One thing we know for sure in 2017: How you eat matters. Science has shown that your diet affects everything from your mood to physical health and even your athletic performance. Still, even though there’s an extremely clear link between what we put in our bodies and our overall wellness, lots of people skimp on healthy foods. One of the biggest diet-related ailments affecting our population? Diabetes. In the United States alone, 26 million people have it, and another 79 million have prediabetes, meaning there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to get it. Though type 1 diabetes is thought to be an autoimmune illness, type 2 can largely be treated through diet and exercise, and whether or not you develop it is partially within your control.
“A diet rich in fiber from complex carbohydrates and vegetables as well as lean proteins such as fish, chicken, and lean cuts of beef” is ideal to minimize your risk, says Vanessa Rissetto, RD. Lisa Davis, Ph.D., chief nutrition officer at Terra’s Kitchen, agrees, explaining, “The key to improving and maintaining optimal health stems from eating a balanced, unprocessed whole foods diet focused on lean protein (fish, eggs), healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, avocados), vegetables (especially leafy greens), fruit, legumes, and whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa. All of these foods, plus herbs and spices like cinnamon, are found as part of the Mediterranean style diet,” she says.
One last thing you should pay attention to aside from the actual food you’re eating is how much of it is on your plate. “The most important thing is the serving sizes,” says Rissetto. “People have this misconception that if they are eating a ‘healthy’ food, then they can have as much of it as they want, and this, unfortunately, is where problems arise. Brown rice is healthy, but the serving size is 1/3 cup, avocados are healthy but the serving size is 1/4 of an avocado, chicken is healthy but the serving size for a 165-pound man is about 6 to 7 ounces.” In other words, it paying attention what and how much you’re putting in your body is crucial.
Whether you are actively trying to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, already have it, or just want to eat healthily, these recipes should be your new go-to. Consider this week's meal plan sorted.
The Recipe: Brussels sprouts, carrots, and quinoa come together to create a savory and seriously healthy weeknight meal. Make a big batch Monday night and eat it for lunch in the week to come.
The Wow Factor: Sometimes vegetable and grain bowls can be a bit bland, but this recipe uses rosemary and tahini to add a hit of perfectly balanced flavor.
The Recipe: This salad packs a major nutritional punch with three different types of grains and a hearty serving of veggies. It serves four to six people and only has one cup of complex carbs total, meaning you won’t overeat if you stick to the serving guidelines.
The Wow Factor: The lemony dressing featured in this salad is totally tasty, but it’s also super light. Sub EVOO for coconut oil if you’re adhering to the Mediterranean-style diet.
The Meal: Maple Mustard Grilled Chicken
The Recipe: Served over a bed of zucchini noodles (or any veggie of your choice, really), this delicious and creative method of cooking chicken will give you the mid-week pick-me-up you need.
The Wow Factor: This protein-rich recipe works for most eating styles since it’s both gluten-free and Paleo-friendly.
The Recipe: When you’re trying to eat well, a slow cooker will be your BFF, since it turns basic vegetable and meat dishes into seriously savory masterpieces. With a hearty dose of greens and lean protein, you won’t be disappointed by this dish.
The Wow Factor: This recipe makes eight servings, meaning you can eat it all week long. Plus, the bite-size version of meatballs will help with portion control.
The Meal: Shrimp Fajita Pan Dinner
The Recipe: This is the “cleanest” Mexican food you’ll ever eat, period. With its short ingredients list, you know exactly what’s going into your body when you make this meal, and it’s all good stuff.
The Wow Factor: Pan dinners are a beginner cooking favorite since all you have to do is prep the ingredients, season, and bake.
The Meal: Cheeseburger Salad Bowls
The Recipe: Craving a burger on Saturday night? This meal will quench your craving and help you stick to your healthy eating plan since it’s the perfect mix of indulgence (red meat, cheese, optional whole-wheat bun) and diabetes-friendly foods (lettuce, tomato, onion, and olive oil).
The Wow Factor: With just 10 minutes or prep time and 10 minutes of cooking time, this is the ideal quick-and-easy weekend meal.
The Meal: Artichoke Shakshuka
The Recipe: A hearty meal to top of the week, this combination of tomatoes, eggs, and other veggies makes this recipe a super healthy one. The dish is usually eaten with bread that can be dipped straight into the pan, but if you’re watching your carb intake, limit yourself to one whole-wheat pita and you’ll be good to go.
Wow Factor: Shakshuka doesn’t usually feature artichokes, but they make an amazing addition to a classic healthy dish.