing diabetes complications.
Instead, make small, sustainable changes in your diet. A slower but effective weight loss is what you should aim for while ensuring adequate nourishment.
2. Skipping Meals
Unintentionally or not, if you happen to skip a meal or two, you tend to discount it by convincing yourself that it means less food, which should mean less weight. That is really not how that works! Skipping meals makes you vulnerable to episodes of hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia. You could also experience fatigue, confusion, and even weight gain.
You certainly shouldn’t skip any meals. Take a little extra effort to ensure that. But if there happens to be a delay or if you think you might not be able to eat that day, carry a snack. Any healthy, easy-to-eat, fresh option is good for you and it is better than going hungry.
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3. Eating Less
This might fall in the grey area but let’s draw a clearer line. Eating an adequate, balanced meal is key. Ideally, any normal person is supposed to eat till they feel 80% full. Filling yourself up to capacity puts your system under strain. On the other hand, eating too little does not provide you with enough nutrition and you might feel tired or low.
4. Cutting Out Carbs
Yes, carbs are essentially sugar, and sugar is what you should stay away from. However, even with diabetes, your body requires sugar as it requires everything else. So while you should bring down the share of carbs on your plate, do not exclude them altogether. You can even try to switch to healthier complex carbs like whole grains. Dismissing a food group entirely almost never has positive results. Instead, consciously include more protein as well as fibre-rich carbs in your diet, which will keep you fuller, leading to a smaller quantity of food intake.
5. Using Low-Sugar Versions
Even when a packet says ‘low-sugar’ on the front, turn it over to face the reality. Low-sugar versions of food do not necessarily have lower than usual sugar levels. Manufacturing food for longer shelf life requires it to be laden with preservatives, which includes sugar. It means that they contain sugar in one form or another.
Also, when we are convinced that a certain item has low sugar content, we tend to go for another bite thinking that it won’t harm us. Instead, stick to basic versions of your favourite foods but limit the portions to the prescribed serving size or lower.
6. Processed and Packaged Foods
This would include packaged meat, frozen pizzas, ready-to-eat meals, and even your bag of chips. Anything that isn’t in its natural form does not require any actual cooking, or is prepared in a factory comes with added sodium, sugar, etc., which you should avoid as much as possible. Not only are such foods unnecessary for you as they provide little to no nutrition, but they can also cause some serious imbalances in the body.
Along the same lines, picking juices over fresh fruits, packaged beverages over freshly prepared ones, and using readymade sauces and mixes are some of the habits that are best dropped, diabetes or no diabetes.
7. Using Artificial Sweeteners
You certainly don’t need too much sugar and it is probably healthier to substitute it with a better option. Unless that option is an artificial sweetener. There are a handful of artificial sugar varieties that have been approved by the FDA, but it is crucial to not overdo it. Thinking that substitutes are better than the real deal, we tend to be generous with it. As a general rule, try to avoid them and use honey or stevia instead.
Diabetes is not an impossible beast to tame, provided you know the right moves. Inculcate the right healthy habits and do away with the harmful ones to stay in the best of health.