The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Health: Sleep Well

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Do you think you got enough sleep this past week? Can you remember the last time you woke up without an alarm clock, feeling refreshed, not needing caffeine? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you are not alone. Two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep.

Indeed, surveys by the UK Sleep Council and YouGov reveal that one out of every three people you pass on the streets of Britain regularly suffer from poor sleep. I doubt you are surprised by these facts, but you may be surprised by the consequences.

Insufficient sleep is now one of the most significant lifestyle factors influencing whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. During sleep, a remarkable sewage system in the brain, called the glymphatic system, kicks into high gear. As you enter deep sleep, this sanitisation system cleanses the brain of a sticky, toxic protein linked to Alzheimer’s, known as beta amyloid. Without sufficient sleep, you fail to get that power cleanse. With each passing night of insufficient sleep, that Alzheimer’s disease risk escalates, like compounding interest on a loan.

Parenthetically, and unscientifically, I have always found it curious that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan – two leaders who were very vocal, if not proud, about sleeping only four to five hours a night – both went on to develop the ruthless disease of Alzheimer’s. The US president, Donald Trump – also a vociferous proclaimer of sleeping just a few hours each night – may want to take note.

Perhaps you have also noticed a desire to eat more when you’re tired? This is no coincidence. Too little sleep swells concentrations of a hormone that makes you feel hungry while suppressing a companion hormone that otherwise signals food satisfaction. Despite being full, you will still want to eat more. It’s a recipe linked to weight gain in sleep-deficient adults and children alike.

Worse, should you try to diet but don’t get enough sleep while doing so, it is futile, since up to 70 percent of the weight you lose will come from lean body mass, not fat. Turn these facts around and you realise that plentiful sleep is powerful tool for controlling your appetite, your weight and keeping your body trim.

Related is the association between plentiful slumber and athletic performance. Sleep is perhaps the greatest legal performance-enhancing “drug” that few people are taking advantage of. Obtain less than eight hours of sleep a night, and especially less than six hours a night, and the following happens: time to physical exhaustion drops by 10 to 30 percent, as does aerobic output; limb extension force and vertical jump height are reduced; peak and sustained muscle strength decrease. Add to this the cardiac, metabolic and respiratory effects: higher rates of lactic acid buildup and reductions in blood oxygen saturation with converse increases in carbon dioxide, due in part to a reduction in the amount of air that the lungs can expire in a sleep-deficient state. And then there is injury risk. Relative to sleeping nine hours a night, sleeping five to six hours a night will increase your chances of injury across a season by more than 200 percent.

Routinely sleeping less than six hours a night also compromises your immune system, significantly increasing your risk of cancer. So much so, that recently the World Health Organization classified any form of night-time shiftwork as a probable carcinogen.

Inadequate sleep – even moderate reductions of two to three hours for just one week – disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path towards cardiovascular disease, stroke and congestive heart failure.

Strikingly, all it takes is one hour of lost sleep, as demonstrated by a global experiment performed on 1.6 billion people across more than 60 countries twice a year, otherwise known as daylight saving times. In the spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, there is a 24 percent increase in heart attacks the following day. In the autumn, we gain an hour of sleep opportunity, and there is a 21 percent reduction in heart attacks. Most of us think little of losing an hour of sleep, yet it is anything but trivial.

Sleep disruption has further been associated with all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety and suicidality. Indeed, in my research over the past 20 years, we have not been able to find a single major psychiatric condition in which sleep is normal. Science is thus proving the prophetic wisdom of Charlotte Brontë, who stated that “a ruffled mind makes a restless pillow”.

Add the above physical and mental health consequences up, and a scientifically validated link becomes easier to accept: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. Recent findings demonstrate that individuals who routinely sleep five hours a night have a 65 percent increased risk of dying at any moment in time, relative to those getting seven to nine hours a night. The elastic band of sleep deprivation can stretch only so far before it snaps.

It is therefore no coincidence that countries where sleep time has declined most dramatically over the past century, such as the US, the UK, Japan and South Korea, and several countries in western Europe, are also those suffering the greatest increase in rates of the aforementioned physical diseases and mental disorders.

Scientists such as myself have even started lobbying doctors to start “prescribing” a good night’s sleep (though certainly not sleeping pills). As medical advice goes, it’s perhaps the most painless and enjoyable to follow. The irony here is that, in medical practice, inadequate sleep leads to inadequate healthcare. Junior doctors working a 30-hour-plus shift will make 460 percent more diagnostic mistakes than when well rested. These same tired physicians will commit 36 percent more serious medical errors, compared with those working 16 hours or less. Seasoned physicians can suffer the same compromise of medical skills. A senior attending surgeon who has slept only six hours or less the previous night is 170 percent more likely to inflict a serious surgical error on a patient, relative to when they have slept adequately. It is worth noting evidence from scientific studies showing that after 22 hours without sleep, human performance is impaired to the same level as that of someone who is legally drunk.

Young doctors themselves can become part of the compromised health-care equation caused by long hours. After a 30-hour continuous shift, trainee doctors are 73 percent more likely to accidentally stab themselves with a hypodermic needle or cut themselves with a scalpel, risking a blood-borne infectious disease, compared with their careful actions when adequately rested. And when a doctor finishes a long overnight shift and drives home, their chances of being involved in a car crash are increased by 168 percent because of insufficient sleep. Sleep should therefore be considered a life-support system; a universal national healthcare plan still waiting to be fully embraced by medicine, and society at large.

I believe it is therefore time for us, as individuals and as nations, to reclaim our right to a full night of sleep, without embarrassment or the terrible stigma of laziness. I fully understand that this prescription of which I write requires a shift in our cultural, professional, and global appreciation of sleep.

Governments and health institutes must themselves become a voice that educates society about sleep. Healthcare systems have launched wonderfully effective public-health campaigns concerning influenza, the need for physical activity, and optimal diet and nutrition. However, I cannot recall any government launching a national public health campaign centred on the essential importance of sleep as both disease prevention and treatment. I hope this will change, and I would be delighted to help any and all such efforts.

Put simply: sleep – a consistent seven- to nine-hour opportunity each night – is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day, and the reason I revere and adore sleep (scientifically and personally).

Matthew Walker is the author of Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams.

Diabetes: Can Fenugreek Lower My Blood Sugar?

Fenugreek is a plant that grows in parts of Europe and western Asia. The leaves are edible, but the small brown seeds are famous for their use in medicine.

The first recorded use of fenugreek was in Egypt, dating back to 1500 B.C. Across the Middle East and South Asia, the seeds were traditionally used as both a spice and a medicine.

You can buy fenugreek as:

  • a spice (in whole or powdered form)
  • supplement (in concentrated pill and liquid form)
  • tea
  • skin cream

Talk to your doctor if you’re thinking of taking fenugreek as a supplement.

Fenugreek and diabetes

Fenugreek seeds may be helpful for people with diabetes. The seeds contain fiber and other chemicals that may slow digestion and the body’s absorption of carbohydrates and sugar.

The seeds may also help improve how the body uses sugar and increases the amount of insulin released.

Few studies support fenugreek as an effective treatment for certain conditions. Many of these studies focus on the seed’s ability to lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.

One small 2009 study found that a daily dose of 10 grams of fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water may help control type 2 diabetes. Another very small 2009 study suggests that eating baked goods, such as bread, made with fenugreek flour may reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.

Other studies noted a modest decrease in fasting glucose with fenugreek taken as a supplement.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that at this point the evidence is weak for fenugreek’s ability to lower blood sugar.

Potential risks of fenugreek

Pregnant women shouldn’t use fenugreek because it may induce uterine contractions. The NIH states that there isn’t enough information about the safety of fenugreek for women who are breastfeeding, and that women with hormone-sensitive cancers shouldn’t use fenugreek.

Some people report a maple syrup-like smell coming from their armpits after extended use. One 2011 study verified these claims by finding that certain chemicals in fenugreek, such as dimethylpyrazine, caused this smell.

This smell shouldn’t be confused with the smell caused by maple syrup urine disease (MUSD). This condition produces a smell that contains the same chemicals as the smells of fenugreek and maple syrup.

Fenugreek can also cause allergic reactions. Talk to your doctor about any food allergies you might have before adding fenugreek to your diet.

The fiber in fenugreek can also make your body less effective at absorbing medications taken by mouth. Don’t use fenugreek within a few hours of taking these types of medication.

Is it safe?

The amounts of fenugreek used in cooking are generally considered safe. However, the NIH cautions that if women have hormone-sensitive cancers, fenugreek can mimic estrogen.

When taken in large doses, side effects can include gas and bloating.

Fenugreek can also react with several medications, especially with those that treat blood clotting disorders and diabetes. Talk to your doctor before taking fenugreek if you’re on these types of medication. Your doctor may need to lower your diabetes medication doses to avoid low blood sugar.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t evaluated or approved fenugreek supplements. The manufacturing process isn’t regulated, so there may be undiscovered health risks.

Also, as with all unregulated supplements, you can’t be sure that the herb and amount listed on the label are what’s actually contained in the supplement.

How to add it into your diet

Fenugreek seeds have a bitter, nutty taste. They’re often used in spice blends. Indian recipes use them in curries, pickles, and other sauces. You can also drink fenugreek tea or sprinkle powdered fenugreek over yogurt.

If you’re not sure how to use fenugreek, ask your dietitian to help you add it to your current diabetes meal plan.

Other benefits of fenugreek

There haven’t been any serious or life threatening side effects or complications connected with fenugreek. A 2007 study even found that fenugreek can actually protect your liver from the effects of toxins.

2009 study suggests that fenugreek can stop the growth of cancer cells and act as an anticancer herb. Fenugreek can also help alleviate the symptoms of dysmenorrhea. This condition causes severe pain during menstrual cycles.

Traditional treatments for diabetes

Along with fenugreek, you have other options for treating your diabetes.

Keeping your blood sugar at normal levels is essential to maintaining a high quality of life with a diabetes diagnosis. You can help your body maintain healthy blood glucose levels by making lifestyle changes, including:

  • sticking to a diet of minimally processed foods and high amounts of fiber, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits
  • choosing lean protein sources and healthy fats and avoiding excessive processed meat
  • avoiding excessive amounts of sweetened carbohydrate foods and sweetened beverages
  • being active at least half an hour a day, at least 5 days a week

Taking medications can also help you keep your blood sugar at healthy levels by controlling your body’s creation and use of insulin. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about medications used to treat diabetes.

You should also talk to your doctor about which activities and treatments will work best for you before attempting to make any changes to your diet, lifestyle, or medications.

Can You Eat Potatoes If You Have Diabetes?

They’re rich in potassium and B vitamins, and the skin is a great source of fiber.

However, if you have diabetes, you may have heard that you should limit or avoid potatoes.

In fact, there are many misconceptions about what people with diabetes should and shouldn’t eat. Many people assume that because potatoes are high in carbs, they’re off-limits if you have diabetes.

The truth is, people with diabetes can eat potatoes in many forms, but it’s important to understand the effect they have on blood sugar levels and the portion size that’s appropriate.

This article tells you everything you need to know about potatoes and diabetes.

Different types of potatoes

How do potatoes affect blood sugar levels?

Like any other carb-containing food, potatoes increase blood sugar levels.

When you eat them, your body breaks down the carbs into simple sugars that move into your bloodstream. This is what’s often called a spike in blood sugar levels (1).

The hormone insulin is then released into your blood to help transport the sugars into your cells so that they can be used for energy (1).

In people with diabetes, this process is not as effective. Instead of sugar moving out of the blood and into your cells, it remains in circulation, keeping blood sugar levels higher for longer.

Therefore, eating high-carb foods and/or large portions can be detrimental to people with diabetes.

In fact, poorly managed diabetes is linked to heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, amputation, and vision loss (23456).

Therefore, it’s usually recommended that people with diabetes limit their digestible carb intake. This can range from a very low carb intake of 20–50 grams per day to a moderate restriction of 100–150 grams per day (789).

The exact amount varies depending on your dietary preferences and medical goals (910).

SUMMARYPotatoes spike blood sugar levels as carbs are broken down into sugars and move into your bloodstream. In people with diabetes, the sugar isn’t cleared properly, leading to higher blood sugar levels and potential health complications.

How many carbs are in potatoes?

Potatoes are a high carb food. However, the carb content can vary depending on the cooking method.

Here is the carb count of 1/2 cup (75–80 grams) of potatoes prepared in different ways (11):

  • Raw: 11.8 grams
  • Boiled: 15.7 grams
  • Baked: 13.1 grams
  • Microwaved: 18.2 grams
  • Oven-baked fries (10 steak-cut frozen): 17.8 grams
  • Deep-fried: 36.5 grams

Keep in mind that an average small potato (weighing 170 grams) contains about 30 grams of carbs and a large potato (weighing 369 grams) approximately 65 grams. Thus, you may eat more than double the number of carbs listed above in a single meal (12).

In comparison, a single piece of white bread contains about 14 grams of carbs, 1 small apple (weighing 149 grams) 20.6 grams, 1 cup (weighing 158 grams) of cooked rice 28 grams, and a 12-ounce (350-ml) can of cola 38.5 grams (13141516).

SUMMARYThe carb content of potatoes varies from 11.8 grams in 1/2 cup (75 grams) of diced raw potato to 36.5 grams in a similar serving size of french fries. However, the actual serving size of this popular root vegetable is often much larger than this.

Are potatoes high GI?

A low GI diet can be an effective way for people with diabetes to manage blood sugar levels (171819).

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how much a food raises blood sugar compared with a control, such as 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of white bread (111).

Foods that have a GI greater than 70 are considered high GI, which means they raise blood sugar more quickly. On the other hand, foods with a GI of less than 55 are classed low (111).

In general, potatoes have a medium to high GI (20).

However, the GI alone isn’t the best representation of a food’s effect on blood sugar levels, as it doesn’t take into account portion size or cooking method. Instead, you can use the glycemic load (GL).

This is the GI multiplied by the actual number of carbs in a portion, divided by 100. A GL of less than 10 is low, while a GL greater than 20 is considered high. Generally, a low GI diet aims to keep the daily GL under 100 (11).

Potato variety and the GI and GL

Both the GI and GL can vary by potato variety and cooking method.

For example, a 1 cup (150 gram) serving of potato may be high, medium, or low GL depending on the variety (1120):

  • High GL: Desiree (mashed), french fries
  • Medium GL: white, Russet Burbank, Pontiac, Desiree (boiled), Charlotte, potato crisps, instant mashed potato
  • Low GL: Carisma, Nicola

If you have diabetes, choosing varieties like Carisma and Nicola is a better option to slow the rise of blood sugar levels after eating potatoes.

You can check the GI and GL of different types of potatoes through this website.

How to lower the GI and GL of a potato

The way a potato is prepared also affects the GI and GL. This is because cooking changes the structure of the starches and thus how fast they’re absorbed into your bloodstream.

In general, the longer a potato is cooked the higher the GI. Therefore, boiling or baking for long periods tends to increase the GI.

Yet, cooling potatoes after cooking can increases the amount of resistant starch, which is a less digestible form of carbs. This helps lower the GI by 25–28% (2122).

This means that a side of potato salad may be slightly better than french fries or hot baked potatoes if you have diabetes. French fries also pack more calories and fat due to their cooking method.

Additionally, you can lower the GI and GL of a meal by leaving the skins on for extra fiber, adding lemon juice or vinegar, or eating mixed meals with protein and fats — as this helps slow the digestion of carbs and the rise in blood sugar levels (23).

For example, adding 4.2 ounces (120 grams) of cheese to a 10.2 ounce (290 gram) baked potato lowers the GL from 93 to 39 (24).

Keep in mind that this much cheese also contains 42 grams of fat and will add nearly 400 calories to the meal.

As such, it’s still necessary to consider the overall number of carbs and the quality of the diet, not just the GI or GL. If controlling weight is one of your goals, your total calorie intake is also important.

SUMMARYA low GI and GL diet can be beneficial for people with diabetes. Potatoes tend to have a medium to high GI and GL, but cooled cooked potatoes, as well as varieties like Carisma and Nicola, are lower and make a better choice for people with diabetes.

Risks of eating potatoes

Although it’s safe for most people with diabetes to eat potatoes, it’s important to consider the amount and types you consume.

Eating potatoes both increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and may have negative effects on people with existing diabetes.

One study in 70,773 people found that for every 3 servings per week of boiled, mashed, or baked potatoes, there was a 4% increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes — and for french fries, the risk increased to 19% (25).

Additionally, fried potatoes and potato chips contain high amounts of unhealthy fats that may increase blood pressure, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and lead to weight gain and obesity — all of which are associated with heart disease (26272829).

This is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes, who often already have an increased risk of heart disease (30).

Fried potatoes are also higher in calories, which can contribute to unwanted weight gain (272931).

People with type 2 diabetes are often encouraged to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight to help manage blood sugar and reduce the risk of complications (32).

Therefore, french fries, potato chips, and other potato dishes that use large amounts of fats are best avoided.

If you’re having trouble managing your blood sugar levels and diet, speak with a healthcare provider, dietitian, or diabetes educator.

SUMMARYEating unhealthy potato foods, such as chips and french fries, increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and complications, such as heart disease and obesity.

Good replacements for potatoes

Although you can eat potatoes if you have diabetes, you may still want to limit them or replace them with healthier options.

Look for high fiber, lower carb, and low GI and GL foods like the following (33):

  • Carrots and parsnips. Both are low GI and GL and have less than 10 grams of carbs per 2.8-ounce (80-gram) serving. They’re great boiled, steamed, or baked.
  • Cauliflower. This vegetable is an excellent alternative to potato either boiled, steamed, or roasted. It’s very low in carbs, making it a terrific option for people on a very low carb diet.
  • Pumpkin and squash. These are low in carbs and have a low to medium GI and a low GL. They’re a particularly good replacement for baked and mashed potatoes.
  • Taro. This root is low in carbs and has a GL of just 4. Taro can be sliced thinly and baked with a little oil for a healthier alternative to potato chips.
  • Sweet potato. This veggie has a lower GI than some white potatoesand varies between a medium and high GL. These tubers are also a great source of vitamin A.
  • Legumes and lentils. Most foods in this category are high in carbs but have a low GL and are rich in fiber. However, you should be careful with serving sizes as they still increase blood sugar levels.

Another good way to avoid large portions of high carb foods is to fill at least half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, leafy greens, cauliflower, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, and lettuce.

SUMMARYLower carb replacements for potato include carrots, pumpkin, squash, parsnip, and taro. High carb but lower GI and GL options include sweet potato, legumes, and lentils.

The bottom line

Potatoes are a versatile and delicious vegetable that can be enjoyed by everyone, including people with diabetes.

However, because of their high carb content, you should limit portion sizes, always eat the skin, and choose low GI varieties, such as Carisma and Nicola.

In addition, it’s best to stick with boiling, baking, or steaming and avoid fried potatoes or potato chips, which are high in calories and unhealthy fats.

If you’re struggling to make healthy choices to manage your diabetes, consult your healthcare provider, dietitian, or diabetes educator.

Is Buttered ‘Keto Coffee’ Good for You?

bulletproof coffee with butter and coconut oil

There’s a lot of hype around the benefits of adding butter to your coffee. The trend is popular among followers of the keto diet (low-carb, high-fat) and intermittent fasters.

Take your morning cup of joe, add two tablespoons of butter, some oil and call it Bulletproof Coffee. No doubt it’s an interesting flavor, but it’s the claims of increased energy and weight loss that seem to be giving this morning jolt traction. Bulletproof Coffee even replaces breakfast for many fans of the drink.

But it’s not just any old butter and coffee. Those supporting this idea say it has to be unsalted, grass-fed butter and medium-chain triglyceride oil (MCT) added to low-toxicity coffee beans.

Can a mixture like that really live up to this claim to fame?

What happens to butter in your body?

“There’s no real research into whether butter-spiked coffee is good for you, but we do know some things about how butter affects your digestion,” explains Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD.

According to research, fat in butter contains glycosphingolipids, which are fatty acids that ward off gastrointestinal tract infections, especially in very young children and older adults.

Its omega-3 and omega-6 fats also slow down your body’s metabolism of caffeine, so you hold on to the energy longer and avoid the crash that comes later on when the stimulant wears off.

How MCT oil works

MCT, most commonly found in coconut oil, is also good for our bodies and brains. When it comes to our bodies, we don’t store MCT in our adipose tissue (the fat around and inside our muscles) like the other dietary fats we eat.

Most of those fats are long-chain triglycerides, but MCTs are much shorter. They travel directly to the liver where they’re processed into powerful energy particles called ketone bodies. MCTs are easily digested and quite a few health benefits are linked to the way our bodies process these fats.

In addition, if your brain loses the ability to break down its primary fuel source, glucose, due to cognitive impairment or some other disorder, it can use ketone bodies as an excellent, alternative source. Research shows that people with cognitive impairment who ingest MCT experience an almost immediate improvement in mental function.

The verdict – not enough evidence to support

So do the health benefits of butter and MCT oil mean you should start adding them to your morning coffee?

If you drink coffee you might want to skip this trend, as there just isn’t enough research to back up the claims.

However healthy fats and oils do have a place in our daily diets, but there’s no research proving that adding both to your coffee is the best way to incorporate them. There’s also concern that buttered coffee is very high in saturated fat and dietary guidelines advise people to limit their intake as they can lead to heart disease and other conditions.

So in the end, having Bulletproof Coffee on occasion is fine, but it’s not advised to make this part of a healthy eating (or drinking) routine.

Instead, focus on eating a well-rounded diet and incorporate coffee sparingly.

11 Foods to Avoid With Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that has reached epidemic proportions among adults and children worldwide (1).

Uncontrolled diabetes has many serious consequences, including heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and other complications.

Prediabetes has also been linked to these conditions (2).

Importantly, eating the wrong foods can raise your blood sugar and insulin levels and promote inflammation, which may increase your risk of disease.

This article lists 11 foods that people with diabetes or prediabetes should avoid.

Why Does Carb Intake Matter for People With Diabetes?

Carbs, protein and fat are the macronutrients that provide your body with energy.

Of these three, carbs have the greatest effect on your blood sugar by far. This is because they are broken down into sugar, or glucose, and absorbed into your bloodstream.

Carbs include starches, sugar and fiber. However, fiber isn’t digested and absorbed by your body in the same way other carbs are, so it doesn’t raise your blood sugar.

Subtracting fiber from the total carbs in a food will give you its digestible or “net” carb content. For instance, if a cup of mixed vegetables contains 10 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fiber, its net carb count is 6 grams.

When people with diabetes consume too many carbs at a time, their blood sugar levels can rise to dangerously high levels.

Over time, high levels can damage your body’s nerves and blood vessels, which may set the stage for heart disease, kidney disease and other serious health conditions.

Maintaining a low carb intake can help prevent blood sugar spikes and greatly reduce the risk of diabetes complications.

Therefore, it’s important to avoid the foods listed below.

1. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Sugary beverages are the worst drink choice for someone with diabetes.

To begin with, they are very high in carbs, with a 12-ounce (354-ml) can of soda providing 38 grams (3).

The same amount of sweetened iced tea and lemonade each contain 36 grams of carbs, exclusively from sugar (45).

In addition, they’re loaded with fructose, which is strongly linked to insulin resistance and diabetes. Indeed, studies suggest that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages may increase the risk of diabetes-related conditions like fatty liver (678).

What’s more, the high fructose levels in sugary drinks may lead to metabolic changes that promote belly fat and potentially harmful cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

In one study of overweight and obese adults, consuming 25% of calories from high-fructose beverages on a weight-maintaining diet led to increased insulin resistance and belly fat, lower metabolic rate and worse heart health markers (910).

To help control blood sugar levels and prevent disease risk, consume water, club soda or unsweetened iced tea instead of sugary beverages.

SUMMARY:Sodas and sweet drinks are high in carbs, which increase blood sugar. Also, their high fructose content has been linked to insulin resistance and an increased risk of obesity, fatty liver and other diseases.

2. Trans Fats

Industrial trans fats are extremely unhealthy.

They are created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fatty acids in order to make them more stable.

Trans fats are found in margarines, peanut butter, spreads, creamers and frozen dinners. In addition, food manufacturers often add them to crackers, muffins and other baked goods to help extend shelf life.

Although trans fats don’t directly raise blood sugar levels, they’ve been linked to increased inflammation, insulin resistance and belly fat, as well as lower “good” HDL cholesterol levels and impaired arterial function (111213141516).

These effects are especially concerning for people with diabetes, as they are at an increased risk of heart disease.

Fortunately, trans fats have been outlawed in most countries, and in 2015 the FDA called for their removal from products in the US market to be completed within three years (17).

Until trans fats are no longer in the food supply, avoid any product that contains the words “partially hydrogenated” in its ingredient list.

SUMMARY:Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been chemically altered to increase their stability. They have been linked to inflammation, insulin resistance, increased belly fat and heart disease.

3. White Bread, Pasta and Rice

White bread, rice and pasta are high-carb, processed foods.

Eating bread, bagels and other refined-flour foods has been shown to significantly increase blood sugar levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes (1819).

And this response isn’t exclusive to wheat products. In one study, gluten-free pastas were also shown to raise blood sugar, with rice-based types having the greatest effect (20).

Another study found that a meal containing a high-carb bagel not only raised blood sugar but also decreased brain function in people with type 2 diabetes and mental deficits (21).

These processed foods contain little fiber, which helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.

In another study, replacing white bread with high-fiber bread was shown to significantly reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In addition, they experienced reductions in cholesterol and blood pressure (22).

SUMMARY:White bread, pasta and rice are high in carbs yet low in fiber. This combination can result in high blood sugar levels. Alternatively, choosing high-fiber, whole foods may help reduce blood sugar response.

4. Fruit-Flavored Yogurt

Plain yogurt can be a good option for people with diabetes. However, fruit-flavored varieties are a very different story.

Flavored yogurts are typically made from non-fat or low-fat milk and loaded with carbs and sugar.

In fact, a one-cup (245-gram) serving of fruit-flavored yogurt may contain 47 grams of sugar, meaning nearly 81% of its calories come from sugar (23).

Many people consider frozen yogurt to be a healthy alternative to ice cream. However, it can contain just as much or even more sugar than ice cream (2425).

Rather than choosing high-sugar yogurts that can spike your blood sugar and insulin, opt for plain, whole-milk yogurt that contains no sugar and may be beneficial for your appetite, weight control and gut health (2627).

SUMMARY:Fruit-flavored yogurts are usually low in fat but high in sugar, which can lead to higher blood sugar and insulin levels. Plain, whole-milk yogurt is a better choice for diabetes control and overall health.

5. Sweetened Breakfast Cereals

Eating cereal is one of the worst ways to start your day if you have diabetes.

Despite the health claims on their boxes, most cereals are highly processed and contain far more carbs than many people realize.

In addition, they provide very little protein, a nutrient that can help you feel full and satisfied while keeping your blood sugar levels stable during the day (28).

Even “healthy” breakfast cereals aren’t good choices for those with diabetes.

For instance, just a half-cup serving (55 grams) of granola cereal contains 30 grams of digestible carbs, and Grape Nuts contain 41 grams. What’s more, each provides only 7 grams of protein per serving (2930).

To keep blood sugar and hunger under control, skip the cereal and choose a protein-based low-carb breakfast instead.

SUMMARY:Breakfast cereals are high in carbs but low in protein. A high-protein, low-carb breakfast is the best option for diabetes and appetite control.

6. Flavored Coffee Drinks

Coffee has been linked to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of diabetes (313233).

However, flavored coffee drinks should be viewed as a liquid dessert, rather than a healthy beverage.

Studies have shown your brain doesn’t process liquid and solid foods similarly. When you drink calories, you don’t compensate by eating less later, potentially leading to weight gain (3435).

Flavored coffee drinks are also loaded with carbs. Even “light” versions contain enough carbs to significantly raise your blood sugar levels.

For instance, a 16-ounce (454-ml) caramel frappuccino from Starbucks contains 67 grams of carbs, and the same size caramel light frappuccino contains 30 grams of carbs (3637).

To keep your blood sugar under control and prevent weight gain, choose plain coffee or espresso with a tablespoon of heavy cream or half-and-half.

SUMMARY:Flavored coffee drinks are very high in liquid carbs, which can raise blood sugar levels and fail to satisfy your hunger.

7. Honey, Agave Nectar and Maple Syrup

People with diabetes often try to minimize their intake of white table sugar, as well as treats like candy, cookies and pie.

However, other forms of sugar can also cause blood sugar spikes. These include brown sugar and “natural” sugars like honeyagave nectar and maple syrup.

Although these sweeteners aren’t highly processed, they contain at least as many carbs as white sugar. In fact, most contain even more.

Below are the carb counts of a one-tablespoon serving of popular sweeteners:

  • White sugar: 12.6 grams (38)
  • Agave nectar: 16 grams (39)
  • Honey: 17 grams (40)
  • Maple syrup: 13 grams (41)

In one study, people with prediabetes experienced similar increases in blood sugar, insulin and inflammatory markers regardless of whether they consumed 1.7 ounces (50 grams) of white sugar or honey (42).

Your best strategy is to avoid all forms of sugar and use natural low-carb sweeteners instead.

SUMMARY:Honey, agave nectar and maple syrup are not as processed as white table sugar, but they may have similar effects on blood sugar, insulin and inflammatory markers.

8. Dried Fruit

Fruit is a great source of several important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium.

When fruit is dried, the process results in a loss of water that leads to even higher concentrations of these nutrients.

Unfortunately, its sugar content becomes more concentrated as well.

One cup of grapes contains 27 grams of carbs, including 1 gram of fiber. By contrast, one cup of raisins contains 115 grams of carbs, 5 of which come from fiber (4344).

Therefore, raisins contain more than three times as many carbs as grapes do. Other types of dried fruit are similarly higher in carbs when compared to fresh fruit.

If you have diabetes, you don’t have to give up fruit altogether. Sticking with low-sugar fruits like fresh berries or a small apple can provide health benefits while keeping your blood sugar in the target range.

SUMMARY:Dried fruits become more concentrated in sugar and may contain more than three times as many carbs as fresh fruits do. Avoid dried fruit and choose fruits low in sugar for optimal blood sugar control.

9. Packaged Snack Foods

Pretzels, crackers and other packaged foods aren’t good snack choices.

They’re typically made with refined flour and provide few nutrients, although they have plenty of fast-digesting carbs that can rapidly raise blood sugar.

Here are the carb counts for a one-ounce (28-gram) serving of some popular snacks:

  • Saltine crackers: 21 grams of carbs, including 1 gram of fiber (45)
  • Pretzels: 22 grams of carbs, including 1 gram of fiber (46)
  • Graham crackers: 21 grams of carbs, including 1 gram of fiber (47)

In fact, some of these foods may contain even more carbs than stated on their nutrition label. One study found that snack foods provide 7.7% more carbs, on average, than the label states (48).

If you get hungry in between meals, it’s better to eat nuts or a few low-carb vegetables with an ounce of cheese.

SUMMARY:Packaged snacks are typically highly processed foods made from refined flour that can quickly raise your blood sugar levels.

10. Fruit Juice

Although fruit juice is often considered a healthy beverage, its effects on blood sugar are actually similar to those of sodas and other sugary drinks.

This goes for unsweetened 100% fruit juice, as well as types that contain added sugar. In some cases, fruit juice is even higher in sugar and carbs than soda.

For example, 8 ounces (250 ml) of unsweetened apple juice and soda contain 24 grams of sugar each. An equivalent serving of grape juice provides 32 grams of sugar (495051).

Like sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice is loaded with fructose, the type of sugar that drives insulin resistance, obesity and heart disease (52).

A much better alternative is to enjoy water with a wedge of lemon, which provides less than 1 gram of carbs and is virtually calorie-free (53).

SUMMARY:Unsweetened fruit juice contains at least as much sugar as sodas do. Its high fructose content can worsen insulin resistance, promote weight gain and increase the risk of heart disease.

11. French Fries

French fries are a food to steer clear of, especially if you have diabetes.

Potatoes themselves are relatively high in carbs. One medium potato with the skin on contains 37 grams of carbs, 4 of which come from fiber (54).

However, once they’ve been peeled and fried in vegetable oil, potatoes may do more than spike your blood sugar.

Deep-frying foods has been shown to produce high amounts of toxic compounds like AGEs and aldehydes, which may promote inflammation and increase the risk of disease (5556).

Indeed, several studies have linked frequently consuming french fries and other fried foods to heart disease and cancer (57585960).

If you don’t want to avoid potatoes altogether, eating a small amount of sweet potatoes is your best option.

SUMMARY:In addition to being high in carbs that raise blood sugar levels, french fries are fried in unhealthy oils that may promote inflammation and increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.

The Bottom Line

Knowing which foods to avoid when you have diabetes can sometimes seem tough. However, following a few guidelines can make it easier.

Your main goals should include staying away from unhealthy fats, liquid sugars, processed grains and other foods that contain refined carbs.

Avoiding foods that increase your blood sugar levels and drive insulin resistance can help keep you healthy now and reduce your risk of future diabetes complications.

Drinking Alcohol and Diabetes: Do They Mix?

Drinking Alcohol and Diabetes: Do They Mix?

 

Most people with diabetes may enjoy alcohol in moderation, but you should always check with your healthcare provider first. Your condition or the medications you are taking could be affected by alcohol consumption.

You’ll want to follow these five safety tips:

1. Know if it’s all right for you to drink

Check with your doctor or healthcare provider before you choose to drink. We cannot stress this enough. You need to know if your medications or any diabetes-related conditions you have could be seriously affected by alcohol consumption.

2. Stay in control of your blood sugar

Make sure your diabetes is well controlled before you drink. Check your blood glucose levels beforeduring and after you drink to know how you are doing. NEVER drink on and empty stomach. Alcohol consumption can lead to a decrease in your blood sugar. This is because too much alcohol can block production and release of glucose from the liver.

And remember that the effects of alcohol can last up to 24 hours so regular monitoring of your blood sugar–and eating a snack even hours after the holiday merriment is over–may be necessary to avoid dangerous lows.

3. Drink in moderation

If your healthcare provider says it’s ok for you to drink, follow the same rules of moderation recommended for all people. Moderation is considered up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. One drink is equal to:

  • 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol content).
  • a 12-ounce beer (5 percent alcohol content).
  • 1½ ounces of distilled spirits such as vodka or gin (80 proof alcohol).

Remember, guidelines are by day – you cannot save up all your drinks for the weekend!

4. Avoid certain types of drinks

Alcohol contains calories and has no essential nutrients. Consider these extra calories and sugars and always avoid liqueurs, sweet wines, tonic, regular soda, fruit juice and sugary drink mixers. Also avoid drinks that are higher in alcohol content such as craft beers and spirits that are more than 80 proof.

5. Stop drinking when you need to and make sure you can get help

If you experience a low blood glucose reading while drinking, stop drinking. Have something to eat and drink water. Remember that you could get to the point that you are not aware that you’re having low blood sugar symptoms. Being drunk and low hypoglycemia cause the same symptoms of sleepiness and dizziness, and this means your treatment could be delayed. Remember to monitor your sugar and always wear your diabetes identification when drinking to avoid this problem.

So to sum it up, the key to safe drinking if you have diabetes is to drink in moderation and to monitor your blood sugar regularly. This will keep you healthy and safe when you enjoy a toast with friends and family this holiday season.

What to Do When Diabetes Affects Your Sex Life

Erectile Dysfunction & Diabetes

If you’re a guy living with diabetes, you’ve got enough on your plate.

You have to monitor your blood glucose levels and blood pressure, and, most likely, take several medications.

If this is you, and you’re experiencing problems with your sex life, there’s a good chance you’re feeling anxious, frustrated and depressed.

You may know erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or maintain an erection. But did you know how common the condition is among men with diabetes?

“The risk of ED approaches 50 percent for men with diabetes — and increases with age,” says endocrinologist Kevin Borst, DO.

What causes ED

Erectile dysfunction can stem from problems caused by poor long-term blood sugar control, which damages nerves and blood vessels.

ED is also linked to other conditions common among men with diabetes, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and obesity.

“The same elevated blood glucose levels that cause blood vessel and nerve damage in other parts of the body can lead to problems with blood flow and nerve damage in the penis,” explains Dr. Borst.

But even when there’s a medical reason behind it, ED can leave any man and his partner feeling frustrated and discouraged.

If you or your partner are experiencing ED, you’re not alone. And you can take steps to improve your situation.

Start with your doctor

Tell your doctor what’s going on. He or she will consider the underlying causes of your ED and can give you information about medication and other ED treatments.

Ask what you need to do to control your diabetes, because managing it well will be critical.

“Careful blood sugar control can prevent the nerve and blood vessel damage that lead to ED,” says Dr. Borst.

Be sure to address all your health issues with your physician, especially chronic conditions, like high cholesterol, that contribute to ED.

Ask if any medicine you’re taking — including antidepressants or blood pressure medication — could be worsening your erectile problems. Your doctor may be able to switch your prescription.

Also, living with diabetes and its complications can cause significant stress that may impact sexual function. Talk to your doctor about stress management strategies.

Finally, if you smoke, ED provides another compelling reason to quit.

Taking steps to learn what may be causing your ED can help you find solutions, and ease frustration for you and your partner.

Have Diabetes? 5 Tips for Healthier Feet

Healthy bare feet in sandals

If you have diabetes, you know how easy it is to injure your feet — without even realizing it.

Nerve damage from diabetes can cause numbness in your extremities (called neuropathy), and when your blood sugar is elevated, your body’s ability to fight off infection or heal a wound is also lessened. Unnoticed and untreated, a foot wound for a person with diabetes can cause a serious medical problem.

Here are five ways to take care of your feet — including how to lower your risk for injury as well as what to do if injury does occur.

1. Do daily skin checks

Touch and inspect your feet every day. Check for cuts, bruises, swelling or tender areas. Clean cuts with plain soap and water and cover with a dry dressing. If you have problems checking your feet because of your eyesight, ask a family member to help you.

2. Keep feet clean and comfortable

Wash your feet each day in warm water. Dry them carefully, especially between the toes where moisture can develop. Apply lotion every day, but keep the area between the toes dry. Wear comfortable shoes and clean socks that don’t have holes or rough seams that could irritate your skin.

3. Never go barefoot

In the summer, you might want to be barefoot, but if you have diabetes, even a simple injury like a stubbed toe can lead to a foot ulcer and other complications. Keep a pair of slippers by your bed, and always wear something on your feet when you are inside as well as outside.

4. Control your sugar

Stay within the targeting blood sugar levels that your healthcare provider recommends. The American Diabetes Association recommends target blood sugar levels be less than 130 mg/dl fasting and before meals and no higher that 180 mg/dl two hours after meals.

To maintain your target goals, follow your individualized meal plan, keep an eye on carbohydrate servings and, if you take medication for your diabetes, be consistent in taking them.

5. Treat foot wounds right away

If you do have a foot wound, early intervention is key. Clean the area with soap and water and cover with a bandage or dry dressing. If you don’t notice an improvement after one day, contact your healthcare provider. Don’t try to self-treat or use over-the-counter treatments, as they can be caustic and irritating to people with diabetes.

As a person with diabetes, if an infection is left untreated for long, you may require oral antibiotics, and if it becomes serious, it can lead to a hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics or surgery. In the worst cases, untreated infections of the foot can lead to amputations.

Dried Fruit: Good or Bad?

Information about dried fruit is very conflicting.

Some say it is a nutritious, healthy snack, while others claim it is no better than candy.

This is a detailed article about dried fruit and how it can affect your health.

What is Dried Fruit?

Dried fruit is fruit that has had almost all of the water content removed through drying methods.

The fruit shrinks during this process, leaving a small, energy-dense dried fruit.

Raisins are the most common type, followed by dates, prunes, figs and apricots.

Other varieties of dried fruit are also available, sometimes in candied form (sugar coated). These include mangoes, pineapples, cranberries, bananas and apples.

Dried fruit can be preserved for much longer than fresh fruit and can be a handy snack, particularly on long trips where refrigeration is not available.

BOTTOM LINE:Dried fruit has had most of the water content removed. The most common varieties are raisins, dates, prunes, figs and apricots.

Dried Fruit is Loaded With Micronutrients, Fiber and Antioxidants

Dried fruit is highly nutritious.

One piece of dried fruit contains about the same amount of nutrients as the fresh fruit, but condensed in a much smaller package.

By weight, dried fruit contains up to 3.5 times the fiber, vitamins and minerals of fresh fruit.

Therefore, one serving can provide a large percentage of the daily recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals, such as folate (1).

However, there are some exceptions. For example, the vitamin C content is significantly reduced when the fruit is dried (2).

Dried fruit generally contains a lot of fiber and is a great source of antioxidants, especially polyphenols (3).

Polyphenol antioxidants are associated with health benefits such as improved blood flow, better digestive health, decreased oxidative damage and reduced risk of many diseases (4).

BOTTOM LINE:Dried fruit is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is also high in phenolic antioxidants, which have numerous health benefits.

Health Effects of Dried Fruit

Several studies have shown that people who eat dried fruit tend to weigh less and ingest more nutrients, compared to individuals not eating dried fruit (567).

However, these studies were observational in nature, so they can not prove that the dried fruit caused the improvements.

Dried fruit is also a good source of many plant compounds, including powerful antioxidants (891011).

BOTTOM LINE:Eating dried fruit has been linked to an increased intake of nutrients and a reduced risk of obesity.

Raisins May Reduce the Risk of Certain Diseases

Raisins are dried grapes.

They are packed with fiber, potassium and various health-promoting plant compounds.

They have a low to medium glycemic index value, and a low insulin index (1213).

This means that raisins should not cause major spikes in blood sugar or insulin levels after meals.

Studies show that eating raisins may (1214151617):

  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Improve blood sugar control.
  • Decrease inflammatory markers and blood cholesterol.
  • Lead to increased feeling of fullness.

All of these factors should contribute to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

BOTTOM LINE:Raisins are high in fiber, potassium and other plant compounds. Eating raisins may improve blood sugar control, lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol, as well as decrease inflammation.

Prunes are Natural Laxatives and May Help Fight Diseases

Prunes are dried plums.

They are highly nutritious, being rich in fiber, potassium, beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin K.

They are known for their natural laxative effects.

This is caused by their high content of fiber and a sugar alcohol called sorbitol, which is found naturally in some fruit.

Eating prunes has been shown to help improve stool frequency and consistency. Prunes are considered to be even more effective at relieving constipation than psyllium, which is another common remedy (18).

As a great source of antioxidants, prunes may inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and help prevent heart disease and cancer (1920).

Prunes are also rich in a mineral called boron, which can help fight osteoporosis (21).

Furthermore, prunes are very filling and should not cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels (19).

BOTTOM LINE:Prunes have a natural laxative effect because of their fiber and sorbitol content. They are also very filling, and may help fight oxidative damage in the body.

Dates May Benefit Pregnancy and Help Prevent Several Diseases

Dates are incredibly sweet. They are a great source of fiber, potassium, iron and several plant compounds.

Of all the dried fruit, they are one of the richest sources of antioxidants, contributing to reduced oxidative damage in the body (322).

Dates have a low glycemic index, which means that eating them should not cause major spikes in blood sugar levels (23).

Date consumption has also been studied in relation to pregnant women and labor.

Eating dates regularly during the last few weeks of pregnancy may help facilitate cervical dilation, as well as decrease the need for induced labor (24).

One study had women eat dates during the last few weeks of pregnancy. Only 4% of the date-eating women required induced labor, compared to 21% of those who did not consume dates (25).

Dates have also shown promising results in animal and test-tube studies as a remedy for infertility in males, but human studies are lacking at this point (22).

BOTTOM LINE:Dates are rich in antioxidants, potassium, iron and fiber. Eating dates may help reduce oxidative damage, moderate blood sugar and help with labor in pregnant women.

Dried Fruit is High in Natural Sugar and Calories

Fruit tend to contain significant amounts of natural sugars.

Because the water has been removed from dried fruit, this concentrates all the sugar and calories in a much smaller package.

For this reason, dried fruit is very high in calories and sugar, including both glucose and fructose.

Below are some examples of the natural sugar content of dried fruit (26).

  • Raisins: 59%.
  • Dates: 64–66%.
  • Prunes: 38%.
  • Apricots: 53%.
  • Figs: 48%.

About 22–51% of this sugar content is fructose. Eating a lot of fructose may have negative health effects. This includes increased risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease (27).

A small 1-ounce portion of raisins contains 84 calories, almost exclusively from sugar.

Because dried fruit is sweet and energy-dense, it is easy to eat large amounts at a time, which can result in excess sugar and calorie intake.

BOTTOM LINE:Dried fruit is relatively high in calories and sugar. Common dried fruits contain 38–66% sugar, and eating too much of them may contribute to weight gain and various health problems.

Avoid Dried Fruit with Added Sugar (Candied Fruit)

To make some dried fruit even more sweet and appealing, they are coated with added sugar or syrup before being dried.

Dried fruit with added sugar are also referred to as “candied” fruit.

Added sugar has repeatedly been shown to have harmful effects on health, increasing the risk of obesity, heart disease and even cancer (2829).

To avoid dried fruit that contains added sugar, it is very important to read the ingredients and nutrition information found on the package.

BOTTOM LINE:Some fruit is coated with sugar or syrup before being dried. Always read the package when purchasing dried fruit and avoid brands that contain added sugar.

Dried Fruit May Also Contain Sulfites, and May be Contaminated With Fungi and Toxins

Some producers add preservatives called sulfites to their dried fruit.

This makes the dried fruit look more appealing, because it preserves the fruit and prevents discoloration.

This applies mainly to brightly colored fruits, such as apricots and raisins.

Some individuals may be sensitive to sulfites, and may experience stomach cramps, skin rashes and asthma attacks after ingesting them (3031). To avoid sulfites, choose dried fruit that is brown or grayish rather than brightly colored (32).

Dried fruit that is improperly stored and handled may also be contaminated with fungi, aflatoxins and other toxic compounds (333435).

BOTTOM LINE:Sulfites are added to some dried fruit to preserve color, which may cause adverse effects in sensitive individuals. Dried fruit that is improperly stored and handled may also be contaminated with fungi and toxins.

Take Home Message

Same as with many other foods, dried fruit have both good and bad aspects.

Dried fruit can boost your fiber and nutrient intake and supply your body with large amounts of antioxidants.

However, they are also high in sugar and calories, and can cause problems when eaten in excess.

For this reason, dried fruit should only be eaten in small amounts, preferably along with other nutritious foods.

They should not be eaten by the handful, because it is very easy to eat too many calories from dried fruit.

Also, they are a high-carb food, making them unsuitable on a low-carb diet.

At the end of the day, dried fruit is far from perfect, but it is certainly a much healthier and more nutritious snack than chips or other processed junk foods.

10 Ways to Stock Your Fridge for Weight Loss

Man and son find healthy snack in fridge

If you open your refrigerator door and a pile of junk food tumbles out, your chances of eating healthy are slim.

Your eating habits are only as good as your supply of food. Whether you want to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight or just clean up your diet — registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, gives advice on how you should stock and arrange your refrigerator for success.

  1. Categorize and organize
    Invest in individual baskets to separate and organize foods by type: dairy, snacks, fruits, vegetables, condiments and leftovers, for example. This makes healthy foods easier to find — and unhealthy food easier to avoid.
  2. Prep portions in advance
    Embrace baggies and containers. Make your own trail mix and store it in ¼ cup sandwich bags. Pre-portion peanut butter (The natural kind…just peanuts and nothing else!) so you don’t go overboard when smearing it on whole-grain crackers. When you have leftovers, divide them in appropriate portions before you store them.
  3. Cut and mix ahead of time
    Cut veggies and fruit ahead of time, or make a fruit salad. Having these healthy snacks ready to go makes it more likely you’ll eat them. Squeeze lemon or lime on a fruit salad to prevent browning.
  4. Stock fun water
    We’re not talking about artificially sweetened water, but rather a large pitcher of water with natural flavor from a fruit, vegetable or herb of your choice. Mint, lemons, limes, berries, oranges, cucumbers — find your flavor, and keep it stocked.
  5. Nix the juice (or any drink with calories)
    You’re better off quenching your thirst with water than taking a swig of juice when you’re thirsty — and getting extra calories without a lot of extra nutrition. The more swigs, the more those calories add up.
  6. Pair your foods
    Do you like carrots with hummus? What about apple slices with peanut butter? Find your favorite healthy snack combos and store them in the same basket. When you’re ready to snack, they’re ready to go.
  7. Make fridge rules
    Here are a few to get you started: Avoid processed foods. Don’t stock foods that contain trans fats or white flour. If sugar is the top ingredient, don’t buy it. Often, the more ingredients on the food label, the more wary you should be.
  8. Seek healthy alternatives to old favorites
    Love flavored non-dairy creamer in your morning coffee? Stock unsweetened vanilla almond milk instead. You’ll get the hint of flavor in your java without the sugar and trans fats of flavored creamer.
  9. Make yourself work
    When you have to work to eat a snack, you may slow down your pace and enjoy it more. Think of an orange you need to peel rather than orange juice you can grab and gulp, for example.
  10. Find a motivational message
    Find something that inspires you — motivational words, a picture that represents you at your best — and put it on the fridge. Remember, it’s the last thing you’ll see before you open the door.