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Balanced Nutrition

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Fruits and vegetables offer many health benefits. They are full of fiber, which helps us feel full, aids in digestion, and can slow the absorption of sugar. Fruits and vegetables are also a major source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essential for our health. 

So how many servings of fruits and vegetables do you need a day? For kids, the recommended daily amount increases with age and varies slightly between boys and girls. The USDA provides information on the recommended daily minimum intake for each age range (see here for fruits; see here for vegetables). The USDA also provides handy tables that show what is considered a cup of many popular fruits and vegetables. Did you know that 32 seedless grapes is considered 1 cup of fruit?  

 

It can be hard to meet these recommendations, especially while managing T1D and juggling hectic schedules. Check out some tips for increasing your fruit and vegetable intake below!

World of Flavors

 

As we always emphasize, there is no diabetic diet, and we encourage the whole family to have balanced meals. Although the Healthy Plate method seems to fit the typical American diet the most, we can apply it to any cuisine of your choice!

 

The main message of the healthy eating plate is:

  1. Choose food groups with dense nutrition

  2. Eat different food groups proportionally. 

The healthy eating plate doesn't even have to be an actual plate! You can use bowls or whatever dinnerware your cuisine uses. Food doesn't have to be plated separately either. It can be a dish mixed with different food groups. Fruits can be eaten as a snack in between meals as well.

 

Check out some examples:

  • A Mexican breakfast can be Chilaquiles with shredded chicken or beans and crumbles of cheese (healthy protein), 2 small corn tortillas (whole grain), and onions and cilantro (non-starchy vegetables) with 1 cup of berries (fruit).

  • A Lebanese lunch can be Kousa Mahshi (1-2 squash) stuffed with lean ground beef, brown rice (lean ground beef = healthy protein, squash = vegetables, brown rice = whole grain), 3/4 cup of brown rice Mujadara (brown rice = whole grain, lentils = healthy protein), and Fattoush salad (vegetables).

  • A Chinese dinner can be snow pea stir-fry (vegetable) with 1/2 cup of brown rice (whole grain), and a piece of steamed fish (healthy protein).

World of Flavors
Fruit and Veggie Tips

Fruit and Veggie Tips!

  • Eat a rainbow: Fruits and vegetables have different vitamins and minerals, so it is important to eat a variety of them to ensure you are receiving all of their benefits. Try choosing fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, like red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow bell peppers, green spinach, blueberries, and purple grapes, for example. If you need ideas, the ADA provides a long list of common fruits and non-starchy vegetables

  • ​​Keep it simple: It can be fun to get creative and try new recipes, but sometimes this can be overwhelming, especially if you are in a hurry. Remember, you can always keep it simple! Try steaming fresh or frozen vegetables in the microwave in minutes for a quick and healthy side dish or addition to any meal. Just add a small amount of water to the bowl with the vegetable before placing it in the microwave. Many frozen vegetables come in ready-to-steam packages that can be cooked in the microwave with no need for preparation. Be sure to look for items without added salt, sugars, creams, or sauces. You will find this information in the ingredients list on the package.

  • ​​Always be prepared: Adding fruits and vegetables to your snacks is a good way to increase your intake. But if you are on the go, you may not have time to prepare a snack that includes fruits and vegetables. To help with this, you could take a few minutes at the beginning of the week to prepare a few snack options in advance. For example, try cutting up carrot sticks or red bell peppers that can easily be dipped in hummus later.

  • ​​Don't break the bank: Many fruits and vegetables are in season in the summer, like apricots, cherries, and tomatoes, and a lot of in-season produce is grown here in Michigan. Buying in-season produce is often less expensive and can be more flavorful. Also, if you use the Bridge card or SNAP, there's a program called Double Up Food Bucks which can double your spending power on fresh produce (learn more about how the program works). Frozen fruits and vegetables can also be a less expensive alternative to fresh produce. You can also use canned vegetables for a longer shelf life. When purchasing frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, be sure to look for items without added salt, sugars, creams, or sauces. 

  • Involve the whole family: Involving young kids in the cooking process could get them more excited about eating fruits and vegetables. Try bringing them along to the grocery store so they can pick out the produce they want to eat. If age appropriate, have them do some supervised meal preparation, like helping to wash the produce.

Visit these USDA resources for more tips on increasing fruit and vegetable intake: 

How to Eat more Fruit and Veggies

How to Eat More Fruits & Veggies

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Fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber. Specifically, the non-starchy vegetables can help lower blood sugar spikes when pairing them with other higher-carb foods. However, fruits and vegetables have a variety of textures and sometimes a more earthy taste. Some children might take a while to learn to accept them. Here are some tips to help your child be more inclined to try them:

  1. Let them be part of the preparation. Kids can help wash, peel, plate, season, and even cut fruits and veggies using kid-safe knives.

  2. Give fruit or vegetable dishes fun names. For example, a frozen banana puree can be called "banana ice cream," and oatmeal with apple can be called "apple pie oatmeal."

  3. Serve fruits and vegetables in different ways. If your child doesn't like fruits and veggies prepared one way, it doesn't mean they won't like them another way. Try different seasonings, cooking methods (boil, steam, sauté, bake, grill), or cutting in different shapes (make cute shapes with small cookie cutters). Or, try serving uncut vegetables (such as whole broccoli, which might sound ridiculous but can be fun, like eating a tree!).

  4. Consistently include fruits and vegetables in all meals and snacks. Your child cannot learn to like something if it isn't offered. Children need repeated exposure to get used to different tastes and textures. Each food should be offered at least 15 times before determining whether your child will or will not eat it.

  5. Be a role model. Seeing you eat and enjoy your food will help your child learn how to eat it and how to enjoy it too.

  6. No need to force, nag, or bribe them to eat. Having a relaxed environment is more encouraging for your child to try new foods. Keep mealtime enjoyable as a family bonding time. Talk about your day, their day, or interesting events rather than focusing on how many bites of fruit and vegetables your child eats. Simply offer the fruit and vegetables on their plate and let them explore. Explaining "this is healthy, and you should eat it" often is not effective, and bribing them with sweets or their preferred foods reinforces the thought that healthy food doesn't taste good. Let your child explore the food first, and if they have a question, you can then explain what the fruit or vegetable does for their body. Of course, the explanation would be based on their level of comprehension at their age. For example, we can explain to 8-10 year-olds: "Carrots are orange because they have vitamin A, and vitamin A can help you see things clearer in the dark."

If you are struggling to help your child eat more fruits and vegetables, you are not alone! Research has found that about 60% of children don't eat enough fruit, and 93% don't eat enough vegetables. If you are concerned your child is not getting enough nutrients or would like to learn how to make eating fruits and vegetables easier, don't hesitate to talk with our dietitians.

Setting SMART Goals

Setting SMART Goals

The best kind of goal is the SMART goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound. Research has found that people who set SMART goals are more likely to achieve them. 

Here are some examples of SMART goals for inspiration:

  • I will fill half of my dinner plate with non-starchy vegetables at least 4 nights per week.

  • I will sit down with my parents every Sunday afternoon to plan my lunches for the week and write a grocery list.

  • I will dance in my room for 5 songs every other day 30 minutes after I come home from school.

  • I will use measuring cups and the food scale to measure the carbs in my dinner every night whenever I eat at home.

  • I will set an alarm for 6:45am on school days to remind myself to take insulin 15 minutes before eating breakfast.

Healthy Eating Tips

 

It is important to pay attention to the impact of what we eat in diabetes management. Take some time to explore new recipes and ingredients that are tasty and nutritious. You can also take time to learn more about the nutritional content of the foods you usually eat and make more informed choices. It's great time to teach children about the importance of healthy eating and how it affects their blood sugar control. 

Some nutrition practices that can improve blood sugar management include:

Eat more often:

  • Fruits and vegetables – try “eating the rainbow” for more variety (e.g. red peppers, cantaloupe, squash, broccoli, blueberries, apples)

  • Whole grains – look for food items that list “whole grain or “whole wheat” as the first ingredient on the ingredients label (e.g. brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole wheat bread)

  • Lean protein – choose protein options that have less saturated fat (e.g. poultry, lean beef or pork, beans, lentils, tofu)

  • Unsaturated fats – swap some saturated fat sources for the “healthy” unsaturated fat (e.g. nuts, nut butters, avocado, salmon)

 

Eat in moderation:

  • Highly processed, packaged foods – these items tend to be higher in carbs, salt, possibly fat, and may significantly spike blood sugar levels (e.g. chips, crackers, cookies, donuts)

  • Refined flour products – white rice, white pasta, white bread

  • Higher saturated fats – some beef and pork products, bacon, whole fat dairy products, cheese 

 

Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring or bland. With some creativity and experimentation, you can find delicious and nutritious foods the whole family will enjoy. Let's explore new flavors, learn more about nutrition, and make healthy eating a fun and exciting part of your family's daily routine. Remember, the way your family eats most of the time is what makes most of the difference in diabetes management.

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Healthy Eating Tips

Sustainable Eating

 

As we become more aware of the impact of our food choices on the environment, it's important to think about how we can make more sustainable choices that are good for both our health and the planet. Here are some resources and tips to fuel our bodies and our planet's future!

 

Sustainable Eating
Recipes to Beat the Heat

Recipes to Beat the Heat

 

Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is great for making some cooling summer snacks. Each cup of plain Greek yogurt has only 8g of carbohydrates and a whopping 23g of protein, which it a fantastic substitute for high-protein and low-carb snacks. Check out some simple summer snack recipes made with Greek yogurt, below!

 

Greek Yogurt Popsicles
Ingredients:
12oz (1.5 cups) of plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups sliced strawberries (or berry of choice)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extra
Dir
ections:

  1. Combine all ingredients a food processor or blender and blend until well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Taste and adjust sweetness if needed.

  2. Pour the yogurt mixture evenly among popsicle molds.

  3. Freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving. Run popsicle molds under warm water briefly to help loosen. Serve. Store any remaining pops in a freezer bag with as much air removed as possible for up to 3 months.

Serving Size:

1 popsicle
# of Servings: 6
Total carb per Serving: 11g

 

Berry Chocolate Yogurt Bark
Ingredients:

3 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
¼ cup pure maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups sliced strawberries
¼ cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Stir yogurt, maple syrup (or honey), and vanilla in a medium bowl. Spread on the prepared baking sheet into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle. Scatter the strawberries on top and sprinkle with chocolate chips.

  3. Freeze until very firm, at least 3 hours. To serve, cut or break into pieces.

Serving Size:

1 piece of bark
# of Servings: 32
Total carb per Serving: 4g

 

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip
Ingredients:
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons ranch seasoning dry mix
Directions

  1. Stir dry mix and yogurt until well combined.

  2. Serve with raw cut vegetables.

Serving Size:

2 tablespoons
# of Servings: 8
Total Carb per Serving: 1g

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