12. Trans fat
Not all fats are created equal. There are three main types of fat in our diets: unsaturated, saturated, and trans fat. Unsaturated fats are considered good in small amounts as a way of slowing down hardening of the arteries. This helps to prevent increased blood pressure and heart disease. Unsaturated fats can also improve blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is considered bad because it has the opposite effects to unsaturated fats. It raises LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and promotes the hardening of the arteries.
Trans fat is the third category of fat, and it’s particularly bad news for diabetics. It raises LDL cholesterol and also lowers HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. These put you at higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Because diabetics are already at higher risk of stroke and heart disease, we have to be extremely careful about the amount and type of fat in the diet, as well as the type and amount of carbs.
So what is trans fat? These fats are produced when liquid oils are forced to solidify by a process called partial hydrogenation. The solid fat produced is made into margarine or vegetable shortening. The worst thing about trans fats is the fact that they seem to be in everything! Everything except whole foods, that is. Examples of foods that contain trans fats are french fries, chicken nuggets, crackers, chips, cookies, pies and many more.
The only way to make sure you are eating healthy fats is to read the labels of packaged foods. Don’t use margarine that contains trans fats, or partially-hydrogenated fats as they are sometimes labeled. There is new margarine on the market that doesn’t contain these fats. They might be a little more expensive, but your arteries will thank you in the long run. Instead of margarine, try using a small amount of olive oil.
13. Battered fish dinners
You might think fish is a healthful choice, right? Not always. It all depends on how it is prepared, and what side dishes you choose. Typically, battered or breaded fish comes with sides of french fries, coleslaw and hush puppies. But every single item of this meal is a poor choice for diabetics. This meal is loaded with calories, fat, carbohydrates and loads of sodium. It packs double the recommended carb level for diabetics per meal, and double the recommended daily allowance of sodium.
Battered or breaded fish is covered in a high-carb coating and then deep fried. This adds a hefty load of fat to the dish. The coleslaw contains mayonnaise, which is also high in fat. French fries are high-GI potatoes deep fried in fat, including trans fat. Hush puppies are deep-fried balls of starchy cornmeal. All in all, this is an extremely unhealthy meal for a diabetic. The carb, fat, and sodium levels are all too high. Healthy alternatives must be found.
Instead, stick to this simple method for planning your meals. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as zucchini, salads, broccoli and leafy greens. A quarter of your plate should be filled with a starch. As mentioned earlier, potatoes are a poor choice. Instead, opt for whole grains such as quinoa or amaranth, or choose sweet potatoes over regular. The remaining quarter of your plate should contain protein.The best choice is beans or lentils, but you could include fish.
If you do choose to eat fish, avoid batters or breading. Instead, dry your fish fillet and lightly coat in seasoned brown or wholewheat flour. Shake off any excess flour. Then fry with a tiny amount of canola or olive oil at a medium temperature. That way you are reducing both the carbohydrate and fat content of the meal. Instead of traditional french fries, try oven-baked sweet potato fries. Instead of mayonnaise on your coleslaw, try a vinaigrette dressing instead.
14. Deep-fried chicken
Where would America be without good ol’ fried chicken? It’s as American as the hamburger, and millions of chickens are eaten around the world every day. Fried chicken is often seen as a down-home comfort food. It’s also one of the most purchased foods on the planet. The problem is that frying chicken adds a whole load of carbs, calories, fat, and sodium to something that could be a healthy choice.
But do you have to give us crispy chicken if you’re a diabetic? Not necessarily. You just have to be careful about your choices. For example, a famous chain restaurant makes an extra crispy fried chicken dish, as well as a grilled chicken meal. The nutritional differences between the two dishes are staggering. The fried chicken is more than double the calories of the grilled chicken and contains an unbelievable four times the amount of fat.
There is also significant sodium present in purchased fried chicken. This puts you at further risk of high blood pressure, cardiac disease and stroke. And fried chicken is covered in carbohydrates that we just don’t need. The obvious choice when you are dining out is grilled chicken, particularly chicken breast. The white meat of chicken is far lower in fat than the darker meat.
If you are eating at home, try combining whole grain bread crumbs with light seasoning, some finely grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs. Coat skinless chicken breasts in this crumb mixture, then bake until golden. This way you are avoiding a great deal of fat, which is bad news for diabetics. Once again, replace the accompanying regular fries with sweet potato ones, or try a whole grain accompaniment such as quinoa.
15. Flavored water
What could be more innocent than drinking water? Surely it’s got to be good for you. Well, yes and no. Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of clean water a day is excellent for all aspects of your health. The problem comes with bottled waters, specifically flavored ones. Picking up a bottle of water is very convenient, and we often go for the flavored ones to prevent boredom.
But flavored waters are hiding a nasty secret. They are often high in sugar and calories! A study tested one popular brand of so-called ‘vitamin water’. It actually contained nearly 13 grams of sugar and 48 calories in an 8-ounce serving. The catch here is that this particular brand is sold in a 20-ounce bottle. This means that each bottle contains 2.5 servings. So, if you drink the whole bottle, you are getting nearly triple the sugar, calories, and carbs!
This is obviously bad news for diabetics, but it’s also bad news for the environment. Plastic water bottles are responsible for some of the world’s worst pollution. Every single piece of plastic that has ever been made is still on earth. With millions of water bottles being produced and discarded every day, avoiding bottled water is one way of trying to save the planet.
Instead, take your own water with you in a reusable cup. You can also make delicious iced teas to drink during your day. Try brewing green, white or black tea and cooling overnight. Add slices of citrus fruit or kiwis, and some berries and mint for flavoring. When ready to drink, add ice cubes. Pour into long glasses (or into your reusable cup), and enjoy