How to eat healthy and beat diabetes

Smoked salmon and homemade labneh tartine

With advice and tips on how to eat healthy filling our social media feeds in a constant stream, it is easy to become despondent. Even more so for those struggling with weight issues and low self-esteem due to body shaming and harassment from family, friends or co-workers.

While there are health risks associated with a high body fat percentage and lack of physical activity, the mental stress of trying to conform with other people’s weight expectations can be so much more traumatic. It does not help when we are constantly bombarded by images of skinny ‘influencers’ touting unhealthy weight loss products and regimens.

Eating healthy does not cost a fortune and it is possible to eat healthy on a budget. It requires planning and meal preparation to ensure the minimum of food wastage and maximum benefits from the fresh produce.

Worldwide there is an increased awareness and positive actions to fight the increasing incidence of Diabetes. It has reached near epidemic proportions in the 20th and 21st centuries, with the overconsumption of high carb processed food and sugary snacks and beverages.

In the UAE the fight against Diabetes is led by the Beat Diabetes initiative of the Landmark group. Beat Diabetes organises events in different locations within the GCC during November of each year. In South Africa there are events held around the country for World Diabetes day on 14 November. For other events check out the website of Diabetes South Africa.

Low Carb Healthy Berry Smoothie

Low Carb Healthy Berry Smoothie

Both late my parents became Type 2 diabetics in their forties and many of their siblings were diabetic too. Although they received treatment for the diabetes it affected their health, their quality of life and personalities throughout the remainder of their lives. Alhamdulillah, thus far my brother and I have managed to avoid this scourge.

Not all bodies and metabolisms are the same. Remember that when you feel discouraged and stick to what suits your lifestyle.

Shakshuka close up


10 Tips to eat healthy and have a healthy lifestyle

Know your body metabolic type

  • A DNA test a few years ago indicated that my body was better at processing proteins than carbs. I suspect that is why I gained weight on a diet delivery plan that included carbs in every form at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Since my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis I have become intolerant to many foods including lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, commercial wheat flour, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes.
  • If you are intolerant to certain foods, try to avoid them as they will cause unnecessary inflammation.

Eat healthy and embrace a Mediterranean diet

  • This includes copious amounts of fresh vegetables, heart healthy fats, nuts, fruits and proteins like fish, chicken and meats in moderation.

Keep hydrated throughout the day

  • Drink herb and fruit infused water if you don’t like the flavor of plain water. The added minerals and vitamins won’t hurt.
  • Herbal teas or infused teas with ginger, turmeric or lemon are not as dehydrating as drinking than coffee all day. They also provide anti-oxidants and vitamins.
  • Maintaining adequate hydration throughout the day ensures that the body is able to get rid of toxins, keeping us alert and awake.

Eat your meal or a snack before you go grocery shopping

  • Shopping while hungry is a recipe for disaster, as you may end up buying much more than you actually need.
  • If necessary make a shopping list so that you don’t add unnecessary food items or junk food. The shopping activity burns some calories ๐Ÿ™‚

Eat healthy unprocessed whole foods

  • Try to minimise the use of processed foods as they contain too many additives and preservatives.
  • Frozen or canned produce can be substituted if fresh produce is not available or out of season.
  • Frozen berries and fruits are especially good in breakfast smoothies but too much of a good thing is bad, and too much fruit can result in a blood sugar spike.

Check the nutrition labels on packaged foods

Keep healthy snacks handy

  • Try celery or carrot sticks with Homemade labneh, low carb nut bars or toasted nuts instead. The crunchy foods that take longer to chew are also more satisfying and keep you full for longer.
  • Very often when we feel hungry between meals the first thing we reach for is a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps. They have their place but the sugar and salt are addictive and become habit very quickly.
  • A square or two of chocolate bar with 60% or more cocoa content will help with the cravings, while also providing soluble fibre and nutrients.

Eat full fat dairy products like yogurt, cheese and ice cream.

  • A read of the nutrition labels surprisingly shows higher levels of carbohydrates and sodium in low fat and fat free products. This is because the sugars, sodium and fillers have to compensate for the loss of flavor and texture when the fat is removed.
  • Avoid anything fruit flavored as the flavoring is artificially created in a lab. Add in your own fruit pieces to flavor your favorite yogurt.

Ensure that you are not vitamin D deficient

  • Many of us, especially those in the Northern hemisphere or desert regions spend much of the time indoors and don’t get enough sunlight for our bodies to produce Vitamin D. This can result in seasonal affective disorder that can result in moodiness or depression.
  • Adequate Vitamin D levels aids in calcium absorption and is said to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and result in improved immune system function.
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and seafood like shrimp are excellent sources of Vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Other food sources are mushrooms, eggs and fortified milk.

Make a every meal count

  • Taste the food, the texture and the flavor while chewing.
  • Whether you have meals with family and friends or alone, make an effort. Sit and eat at the dinner table and focus on the food instead of having a tray on your lap in front of the television.
  • Use the time to catch up with family, friends or roommates about their day and tell them about yours.
  • If you dine alone, then use this time to reflect and relax from the stresses of the day.
Toasted Luxury Berry and Nut Muesli

Toasted Luxury Berry and Nut Muesli

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  • Reply
    Molly Kumar
    December 2, 2015 at 7:33 am

    These salads look so good and what a wonderful effort to fight Diabetes. I can almost finish teh entire bowlful of salad if they are this delicious ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      December 2, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks Molly… with my family history of diabetes it is better to be safe than sorry ๐Ÿ™

  • Reply
    KC the Kitchen Chopper
    December 2, 2015 at 3:17 am

    You are so smart to fight diabetes with a healthful diet. I’m so sorry that your family needed to be your inspiration, but you are on the right path. Plus, your recipes sound delicious. If food doesn’t tasty good it doesn’t matter how healthful it is.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      December 2, 2015 at 11:59 am

      Thanks KC… I have a colleague who nearly dies every time she comes into my office when I’m having lunch. She says my lunch always makes her want to run out and get food because it looks so pretty and healthy. She runs marathons and half marathons ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    November 24, 2015 at 5:10 am

    Masha Allah these look great!

  • Reply
    November 24, 2015 at 1:14 am

    My mother has diabetes and so does my sister. Hubby is high risk and because I had it in pregnancy I have been advised I am likely to get it in the future. Trying to be careful and add exercise into my routine…exercise along with healthy food is the key

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 24, 2015 at 8:25 am

      May ALLAH bless you with good health and protect you against diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes seems to either run in families or they all share the same bad eating habits. Unless one makes a conscious effort to eat healthy most of the time, it definitely makes one more susceptible to it.

  • Reply
    Weronika Ozpolat
    November 23, 2015 at 3:48 am

    Those dishes look so healthy and yummy. I rarely eat salads but these ones look enticing!

  • Reply
    Umme Hafsa
    November 22, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Those meals look delicious! Hope your journey on health goes well inshaAllah.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2015 at 1:42 am

    Crayfish salad? Hmmnh… an experiment to try. How does it taste?

    I love salads and know how much discipline it takes to eat healthy although its actually more cost effective.

    This is the type of lifestyle change we all need to embrace – from our meals to our exercise regimen and down to our general attitude to health and well being.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 22, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Crayfish is like lobster without the claws ๐Ÿ™‚ For me the salad is not only cost effective; since you can make such a variety by using the same basic ingredients and swopping out the protein or a vegetable here or there; it is also a healthy alternative to the calorific junk food and cafรฉ food on my doorstep at the office.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Asalamoalikum Razena,
    Although DM is become a global burden. To beat Diabetes, one has to be disciplined about life and eating. Walk more , Eat less.
    Thanks for Sharing.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 19, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Wa alaykum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu. Unfortunately our lives are much too sedentary nowadays and we spend too much time sitting behind desks and eating the wrong types of foods ๐Ÿ™

  • Reply
    November 19, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Looking so yummy i love the colours and everything <3

  • Reply
    November 19, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Plating techniques tres bien. Also prepacked lunch is always healthier than buying lunch at work. Exercise is a good way to kick DM to the curb. Barakallahu feeki

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 19, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      Wa feeki barakAllah. I tend to rush around and grab whatever is close at hand. It takes some effort and preplanning to have a nutritious and healthy lunch but it has been worth it Alhamdulillah.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Eating healthy can be challenging. Specially if you’re living around people who aren’t helping you. I wish you the best in your new journey. And that fish look yummy ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 15, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      Indeed. Sometimes I find that it’s better to keep healthy eating to myself because there is less likelihood of sabotage by well meaning friends and co-workers. May Allah make it easy for me to stick to it.

      Alhamdulillah, the fish was tasty and filling ๐Ÿ™‚

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