6 steps to eating healthy and preventing diabetes

Diabetes affects an estimated 29 million Americans, with another 86 million at risk for developing the disease. One in three Michigan residents are at risk for prediabetes and over a million already live with the condition.

Try these six simple tips to start making healthier choices:

1. Go easy on the carbs

It's a common misconception that once your doctor says the word "diabetes," you'll never be able to eat carbs again. Our brains and muscles need the energy from carbohydrates to function properly, but you should be mindful about the amount of carbs you are consuming.

Try eating 45-60 grams of carbohydrates at each meal. Foods that contain carbs include:

  • Fruits
  • Milk
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Cereal
  • Bread
  • Starchy vegetables (like beans, peas, potatoes, corn)

Dust off those measuring cups and try to portion your food. Each of these suggested food servings contain 15 grams of carbohydrates:

  • 1 small piece of fresh fruit (4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup of canned or frozen fruit
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup of cereal
  • 1/3 cup of pasta or rice
  • 1/2 hamburger bun
  • 1/2 cup of starchy vegetables
  • 2/3 cup of plain fat-free yogurt
  • 3 cups of air-popped popcorn

2. Choose whole grain

When choosing carbs, pick as many whole grain or high fiber options as possible. Try wheat bread and pasta instead of white, sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes and brown instead of white rice.

3. Know how many calories you need

Learn how many calories your body needs. WebMD offers a chart to help you identify your suggested caloric intake. There are also several apps that can help you track your calories. Knowing your caloric intake is important because eating excess amounts of food can cause your blood sugar to increase which contributes to weight gain. Additionally, being overweight or having a BMI in the obese range can increase your risk of developing diabetes.

4. Get moving

Increase physical activity. The Diabetes Prevention Program Outcome Study found that even a moderate amount of weight loss - about 5 to 7 percent of body weight - and increased physical activity, can delay or even prevent a diabetes diagnosis.

5. Up your non-starchy veggie intake

Fill up on non-starchy veggies such as greens, carrots, tomatoes and peppers. By doing so you'll be increasing your intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Aim to make half of your plate non-starchy veggies, with recipes such as this Apple Walnut Kale Salad.

6. Size matters

In addition to being aware of what carbs to eat and watching portion sizes, it's important to make healthy choices in other food groups as well. Choose lean cuts of meat, such as sirloin, chicken, turkey and fish. When cooking, use as little added fat as possible and limit your salt intake. Flavor meals with herbs and spices instead of salt, like in these Rosemary Pork Chops. Focus on lean cooking methods such as grilling, baking and broiling.

While all of these options may seem daunting, every step you take counts. Healthy eating is an essential part in controlling blood sugar and preventing long-term complications.