As we weather cooler temperatures, a whole new group of foods has moved to the top of the menu. But cold-weather favorites like apple pie and pumpkin spice lattes tend to be high in sugar and carbohydrates, which can derail your efforts at maintaining healthy blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. Pair that with cool-weather comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes, cream-based soups, and warm bread, and your meal plan can quickly become a disaster for blood glucose management.
“Although some comfort foods may contain excessive saturated fat, sodium, or carbohydrates, you do not have to deprive your craving just because you have diabetes,” says says Angela Ginn-Meadow RD, CDE, outpatient dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist at Sinai Hospital-Lifebridge Health Center in Baltimore. Choosing smaller portions or putting a healthier spin on some comfort food classics, for example, can allow you to enjoy the foods you love without posing a negative impact on your health. “Try modifying ingredients, such as butter, eggs, whole milk, or heavy cream, to lower-fat options, such as pumpkin puree and applesauce or egg whites and nonfat Greek yogurt,” Ginn-Meadow suggests.
The change in season also brings about the chance to take advantage of fall and winter foods that may offer additional health benefits to individuals with diabetes. From nutrients that may have a positive impact on blood glucose and cholesterol levels, to high-fiber foods that can fill you up while allowing you to work toward achieving your weight loss goals, the following cooler-weather foods can offer something for everyone.
1. Swap Cinnamon for Pumpkin Syrup in Your Coffee
As the weather cools down, popular beverages start to heat up. Instead of choosing a sugary coffee shop drink like hot chocolate or the popular pumpkin spice latte — which contains an average of 390 calories, 52 grams (g) of carbohydrate (50 g of total sugar), and 14 g of fat per 16-ounce (oz) serving, according to product information from Starbucks — let a cinnamon latte made with low-fat milk be your drink of choice. With 144 calories, 21 g of carbohydrate (20 g of sugar), and 14 g of protein per 16 oz, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes, this swap can offer a significant savings in carbohydrate and added sugar, which may help with blood sugar management.
As a bonus, one review cited research that suggests consuming only 120 milligrams (mg) of cinnamon — which is equal to less than 1/16 teaspoon — may help reduce fasting glucose levels and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels while improving the HDL, or “good,” cholesterol in individuals with type 2 diabetes. This effect is important as people with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart disease compared with the general population, according to another review of research.
2. Roast or Shred Brussels Sprouts for Filling FiberThis low-glycemic vegetable, which is available in abundance throughout much of the fall and winter, is a smart side dish to help keep blood sugar levels stable. Serve a cooked cup of the sprouts, which according to the USDA provides 70 calories along with 14 g of carbs and 6 g of fiber, alongside lean protein like salmon or boneless, skinless chicken breast for a delicious, satisfying meal. Enjoy the veggie roasted whole or shredded, like in the Brussels sprouts with pistachios, cranberries, and Parmesan recipe from Cookin’ Canuck, which makes a smart alternative to carb-heavy grains at cold-weather gatherings.
3. Eat a Whole Apple for a Sweet Low-Carb Snack
The cool, crisp fall weather leads way to apple-picking season, making it the perfect time to take advantage of the health benefits of this delicious fruit. With just 22 g of carbs and 4 g of fiber in a small apple, per the USDA, this filling fruit may have a minimal impact on blood glucose levels. “The fiber in the apple helps slow down the rise in blood glucose and helps contribute to feeling of fullness” says Erin M. Shyong, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian with Orangetown Pediatrics Associates in Orangeburg, New York. Leaving the skin on the fruit will help boost its nutrient value. For a delicious fall treat that won’t spike blood sugar levels — like that slice of apple pie will — toss cubed apples with cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of oil, and then bake until tender. Serve warm with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
4. Trade White Potatoes for Jicama in Your Diabetes Diet
If you’ve never cooked with this type of produce before, give it a try this season — jicama and diabetes make a good pair! With about half the calories and carbohydrates of a white potato, jicama can be made into everything from french fries to taco shells. The versatility of this root vegetable allows for it to be incorporated into many meals without maxing out your daily carb allowance, as 1 cup of raw jicama contains just 49 calories, 11.5 g of carbohydrate, and 6 g of fiber, according to the USDA. To prepare, simply remove the skin with a vegetable peeler and slice or cube. It can also be enjoyed raw as a hummus dipper or a crunchy topping for salads.
5. Add Spaghetti Squash to Your Diabetes-Friendly Plate
Spaghetti squash and diabetes make a perfect match for cooler months. That’s because this smart side can help you satisfy your craving for a comforting bowl of pasta while staying within your daily goal for carb consumption. In 1 cooked cup, spaghetti squash provides 76 calories, 9 g of carbs, and 2 g of fiber, along with 4 g of fat and 1 g of protein, notes the USDA. To prepare, simply slice the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and bake. Once it’s tender, use a fork to remove the flesh of the squash in strands, and you have a low-carb “pasta” ready to go.
https://f6e05c8682618fbfa17883aebc9905a9.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html 6. Crack Open a Can of High-Fiber Cannellini Beans
What’s better than a warm bowl of chili on a cool, autumn night? Toss cannellini beans into your next batch to take advantage of their high fiber content (7 g of fiber per ½ cup, along with 124 calories, 19.8 g of carbs, and 9.8 g of protein, per the USDA), which may help to promote healthy blood sugar levels.
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7. Bake Sweet Potatoes for Better Skin and Eyes
If you thought potatoes were off-limits in a diabetes-friendly diet, think again: Sweet potatoes are good for diabetes because they offer an array of health benefits in part due to their rich, orange color. “The phytochemical beta-carotene, which is responsible for the orange color of sweet potatoes, is transformed into vitamin A in the body, which helps to promote healthy skin and vision,” Shyong says.
One study suggested a diet rich in beta carotene may be protective to those individuals who have a genetic predisposition to developing type 2 diabetes. One medium sweet potato contains 103 calories along with 24 g of carbs and 4 g of fiber, per the USDA. As you warm up with sweet potatoes this season, don’t forget to include the skin as well. “The skin of the sweet potato contains much of the fiber and nutrients, so be sure to add that to your sweet potato mash and keep it on when roasting sweet potato fries,” Shyong explains.
8. Add Steel-Cut Oats to Your Diabetes Breakfast Bowl
A warm breakfast can be tempting on a cool morning, but it can be hard to prepare on rushed weekdays. Before you reach for a bag of instant oatmeal, try using this simple method to prepare steel-cut oats overnight. In a small container, combine equal parts oats and liquid, and let sit in the refrigerator overnight (you can also add ½ cup of yogurt for creamier oats). In the morning, just pop in the microwave, stir, and enjoy. Not only is this method even faster than making instant oatmeal, the higher fiber content is also better for blood sugar control. As the USDA notes, 100 g of raw steel cut oats contains 379 calories, 70 g of carbs, and 12 g of fiber, along with 12.5 g of protein and 6 g of fat.
9. Pop Pumpkin Seeds in the Oven for a Crunchy Snack
As you carve that jack-o’-lantern this Halloween, be sure to save the seeds. Roasted pumpkin seeds provide a good source of healthy fats with few carbs. The next time you’re craving a salty, crunchy food, step away from the chip bowl and reach for pumpkin seeds instead. With 1/3 cup providing 180 calories with 10 g of protein and 16 g of fat (with 13 of those grams coming from healthy, unsaturated fat) along with only 4 g of carbs and 2 g of fiber, as the USDA says, your blood sugar will thank you.
10. Warm Up With a Bowl of Hearty Vegetable Soup
As the temperature drops, salads tend to fall off the menu. But that doesn’t mean your vegetable intake has to decline: Replacing salads with vegetable soup during the cooler months is a smart way to boost fiber and antioxidant intake, and it may help you eat less overall. The broth-based vegetable soup recipe featured on Cookin’ Canuck contains 98 calories, 20 g of carbs, and 5.6 g of fiber per 1½ cups, along with 3 g of protein and 2 g of fat.
Soup may offer another benefit as well. Research has suggested soup consumption is associated with a reduced risk of obesity. This is positive news for people with diabetes, as a reduction in body fat has been associated with improved insulin sensitivity, according to one study of women ranging in ages from 20 to 45.
The perks of soup may stem from how we consume the dish when compared with other foods. “Warm soups and stews take time to slurp and promote mindful eating practices,” Ginn-Meadow says. Soups can also offer a terrific way to incorporate more high-fiber, nutrient-rich vegetables into your meal when the thought of a side salad just isn’t appealing on a chilly day.