People around the globe find that food is a major focus, yet most don’t practice what is referred to as mindful eating; a simple habit that can keep you healthier and help manage type 2 diabetes.
A lot of us eat on the run or in a hurry, even when we do have the time to savor the flavors, and literally thousands of people eat in front of the television day after day; paying closer attention to the action on the screen than the amount of food going into their mouths.
The problem with these habits is that they can result in overeating, eating the wrong foods and giving in to our cravings. Mindful eating means paying attention to your food and enjoying your food with the intention of caring for yourself. Being in the moment and paying attention allows us to be more conscious of our food choices and requires us to use all of our five senses. It’s really all about truly tasting and enjoying food without needlessly stuffing ourselves.
Previous study shows mindful eating can help people with type 2 diabetes
A study conducted by a research team at Ohio State University and published in a 2012 Edition of the U.S National Library of Medicine indicates that mindful eating can be an effective tool for those who are trying to manage type 2 diabetes.
While examining two different dietary interventions for patients, the researchers were able to determine that type 2 diabetes with mindful eating could lead to weight control and glycemic reduction. They split a group of adults, aged 35 to 65, into two groups and assigned them to either mindful eating or a Smart Food Choices program for three months. After the three-month period, food intake, physical activity, weight, glycemia and fasting insulin were assessed. While there weren’t huge differences between the two groups at the end of the study, both experienced weight loss and improved glycemic levels. Researchers concluded that training in mindful eating for diabetes can lead to improved dietary intake, modest weight loss and significant glycemic control.
The bottom line is that a diet plan of any kind creates an awareness of what you are eating and generally leads to eating less. Countless studies have demonstrated that excess weight is a risk factor for diabetes.
Mindful eating cycle for diabetes self-management
So how do you change your habits? Mindful eating may sound difficult but it doesn’t have to be. Many people use a mindful eating cycle when it comes to diabetes self-management. The mindful eating cycle is a series of questions that people can ask themselves about their relationship with food.
- Why do I eat – for energy, nutrition, fuel, fear or due to stress?
- When do I eat – how can I tell if I am hungry or hypoglycemic?
- What do I eat – a variety of foods? Balanced meals? Do I eat in moderation?
- How do I eat – fast, in front of the TV, alone, while driving? Do I sneak food?
- How much do I eat – is my plate clean? Do I feel full?
- Where do I use my energy – am I active? Do I sit too much? Do I have hobbies?
Benefits of mindful eating for type 2 diabetes
There are many benefits to mindful eating. One of the most obvious is that it can reduce the amount of non-hunger eating episodes people experience. Let’s be honest, we have all fallen into the trap of eating when we are not really hungry. While food is enjoyable, we can’t forget that its true purpose is to provide energy and nutrition. For people with type 2 diabetes, reducing non-hunger eating can be very important.
Here are a few more benefits of mindful eating:
- Fewer blood sugar highs and lows
- Tastes become more refined (you find yourself less drawn to fast food)
- Feeling better (realizing some foods just make you feel yucky)
- Enjoying food more (savoring, smelling can make it more satisfying)
Many people who practice mindful eating have also noticed that they eat less because they have eliminated the feelings of depriving themselves. Their feelings of guilt or restriction eventually go away because they are making conscious decisions about what they are eating. Mindful eaters also find that they start to eat for activity. Being active can be one of the best ways to control blood sugar.
Tips to help you eat more mindfully
It can be easy to slip back into old habits, but there are ways you can help yourself. Here are some tried and true mindful eating tips. If one does not work, try another and you will have a fighting chance at not only becoming more aware of your food choices, but of enjoying your meals as well.
- Avoid distractions, such as the television, computer and reading when you eat.
- Tell yourself to slow down when eating.
- Take smaller bites and chew your food thoroughly.
- Before you eat, take a moment to rate your hunger level.
- If you have a tendency to overeat certain food, don’t buy them!
- Eat from a smaller plate or bowl.
- Don’t just grab the first food item you see, think about what you want.
- Put healthy food out in the open where you can see it.
- Read about emotional eating.
- Think you are hungry, but realize you aren’t? Make yourself a cup of tea or get a glass of water.
Mindful Diabetes Food List
Foods to Eat
Green Leafy Vegetables
Packed full of essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, green leafy vegetables are an important part of a diabetic diet. They are a great source of potassium, vitamin A, and calcium, and also provide a good source of fiber.
The antioxidants found in green leafy vegetables are also helpful for people with diabetes due to their high antioxidant content and starch-digesting enzymes.
Adding whole grains to an everyday diet is an excellent way to ensure you are getting enough fiber. People with diabetes should consume a diet high in fiber to help slow down the digestion process. This can help to slow the absorption of nutrients and help keep blood sugar levels stable.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are essential for everyone, but for those with diabetes, it is imperative to add them into your diet. A diet high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can improve blood sugar control and blood lipids in people with diabetes.
Although considered a carbohydrate, beans are a great source of plant-based protein and can satisfy the appetite while staying low on the GI scale. They are a complex carbohydrate, so the body digests them slower than it does other carbohydrates.
Walnuts are an excellent addition to a diabetes diet as they contain healthy fatty acids that can help to keep the heart happy. People with diabetes have been found to have a higher risk of heart disease or stroke, so it is important to get these fatty acids through diet.
Foods to Avoid
They may taste good, but sweet beverages can be dangerous for those with diabetes. From soda to coffees, sugar-sweetened beverages should be viewed as liquid desserts. Studies have shown that the brain doesn’t process liquid and solid foods similarly. When calories are consumed in a drink, it is easy to overindulge potentially leading to weight gain.
The more we learn about industrial trans fats, the more we realize just how extremely unhealthy they are. Although they don’t directly raise blood sugar levels, they have been linked to increased inflammation, insulin resistance, and belly fat.
White Bread, Pasta, and Rice
White bread, rice, and pasta are all high-carb, processed foods which should be avoided on a diabetic diet. These types of foods have been shown to significantly increase blood sugar levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Although the advertising may try to trick you into thinking that fruit yogurt is good for you, it can be packed with harmful sugar and carbs. Try to stick to plain yogurt and add in some fresh fruit.
Although carbohydrates are an important source of energy, those with diabetes need to be careful when choosing which carbs to eat and how to spread them evenly throughout the day.
Carbohydrates can directly affect blood glucose levels more than other nutrients since the body breaks starches and sugars down into glucose. This means that for those with diabetes, it can be dangerous to overindulge. Diabetics needs to stay away from carbohydrates as much as possible and focus a diet more towards healthy fats and protein.
Often times we relate eating to comfort or we don’t think at all; we just eat and are distracted by what is going on around us. We have to remember that eating is needed to nourish our bodies – to provide us with nutrients, vitamins and minerals so that we can lead healthy lives. Food can be really delicious and joyful when we take the time to eat in a mindful way, whether we are alone or with family and friends.