Maybe you want to decrease those sugar cravings, or just keep your blood sugar in balance. Maybe you’ve decided it’s high time to lose some weight.
No matter what your motivation for eating right in the New Year, you can succeed—you just need some tried-and-true strategies to help you along the way.
The best way to start is by learning how to follow a low-inflammatory, low-glycemic Mediterranean Diet.
For guidance on this, you can check out the Eating the Mediterranean Way series at Spectrum Health. While you’ll learn all sorts of helpful information in these classes, it’s also a great chance to hear inspirational stories from other participants who are looking to develop healthy lifestyles through a sensible, realistic diet.
If you want to get a jumpstart now, of course, you can put simple strategies to the test.
Portion your plate
Counting carbs and calories and calculating the glycemic index of foods can be complicated, so there’s a simple trick to help you right-size your portions right away.
Start with a 9- to 10-inch plate. Fill half the plate with a leafy salad, greens and your favorite veggies. The important thing to remember is you must fill half the plate with these items before you put anything else on it.
Next, fill one-fourth of the plate with lean protein such as lean meat, salmon or fish, tofu or vegetarian protein, eggs, cheese, chicken, lentils or beans.
Now fill the remaining one-fourth with slow-release, complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and whole grains—brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta, bread and such. Remember that you want to fit this into one-fourth of the plate, nothing more. This makes for perfect, built-in portion control.
Even your eating
Eat every three to four hours and space your carbohydrates out evenly throughout the day. This will keep your energy level up and your blood sugar steady. Under-eating sets you up for overeating later in the day because it changes your hunger hormones. Include some protein, complex carbs and good fat at each meal.
Skip juice, sweetened drinks
Did you know it takes three large apples to make a 12-ounce glass of apple juice? You might never consider eating three apples in one sitting, but it’s too easy to drink this amount in juice—and it piles on the carbs and calories. Instead, opt for one apple and then drink a glass of water—you’ll feel fuller for longer and your body will reap the benefits.
Remember to include some protein and good fat with that complex carb. It gives you longer-lasting energy and keeps you feeling fuller. Some great pairings: whole grain crackers with string cheese or hummus, an apple with peanut butter, trail mix with pistachios, or almonds and dried fruit.
Zero in on carbs
You don’t need to cut out all the carbs, because they’re essential for your brain and nervous system. You may, however, need to eat a little bit less—maybe two-thirds the usual amount.
Keep a half-cup measuring cup, or serving spoon, to help bring down those portions of potatoes and pasta. And remember to follow the quarter-plate rule.
Talk to a dietitian or diabetes educator, as they can help you set up an individual eating plan. A woman should eat about 30 to 45 grams of carbs per meal, on average, while a man should eat about 45 to 60 grams per meal.
Eat the Mediterranean way
With its emphasis on fresh seasonal food, produce and heart-healthy olive oil—and even a little red wine—the Mediterranean Diet is a great choice for people with prediabetes and diabetes.
This style of eating can help with blood sugar control and heart disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. Studies show it is a sustainable diet that people are more likely to stick to, as compared to the yo-yo dieting, deprivation and binging that’s common to fad diets.
Swap out your oil
Try a healthier oil such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. It’s quite simple: A good, quality olive oil and a tasty balsamic vinegar make the best vinaigrette for salads.
Always include lean protein
That’s right—remember to include lean protein in all your meals and in your afternoon snack. Carbohydrates alone will last about one to one-and-a-half hours. But when you add some protein like almond butter to your cinnamon raisin whole grain English muffin, for instance, it may hold you for three to four hours.
Feast on fiber
Fiber helps lower blood sugar and speed up weight loss. It also keeps you full, crushing that compulsion to go back for second servings loaded in processed carbs.
Whole wheat, not white
Thinking about white rice and white pasta? Let that thought go and then head for the whole grains.
A Harvard study showed that a person who has five or more servings of white rice per week increased their chances of developing diabetes, while a person who has three or more servings of brown rice will actually decrease their diabetes risk.
Bolster your breakfast
Skipping breakfast can set you up for overeating later in the day. Always include some protein at breakfast to set your hunger hormones and to keep you fuller longer.
Some great breakfast proteins include Greek yogurt, eggs, peanut butter, walnuts and turkey sausage. And don’t forget to eat some oatmeal, too!