Enjoy a month’s worth of guidance on nutrition and exercise from our team of diabetes experts.
All nutrition tips are by AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year Susan Weiner and award-winning health writer/editor/producer Paula Ford-Martin. Read More »
Welcome to the month long diet and exercise program designed to help diabetics maintain a healthy lifestyle.
All nutrition tips are by AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year Susan Weiner and award-winning health writer/editor/producer Paula Ford-Martin. Read More »
Welcome to the month long diet and exercise program designed to help diabetics maintain a healthy lifestyle.
All nutrition tips are by AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year Susan Weiner and award-winning health writer/editor/producer Paula Ford-Martin. Read More »
Welcome to the month long diet and exercise program designed to help diabetics maintain a healthy lifestyle.
All nutrition tips are by AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year Susan Weiner and award-winning health writer/editor/producer Paula Ford-Martin. Read More »


Day 1 - Write down every bite

Writing down your meals and snacks in a food diary, or entering them into a food tracking app, is a great way to stay accountable for what you eat. It's also helpful to include the time you're eating and what you are feeling when you eat (such as stress, boredom, or anxiety). Food journals can help identify nutritional issues as well as emotional and behavioral responses to daily situations. They make us practice "mindful eating."

At least initially, basic portion sizes and little bites should be included (100 calories here and 50 calories there add up). If you have diabetes, writing down your food and connecting it with your blood sugar response is the only way to see if your diabetes care plan (food, exercise, and medications) is working for you.

Using an electronic nutrition tracking program or smartphone app can automatically compute your daily calorie, carb, and sodium intakes. There are many free programs and apps available online. See our list of the Best Nutrition Apps or ask friends and family for recommendations.

Remember to stick with it. People who keep food journals significantly improve their chances of losing weight and more importantly have an increased chance of keeping the weight off in the long term. And for many, that is the ultimate goal!



Day 2 - Count your snack carbs

Counting carbohydrates is an essential tool for managing your diabetes. Carbohydrates are the biggest factor in raising blood sugar, so you need to control your intake.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your carb intake at around 45 grams for a meal or less than 15 grams for a snack. However, everyone has different goals and a registered dietitian nutritionist or certified diabetes educator can help you figure out what yours should be.

Beyond reading nutrition labels on packaged foods, you should familiarize yourself with the carbohydrate count of whole foods and other unlabeled items. A good carb counting book or a nutrition app can help with this.

While many people have mastered this technique around meals, they find themselves running into trouble when it comes to snacks. This is where a little prep work can go a long way. Once or twice a week, take some time to portion snacks in baggies or reusable plastic containers, and label them with their carb counts. Group them together in a designated bin or basket so you can easily locate a "carb-counted" snack when you want one. Keep a bin in the fridge for perishable snacks, and one in the pantry for shelf-stable snacks.

When hunger strikes, you’ll have a carb-smart snack solution at your fingertips!



Day 3 - Stow the saltshaker

If you haven’t already, put away your saltshaker. Just 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium, which is more than a full day’s worth of sodium for anyone on a low-sodium diet. Keeping a saltshaker on your dining table is an unnecessary temptation.

There are a wide variety of sodium-free spice blends available at your local store in handy table shaker packaging. Pick up a few and try them out. You may find you like them more than salt when it comes to adding flavor to your favorite foods.

The average American consumes about 4,000 mg of sodium per day, while the American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults limit sodium to 2,400 mg per day, the National High Blood Pressure Education Program suggests less than 2,400 mg per day, and the World Health Organization recommends less than 2,000 mg daily.



Day 4 - Do the DASH

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) program was developed based on findings by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and emphasizes an eating plan rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, unsalted nuts, and whole grains. It limits simple sugars and is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, lean protein, low-fat dairy products, and fiber. It also advises that people with diabetes and high blood pressure limit their sodium to 1,500 mg per day.

Upping your intake of fruits, veggies, and unsalted nuts not only boosts your diet’s nutritional density, but encourages weight control. Studies show that the DASH program lowers high blood pressure and improves blood cholesterol levels.

People with diabetes should closely consider their carbohydrate intake on the DASH diet (or any other eating program) to help properly manage blood sugar levels. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you get started. As always, it's a balancing act.



Day 5 - Rate your hunger

Before you open up the refrigerator, take a moment to check in with yourself. Are you truly hungry? Or are going to grab food out of boredom or habit? This is where a food diary or journal can be invaluable.

Make an effort to rate your hunger (e.g., not hungry at all, slightly hungry, moderately hungry, starving) and write it in your food diary. If you aren’t slightly or moderately hungry, then try to evaluate what’s really driving the need for food. Often we “self-medicate” with food when we’re feeling badly, or we just have a habit of grabbing a snack before settling down in front of a favorite television show. It’s important to understand your relationship with food, so that you can improve it.

People with diabetes should try to eat five to six times each day. Spacing out your food will help stabilize your blood sugar and help you control hunger. If you are starving before a meal, you will probably tend to eat too much. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for our hormonal and brain signals to let us know if we have satiated our hunger, so before grabbing a second helping, chat with your dining companions or have a glass of water. As time passes, you may find that you are full after all.



Day 6 - Know your food label hot spots

Understanding and reading food label information is important for anyone trying to eat healthfully. But some of the information, like daily values and calories from fat, can be really confusing.* If food labels leave you scratching your head, there’s a quick and easy way to help you zero in on the best choices for your blood sugar and blood pressure control. Know your label hot spots: total carbohydrate, sodium, and serving size.

Total carbohydrate. The “total carbohydrate” in a food is the most important indicator of how a food will impact your blood sugar. How many total carbohydrates should your food contain? Consider that an entire meal should be no more than 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates, and then think about what you’ll be having along with the food in question before you make your choices.

Sodium. The recommended daily sodium intake for someone with hypertension and diabetes is less than 1500 mg a day. That’s everything — from natural and added sodium in foods, to the sodium you may be adding with the saltshaker. As a rule of thumb, try to choose individual foods that contain 140 mg of sodium or less.

Serving size. Serving size is a hot spot because what’s listed on the label is often dramatically different from “real life” serving sizes. If the serving size is half of what you realistically plan on eating, then what goes on your plate will be double the value of the total carbs and sodium listed on the label.

Of course it’s also important to ensure that your daily dietary intake is high in fiber and low in calories, fat, and sugar. But when you’re in a hurry and you want to choose something good for your diabetes and blood pressure, knowing your hot spots is a fast way to get good results.

*The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finalized new labeling guidelines that are expected to make labels clearer to consumers. Food manufacturers must comply with the new label by July 26, 2018.



Day 7 - Know the "code names" for salt

The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults limit sodium to 2,400 mg per day, and the World Health Organization recommends less than 2,000 mg daily. If you have high blood pressure, limiting your sodium even further is essential (the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest 1,500 mg per day for people with diabetes and hypertension). Yet the average American consumes about 4,000 mg of sodium per day. Clearly we have some work to do.

Part of the problem is the sodium content in packaged food, which we may not recognize on the ingredients list. Many foods contain hidden forms of sodium such as MSG (monosodium glutamate), baking soda, seasoned salts, and marinades, particularly canned and many frozen processed foods. You should also limit foods that are cured (such as bacon), packed in brine (such as pickles or olives), or smoked (such as salmon and some meats). In addition, remember that sea salt and kosher salt are still salt.

Try to choose lower sodium foods when possible. Remember, fresher is usually better (less sodium and more nutrition). If you do buy canned foods (such as canned tuna or beans), look for low-sodium versions, or at least rinse them off with cold water to remove some of the excess salt.



Day 8 - Downsize your dishes

The recommended standard size dinner plate is 9 inches in diameter. Yet, when we go out to a restaurant, we may be presented with a platter the size of a hubcap, filled with food. Dinnerware purchased for home use has also increased in size over the decades. An average dinner plate is now often about 11 to 12 inches!

Research shows that bigger plates, bowls, and cups encourage us to eat and drink more, adding calories and promoting weight gain. You can keep portion sizes on target at home by serving meals in standard-sized dishes and using smaller bowls for serving cereal, side dishes, and treats like ice cream.

Other basic mealtime portion parameters:

  • Never eat out of the container. This is particularly true for snack foods like chips. Always portion your food into a small bowl or plate.
  • Serve healthy foods family-style to encourage consumption (e.g., nonstarchy steamed veggies), and keep more caloric entrees and side dishes in the kitchen after you plate them. The extra effort required to get up and get seconds will encourage more mindful eating.
  • Use 8-ounce glasses or smaller for beverages served with meals. The only exception is water, which most people don’t get enough of (you can supersize that!).


Day 9 - Eat the rainbow

Try to eat more vegetables, as they are low in calories and high in fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. A good rule of thumb for lunch and dinner is to try to fill half your plate with nonstarchy veggies.

Color Superfoods Health benefits
Red Tomatoes, red peppers They contain lycopene, which protects against cancer and promotes heart health.
Orange/yellow pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers These contain carotenoids, which protect against cancer and strengthen the immune system.
Green broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, green peppers, avocados, greens (e.g., turnip, collard, mustard), spinach

They contain antioxidants and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Leafy greens are high in potassium, which can be helpful for people with hypertension.

Blue/purple eggplant, cabbage, beets Contain anthocyanins that may prevent heart disease. Nitrates in beet juice may lower blood pressure.
White cauliflower, garlic, potatoes Potatoes are high in potassium and magnesium, which can be helpful in lowering blood pressure. However, they are high in carbs and raise blood sugar, so eat in moderation.

*Not an all-inclusive list of vegetables.



Day 10 - Don’t skip breakfast

When your parents told you to eat breakfast because "it's the most important meal of the day," they were right. Starting off the morning with a nutrient-rich breakfast will help set you up for a great day of healthy eating. Here are five fast ways to do breakfast right:

Include protein. Egg whites and veggies with a little low-fat cheese and some blueberries or sliced melon on the side is fantastic! If you can't stand just egg whites, have one whole egg with a couple of whites. You should always enjoy what you are eating!

Get your grains. High in fiber, steel-cut oatmeal keeps you fuller longer and can also help to lower your cholesterol. Add a few unsalted crushed walnuts or almonds with a sliced apple, and top it off with some cinnamon. If you prefer cold cereal, choose varieties with low carbs and sodium, and add some unsalted almonds, chia seeds, berries, low-fat cow milk or plant milk, and a dash of cinnamon. Not a cereal fan? Try whole-grain bread with some natural peanut or almond butter, or avocado.

Add crunch. Try some whole-grain rye crackers with low-fat cheese! Have an orange on the side (which will give you some vitamin C). Or try cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and the crunch of sliced almonds. The taste combination is satisfying, yet calorie-controlled and nutritious.

Have lunch for breakfast. Try tuna or salmon on rye crackers or brown rice cakes for breakfast. It's a fun, protein-packed meal. Top it off with some lettuce and tomato. Or try brown rice cakes and hummus. Have some Greek yogurt or a glass of low-fat milk with it to give yourself a calcium boost.



Day 11 - Go nuts

Unsalted organic nuts are nature’s perfect snack food. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts are all heart-healthy snack choices. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, and selenium, and provide dietary fiber. Walnuts (also known as king of the omega-3s) may actually help improve brain function! Walnuts also contain a compound called ellagic acid, which is known to fight cancer and support the immune system. Pecans can help lower cholesterol and are a source of vitamins E and A, as well as of folic acid, calcium, and potassium. Brazil nuts contain copper, niacin, vitamin E, fiber, and selenium.

Most nuts are fairly low in carbohydrates too, which makes them a smart snack for people with diabetes. But the trick to eating nuts is to eat them in moderation. Portion control is the key. Too many calories (even of healthy foods) will lead to weight gain. The good news is that the protein, fiber, and fat in nuts can help fill up your stomach, so you will feel full for longer.

Nuts are very nutritious and nobody ever thinks of them as a "diet" food. About 24 almonds (1 ounce) provide 160 calories and 6 grams of protein. Six to eight Brazil nuts (1 ounce) contain about 190 calories and 4 grams of protein. Twenty pecan halves contain about 200 calories and 3 grams of protein. And 14 walnut halves give you 190 calories and 4 grams of protein. All pack a powerful protein punch and a satisfying crunch! Just make sure you buy the unsalted varieties, especially if you have hypertension.



Day 12 - Choose fruits and veggies in season

The shorter the distance food has to travel to get to your table, the fresher, tastier, and more nutritious it will be. This is especially true for fruits and vegetables. Produce that is in season in your area gets to your grocery store or farmer’s market much faster than produce that has to be shipped in from other parts of the world. It is also much less expensive, so you can buy more of it.

Availability will vary by where you live, but if you aren’t sure what’s in season, your grocery store produce manager or any vendor at the farmer’s market should be able to help you out. Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are also an option if your favorite produce is out of season, but be sure to read labels before buying. Canned veggies often have added sodium, which is bad for your blood pressure. Canned or jarred fruits should be packed in their own juices, not added sugars or corn syrup. When buying frozen, take a pass on anything packed in sauces or syrups. These are usually full of carbohydrates and/or sodium.



Day 13 - Bulk up on fiber

Foods that are rich in fiber provide important health benefits, yet most Americans don’t eat enough of it. Fiber can help us feel full for longer and therefore help us with weight control, it can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and it’s linked to colon and breast cancer prevention. Since fiber helps produce a bulkier stool, it can also prevent or relieve constipation.

Insoluble fiber is the type that can help ward off constipation by increasing the bulk of stool. It may also help control blood sugar. This type of fiber is found in wheat, corn, nuts, green beans, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Soluble Fiber can help lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar. It regulates blood sugar by signaling the liver to stop making glucose. Additionally, soluble fiber can improve insulin sensitivity. Soluble fiber lowers "bad cholesterol" or LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels, which is great news for heart health. Soluble fiber is found in barley, oats, psyllium, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, flaxseed, and oat bran.

The American Heart Association recommends we eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. It's important to increase your fiber consumption slowly to help prevent excessive gas buildup and stomach upset. Without water, fiber will cause severe stomach discomfort. So as you increase your fiber intake, make sure you drink an adequate amount of water (at least six to eight glasses per day).



Day 14 - Drink more water

Studies show that drinking water raises metabolic rate and therefore helps with weight control, a benefit for many people with diabetes. Water is a great thirst quencher that will keep you well-hydrated. Water can also replace high-calorie drinks such as soda, sugary juices, and alcohol.

If you have high blood pressure, drinking enough water is even more important. Dehydration causes the body to retain sodium, which can drive up blood pressure. Staying adequately hydrated, without overdoing it, is important.

You should have about 48 ounces of water a day. That will vary if you exercise a lot, especially in warmer weather. If you have kidney disease or another medical problem that requires restricting your fluid intake, please make sure to discuss your water consumption with your doctor.

Try these strategies to drink more water:

  • Always carry a water bottle around with you, and when it gets half empty, top it off.
  • Set yourself up on a water schedule. For example, drink a glass of water at 7 a.m. (before work or when you first get up), another at 9 a.m., another at 12 p.m., and so on.
  • Always keep water with you when you are sitting down. If you are at a desk working, or watching TV, keep water at your side and sip away!
  • Add lemons, lime, or cucumber to your water for some flavor.


Day 15 - Always shop with a grocery list

Make a detailed shopping list (using an app or written list) before you head out to the grocery store. Remember, if you overstock your shelves, you'll probably wind up wasting food (and money). Buy what you need to prepare healthy and nutritious preplanned meals. You'll save money and stay within your calorie, carbohydrate, and sodium budget.

Before you begin. Look at the food you have in your refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and cabinets. Are there any expired items? Toss all old or expired items. Next, add the foods or ingredients you need to prepare healthy meals for the week ahead.

At the store.You can find the healthiest foods (fruits and vegetables, and lean protein such as chicken and fish) around the perimeter of the store, so spend most of your time there. Venture into the aisles only to locate other items on your list. When you purchase packaged foods on your list, compare labels to make sure you are making the healthiest choice. And if an item is not on the list, don't buy it.

Back at home. In the pantry, put just purchased canned and boxed foods behind any stock you already have. Store produce in perforated bags. Don't wash your vegetables until you're ready to use them, as this will extend their shelf life.



Day 16 - Make smarter alcohol choices

Consuming excess alcohol is the equivalent of eating empty calories (in other words, alcohol provides no nutritional value, such as vitamins or minerals). Alcohol contains a whopping 7 calories per gram, and that packs a punch. Drink mixers like juice add even more calories and carbs. And of course, when we drink too much alcohol, we tend to not care as much about what we are eating.

When possible, go for mineral water or a noncaloric beverage when you are out socializing. In a social situation, sometimes it helps to hold "a drink" in your hand. It doesn't need to contain alcohol. Of course, sometimes adults do like to have an alcoholic drink at a party. So here are a few tips to help you stay safe while you enjoy yourself:

  • Avoid alcoholic beverages when your blood glucose is below 80 mg/dL or you have hypoglycemic symptoms (which can continue eight to 12 hours after consumption of alcohol). Moderation and blood sugar testing (before, during, and after drinking) is key if you plan to consume alcohol.
  • Try to stick to wine or light beer to avoid the added calories, carbohydrates, and sodium that are in cocktail mixers. Many cocktail mixers (e.g., fruit juice, grenadine, sour mix) are very high in sugar. Skip them. If you must have a mixed drink, stick with seltzer.
  • Olives or other brined cocktail add-ons can add a boatload of sodium to your beverage. The same goes for a “dirty” martini. Leave the pickled veggies out of your drink and be kind to your blood pressure.
  • Have a snack with your drink. This will help to reduce the effects of the alcohol.
  • Remember that the recommended daily alcohol intake for men is two drinks, and for women it’s one drink.


Day 17 - Lose just a little weight

If you are overweight or obese, studies show that weight loss of as little as 3 to 5 percent of your total body weight can do wonders, improving both your blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Little steps are the most effective ones when it comes to sustainable weight loss. Here are a few small changes you can make that could lead to big improvements in your weight and health.

Check your meds. Be aware that some blood pressure medicines, like beta-blockers, can cause weight gain. So can many other medicines for a variety of health conditions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if your current medication routine puts you at risk for weight gain. There may be another drug class that could work for you without the risk of extra pounds. If not, your doctor should discuss weight management strategies to help combat this.

Don’t go overboard. Dramatic calorie restriction doesn’t work. When you cut calories below the level required to meet your energy needs, your metabolism slows to compensate, and your hunger levels increase. Aim for a more moderate plan of reducing your normal intake by no more than 500 calories a day. Your doctor or dietitian can help you determine what calorie level is right for you based on your age, gender, activity level, and health history.

Know your options. People who are overweight and have related health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, may be candidates for weight loss drugs or bariatric surgery. It’s important to note that with either of these options, healthy eating and regular exercise are still essential parts of keeping off the weight. But they may give you the kick start you need to improve your health.



Day 18 - Reorganize your refrigerator

A clean and organized refrigerator can be a great motivator toward preparing healthy meals. No matter what the season, if you haven’t given the fridge a thorough scrubbing in the past three months, now is the time to spring clean it. Take everything out and clean off the shelves and bins with warm, soapy water. Next, dry off the shelves with a clean cloth. Keep your refrigerated items in a cooler while you clean. Before you put the perishable foods away, make sure the refrigerator temperature is under 40°F. Toss out old, expired items. Place a "refrigerator-friendly" baking soda freshener in the back, to capture lingering odors.

Now it’s time to organize. Think like a library. Children's books are in one section, while romance novels are in another. If you have diabetes, keep any preportioned snacks together in a labeled clear bin or basket, so you can easily locate a carb-counted snack when you want one.

Try to keep fruits and vegetables in separate drawers. Some fruits and vegetables give off ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process. If you store your veggies and fruits together, some may spoil before their time.



Day 19 - Get sensible about snacking

Toss out sugary drinks and sodas, cookies, candy, low-fiber cereal, and any other carb-filled, high-sodium snack foods. Replace those less healthy choices with unsalted nuts and nut butters. Walnuts, for example, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can help prevent blood clots and lower blood pressure. Unsalted walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pistachios, and pine nuts are all tasty snack ideas (just watch your portion sizes).

Natural peanut and almond butter are also delicious spread on celery or crispy apple slices. Buy some whole grain or flax seed crackers and top with nut butter, low-fat cheese, tuna, or hummus.

Always keep a pitcher of cold filtered water (delicious with lemon or lime slices) in your fridge, as well as plenty of fruits, vegetables, and Greek yogurt. Try a snack of Greek yogurt with sliced almonds, a luscious combination.

Keeping higher protein, lower carbohydrate foods in your kitchen will set you up for success. Try some rolled up turkey breast or grilled chicken as a snack. Hardboiled eggs with a dash of pepper are a tasty treat that won't spike your blood sugar. Always have fresh vegetables cut and ready to eat. If you desire a crunchy snack, dip some cut-up peppers or carrots into hummus or Greek yogurt.



Day 20 - Battle portion creep

Restaurants are known for serving super-sized meals that are often big enough for two (or three) to eat. But you can still enjoy a meal out without the danger of overeating. Here’s how:

  • Choose the smallest meal size. For example, a large appetizer.
  • Dine out with a partner and share the meal.
  • Steer clear of "all you can eat" buffets. If you are faced with a buffet, use a salad plate for your meal and load up on the healthy stuff first (e.g., nonstarchy veggies and lean proteins).
  • Avoid menu items that use the following words to describe the portion size: jumbo, extra large, supreme, triple, double, or grande.
  • Go for: small, appetizer, lunch portion, kid-sized, petite, or junior.
  • If you know that your order is a large portion, ask the waiter to bag or box half of it in the kitchen before it even comes out to you. That way your “doggie bag” is wrapped up and ready for another reasonably size meal.


Day 21 - Rethink your drink

When it comes to nonalcoholic beverages, there are healthy options beyond water (although that’s the best one). Here are some tasty ideas for each part of your day.

Can't live without juice? Just add a splash of it to your water or sparkling water, or squeeze fresh citrus fruit into water. As for caffeine, try to limit the amount you have. Too much can drive up blood pressure and cause other negative health effects. If you can’t get going in the morning without a caffeine boost, limit it to a cup of tea or coffee (with noncaloric sweetener, and a dash of creamer if you need it).

At lunch and dinner. Try to leave caffeinated beverages off the afternoon and evening menu, as they can prevent you from having a good night’s sleep. If you love tea and coffee, try decaffeinated versions. There are endless varieties of herbal teas available. Keep tasting until you find one you like. Soda isn’t the best choice, as it’s devoid of nutrients. If you love the flavor, make sure you choose a low- or no-calorie version. Remember that many diet sodas also contain caffeine, so either choose a decaf version or have your caffeinated soda fix in the morning in place of coffee or tea.

At bedtime. A warm glass of low-fat milk can be a helpful sleep aid, as can hot herbal tea. Don’t use alcohol as a sleep aid, as it will negatively affect your long-term sleep habits.



Day 22 - Stay on schedule

Dining at a consistent time can help maintain stable blood sugar levels and control your hunger. This is even more important if you take insulin or insulin-sensitizing medicines, such as metformin. Try to eat five to six times per day. If you are starving before a main meal, you will probably eat a lot more.

Here’s how to stay on time when eating out:

  • Make a reservation in advance (so you know when you will be seated and eating).
  • If eating later than usual is unavoidable, you may need to add a planned snack. Make it something with fiber to take the edge off your hunger and avoid later overeating.
  • If you have any special food requests, ask if your meal will require extra time to prepare.
  • You may need to adjust your insulin or diabetes medication if your dinner will be very late.
  • Don't forget to test your blood sugar. You need to test, even if you are not at home.


Day 23 - Reinvent your side dishes

Side dishes such as potato salad, coleslaw, and pasta salad are often loaded with mayo and mystery sauces that are packed full of calories and sodium. And big portions of pasta, white rice, and potatoes can take you over your daily recommended carb allowance. Here are a few suggestions to help lighten up your sides:

  • Switch to whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa.
  • Replace mayonnaise with low-fat dressings or mustard.
  • Swap out high-carb potatoes for lower carb vegetables, like carrots.
  • Replace pasta with spaghetti squash or spiralized veggies.
  • Substitute noodles with bean sprouts.
  • Use fresh seasonings and spices to make sides interesting and satisfying.
  • Skip the salt and other high-sodium ingredients like soy or Worcestershire sauce.
  • Remember to measure out portion sizes.
  • Start your meal off with a colorful fresh salad or vegetable soup. These low-calorie, low-carb, high-fiber appetizers can help curb your appetite for starches during the meal.


Day 24 - Indulge yourself occasionally

We all deserve a treat once in a while, and that includes people who have diabetes and hypertension. The key to keeping both of these under control, while still enjoying your favorite foods occasionally, is moderation.

  • Schedule. If you know you’ll be attending a party or gathering with foods you love, plan to adjust your calorie and carb intake for the rest of the day to give you some extra room to indulge.
  • Share. Split a piece of your favorite pie with your dining companion.
  • Sample. Sometimes, just a bite of a decadent dessert is enough to satisfy your craving.
  • Stow. Try not to bring home large packages of treats if it’s an occasional indulgence. But if you do end up with extra, freeze the remainder or store the package out of sight to avoid temptation. Better yet, share with your coworkers or neighbors.
  • Savor. Eat your treat mindfully and, above all, savor the taste.


Day 25 - Know your nut butters

Nut and seed butters, when eaten in moderation, pack a powerful nutritional punch. They are good sources of plant-based protein, dietary fiber, and are naturally cholesterol-free. Nut and seed butters also contain critical disease-fighting nutrients such as vitamin E, folic acid, niacin, magnesium, vitamin B-6, zinc, copper, potassium, and antioxidant-rich phytochemicals. While high in calories and fat, most of the fat in nut and seed butters can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and maintain HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.

Tips for choosing healthy nut-butters:

  • The healthiest options are almost always the ones with fewer ingredients! Choose ones without added sugars and salt.
  • Be especially careful of reduced fat peanut butters. They may not be lower in calories because the fat can be replaced with extra sugar.
  • Beware of options that contain added trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, which are used to stabilize products, enhance shelf life, and prevent oil from floating to the top of the jar. The only way to be sure you are purchasing a trans fat-free product is to scan the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Some brands use “fully hydrogenated vegetable oils” or saturated fats (like palm oil) to stabilize their products. Don’t be misled, “fully hydrogenated vegetable oils” contain more saturated fat than products that don’t use stabilizers.

Almond and sunflower butters stand out as excellent sources of vitamin E, and almond and soy nut butters shine for their higher calcium content. However you enjoy these scrumptious spreads, keep your serving size to about 2 tablespoons.



Day 26 - Be salad bar-savvy

Having a fiber-filled salad before a meal is a great way to take the edge off of your hunger and discourage overeating. And the variety of veggies and fruits at many restaurant salad bars encourages consumption of these nutrient powerhouses. But those same salad bars can also be filled with poor choices for diabetes and blood pressure control. Follow these rules for salad bar success:

  • When in doubt, stick with oil and vinegar. Salad dressings are often high in carbohydrates and sodium, but because salad bar dressings rarely have labels or nutrition information posted, dressing becomes a pitfall for many diners. A light dressing of oil and vinegar is a good choice if you don’t know what’s in those bottles. Vinegar can also moderate blood sugar spikes. If you must have your ranch dressing, serve it up on the side in a small dish, and use it sparingly.
  • Load up on the fresh veggies. Raw veggies are the nutritional dynamo of the salad bar. Fresh fruit is also a good choice, especially lower carb selections like berries and watermelon. Skip any produce that looks like it came from a bottle or can, as they may have hidden salt and sugar (e.g., pickled beets, fruit cocktail).
  • Don’t sprinkle on calories, carbs, and salt. Skip the croutons, bacon bits, fried noodles, or other nutrient-poor salad toppings. If sliced almonds or sunflower seeds are available, they add a nice crunch and are great for you.
  • Beware of prepared foods. As a general rule, stick with foods that have only been cleaned, cooked, and/or cut, with no additional prep. Take a pass on items like creamy tuna salad and fruit salads that usually have fillers, sugar, or extra fat.
  • Watch your portions. While that unlimited salad bar can be tempting, be wary of return trips. Try waiting 15 minutes before heading back to the bar. If you do go back for seconds, keep it strictly to fiber-filled fresh veggies and fruit, which are more filling and better for you.


Day 27 - Travel light

Eating healthfully while you travel can be challenging. While you may want to indulge a little on a vacation, you also want to feel well and have energy, so planning ahead can help. Here are a few strategies for eating on the road.

Driving. If you are traveling by car, bring along a cooler and frozen water bottles. Pack the cooler with a few of the bottles (which you can drink along the way as they thaw), and bring a healthy meal and snack. Try a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread topped with some romaine lettuce and tomato. Add cut-up red peppers, carrots, or a container of fresh berries. You'll be satisfied with the delicious meal and avoid fast food stops along the way!

Flying. Make sure that you know the TSA requirements for bringing food through security. You can pack unsalted nuts and a delicious sandwich before you arrive at the airport and purchase water when you are past security. If it's inconvenient to bring food with you to the airport, check out the food court online before you get to the airport. That way, you'll know where to find the best food choices. Several states now require restaurant chains to post the nutritional value of their meals. This can help you make your decision.

Hotels. If you are staying at a hotel, request a refrigerator in advance. You can keep Greek yogurt, fresh cut-up veggies and fruit, cold water, and other healthy snacks to save yourself calories, carbs, and money. It’s a great way to keep healthy when you're away from home.



Day 28 - Eat more omega-3s

Omega-3s are fatty acids found in fatty fish (e.g., salmon and tuna), walnuts, wheat germ, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, and certain vegetable oils (e.g., canola and flaxseed). These substances are important because they may help prevent blood clots, can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and protect against heart disease, which are all important considerations for people with diabetes and hypertension. As with most nutrients, the best way to get omega-3s is through your diet.

Here are some easy ideas:

  • Toss salmon or tuna into a salad two times per week. These now come in single-serving foil packets that travel well in your lunch bag.
  • Sprinkle a tablespoon of wheat germ or ground flaxseed on your morning cereal, in Greek yogurt, or even on steamed veggies.
  • Add ground flaxseed to baked goods, cereal, or yogurt. Make sure it is ground and not whole, as the grinding process releases the omega-3s.
  • Add a few crushed walnuts to steel-cut oatmeal.
  • Replace butter and margarine with canola oil when you cook.

Remember not to take omega-3 supplements without first checking with your doctor. Omega-3 supplements can interact with some blood pressure medications.



Day 29 - Be the host with the most

When you host a party at home, there are ways to sneak in healthy choices for you that are also crowd pleasers for your guests. Prepare traditional dishes with low-fat dressings or mustard in place of mayonnaise, or use leaner meat (or vegetarian) selections for family get-togethers and parties. Even those who usually pride themselves on avoiding healthy choices might appreciate some more adventurous selections! And friends and family members that are calorie- and health-conscious will certainly appreciate your efforts.

If you're attending a party where there may not be healthy choices available, then bring your own creative entree or dessert. You can be a gracious guest and be guilt-free by bringing fresh sliced seasonal fruit for dessert or a raw veggie platter with hummus as a starter. Remember, you can enjoy your entrée and everything before and after without the weight of guilt on your shoulders. Your host and other guests will appreciate it as much as you do!



Day 30 - Make a date with a dietitian

If you have never seen a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), and you’re struggling with food choices to keep your diabetes and hypertension under control, it’s time to make an appointment. Choose an RDN who is also a certified diabetes educator, or CDE, as they have extensive training in the area of diabetes care and will understand your unique needs. An RDN/CDE will work with you to create a customized eating plan that fits your lifestyle and achieves your health and weight goals.

Remember, there is no such thing as a diabetes diet (or a hypertension diet). The same meals that are good for you will also be healthy for your entire family. And they should taste good, too. You should eat foods that you enjoy, as well as meals and snacks that will not cause your blood sugars to go too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia).

Most insurance companies cover dietitian and diabetes education services for people who have diabetes. Ask your doctor for a referral, or visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for a directory of RDNs.


Susan Weiner

Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist

Susan Weiner is a registered dietitian-nutritionist, certified diabetes educator, and certified dietitian/nutritionist with a private practice in New York. She is a published author and was named the AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year in 2015.

As an ambassador for AADE, she travels to AADE regional programs, the AADE annual meeting, and several AADE affiliate coordinating body functions to give presentations related to diabetes education. She’s also working with the AADE accreditation department to design a program that meets accreditation standards. A dual master’s degree in applied physiology and nutrition has afforded her the opportunity to practice as a nutritionist and exercise physiologist.


Paula Ford-Martin

Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist

Paula Ford-Martin is an award-winning health writer, editor, and producer. She has over twenty years of experience creating informative and motivating content for patient, caregiver, and professional audiences. From 2004 to 2012, Paula served as Chief Content Officer of dLife, a multi-media diabetes consumer resource. Her work as a Senior Story Editor and Executive Producer on CNBC’s dLifeTV — the first and longest running primetime diabetes television show — garnered her 26 Telly Awards. She has also authored more than a dozen consumer health and parenting books, including “The Everything Guide to Managing Type 2 Diabetes.”

Paula has a B.A. in Broadcast Communications from Marquette University and an M.A. in Writing from DePaul University. She is a member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), and the American Diabetes Association (ADA).


Tracy Stophler

Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist

Tracy Stophler is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Nutrition from New York University, and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). She is the nutrition director at Nutrition E.T.C. in Plainview, Long Island. Tracy is an adjunct professor at Adelphi University teaching “Nutrition and Human Performance,” a guest faculty member for the ACSM Health Fitness Instructor Workshop, and a guest lecturer at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid. She has written over 40 abstracts, papers, and book chapters in the scientific literature on the topic of nutrition and exercise.