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Making major changes to dietary habits and lifestyle can be challenging for anyone. For people with diabetes, trying to make all these changes — checking their blood sugar level, counting carbs, losing weight, and worrying about what foods to avoid with diabetes can be so overwhelming that they put up barriers. What is a barrier as it relates to your health? It’s basically anything that causes you to slip up in your goal to make lifestyle changes, such as changing your eating habits.

Let’s say, for example, you often skip breakfast because you’re rushing out the door. If you have prediabetes or diabetes, having breakfast is a must. First, it helps prevent low blood sugar. Second, it can give you energy for the rest of your morning. Try to get into the habit of starting your day with a healthy breakfast that includes slowly digested carbs, such as steel-cut oats, or if you’re in a hurry, a Glucerna® nutritional drink.

Confusion about what’s what

You may also be confused about what exactly constitutes a healthy choice and what to eat for diabetes. This is understandable. Consulting your dietitian or certified diabetes educator can help you read food labels so that you can choose a healthy selection of whole grains, lean meats, and dairy products. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to read food labels and make healthy food choices more easily.

Family ties — dealing with cultural foods

Food is intimately linked to who we are. The regions we come from, where we grew up, childhood memories of favourite dishes prepared from a recipe passed down from generation to generation, with time-honoured ingredients. In many cultures, such as South Asian, Chinese, East Indian, and Latin American, foods with a high GI, such as white rice, are often a large part a of daily meals.

There’s no need to go without the foods your grandma made. Just don’t make them the same way.

Let’s say you grew up with white rice and can’t bear to give up rice. There’s no need to if you make some small adjustments. For example, using brown rice instead of white rice can make a big difference. So can adding nutritious vegetables and legumes, such as kidney beans. Also, keep portion size in mind: rice should take up no more than a quarter of your plate.

Fortunately, there are many resources to help you make these adjustments. Take a look at Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide, which is available in several languages and contains an interactive tool that enables you to customize the food guide.

Remember: Eating healthier doesn’t mean that you have to give up your favourite traditional foods. With a little tweaking and experimenting, they can be adapted to suit your taste and lifestyle.

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