Best Diet for Everyone

The same diet plan that will help you lose weight and feel energized also wards off a major health risk: diabetes.

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An adaptable Meal Plan for Your Entire Family


The same diet plan that will help you lose weight and feel energized also wards off a major health risk. Ten percent of adult women have diabetes, and more have pre-diabetes, which means they may develop it if they don't take action. The foods you eat have a huge impact on your risk factor. And if you already have diabetes, changing your diet can mean fewer complications and less medication or none at all. This plan's designed to help you lose weight; dropping just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can sharply lower your risk. Plus, it's loaded with nutrients that have been shown to help prevent diabetes. Best of all, it also happens to be a healthy and adaptable meal plan for your entire family.

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1,800: Eat 2 a day1,500: Eat 2 a day

Pick from these:
1 cup fat-free milk
1 cup 1% milk
6-ounce cup fat-free plain or flavored yogurt
1 cup fat-free or low-fat soy milk
1 cup low-fat or fat-free buttermilk
1/3 cup dry fat-free milk

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1,800: Eat 4 a day1,500: Eat 3 a day

Pick from these:
1 small apple, pear, or peach
1 small banana
1 cup melon cubes or balls
3/4 cup blackberries or blueberries
1 1/4 cup whole strawberries
1/2 cup canned pineapple
1/2 large grapefruit
8 dried apricot halves
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup O.J., grapefruit juice, or apple juice
1/3 cup cranberry juice cocktail

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1,800: Eat 6 a day1,500: Eat 4 a day

Pick from these:
1 ounce chicken or turkey (white meat, no skin)
1 ounce very lean beef or pork (look for "loin" and "round" cuts)
1 ounce fish
1 large egg (or 2 egg whites)
1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 ounce cheese
1-ounce slice lean deli meat
4 ounces tofu

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1,800: Eat 4 a day (at least)1,500: Eat 3 a day (at least)

Pick from these:
1/2 cup cooked vegetables (such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, asparagus, brussels sprouts, eggplant, pea pods, green beans, or mushrooms)
1 cup raw vegetables (such as salad greens, tomatoes, cabbage, celery, or cucumbers)
1/2 cup vegetable juice

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1,800: Eat 4 a day1,500: Eat 4 a day

Pick from these:

1 teaspoon margarine
1 teaspoon canola or olive oil
6 almonds
4 walnut halves
10 peanuts
1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayo
2 tablespoons reduced-fat salad dressing.

1 frozen fruit-juice bar
2 small sandwich cookies
3 graham cracker squares
3 gingersnaps
1/2 cup light ice cream
1/2 cup sugar-free pudding
1/2 cup Jell-O
5 vanilla wafer cookies
8 animal crackers

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Food Label Decoder


The Nutrition Facts panel on the back of food packages is crammed with numbers, so it's easy to get overwhelmed. But for fighting diabetes, zero in on these:

Serving Size: Ask yourself if this is truly the serving you plan to eat. If not, you'll need to adjust all the other numbers up (or down).

Calories: If the food has 20 or fewer calories (and you stick to 1 serving) it has virtually no impact on your diet and is considered "free." ("Free foods" include sugar-free gelatin, 1 tablespoon fat-free salad dressing or fat-free mayo, 1 teaspoon fat-free margarine, 1 tablespoon fat-free whipped topping, 1 tablespoon fat-free cream cheese.)

Saturated Fat: It doesn't raise your blood sugar, but fat does contribute to heart disease, which is strongly linked to diabetes. Limit yourself to 18 or fewer grams per day.

Trans Fat: It raises "bad" cholesterol and lowers "good." Plus, it may cause insulin resistance, triggering diabetes. Skip all foods that contain trans fats.

Total Carbohydrate: Since carbs have a direct impact on blood sugar, this is what counts the most. Fifteen grams of total carbohydrate equals 1 serving of grains in our plan.

Dietary Fiber: If the product has at least 10 percent of the daily value for fiber, it's a good source. If it provides 20 percent or more, it's an excellent source.

Sugars: Don't focus on this. Even foods with tiny amounts of sugar (like sugar-free cookies) can be high in total carbohydrates.

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Snack Swaps


The best between-meal munchies combine high-fiber carbohydrates, for slow-release energy, with some protein, for fullness. Try these three trades.

Instead of: 1 strawberry cereal bar

Munch on: 3/4 cup of homemade trail mix (combine whole-grain cereal pieces, raw almonds, and dried cranberries)

Count as: 1 grain, 1 fat

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The Power of Fiber


For something that isn't even digested, fiber sure does a lot of good in your body. You may have heard that certain fiber-rich foods (like oatmeal) can lower cholesterol levels—that's because soluble fiber actually pulls some excess cholesterol from your system as it passes through. But since your body also absorbs high-fiber foods more slowly, they're a secret weapon in fighting diabetes. "The more fiber a food contains, the slower your blood sugar will rise," explains Angela Ginn-Meadow, RD, a diabetes educator and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. That slower absorption rate also means you'll stay more satisfied, which can help you eat less and lose weight. Women should aim for about 25 grams of fiber a day. Fruits and vegetables are naturally good sources (raspberries, strawberries, broccoli, and green beans are especially high). When reading labels on grain foods, look for the word "whole" in the first ingredient. Substituting whole grains (like whole wheat bread) for refined ones (white bread) may lower your risk for developing diabetes. And keep this shopping tip in mind: Cereals should have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Pasta, breads, and granola bars should contain at least 3.

Originally published in the November 1, 2009 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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