Basic Diet Changing Tips

All the suggestions revolve around this ideology: unprocessed foods, that is, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low fat dairy products are the foundation for a healthy body. It may not be possible to give up all the tasty, processed foods that surround us, but if we primarily eat vitamin, mineral and fiber-rich foods, then a few processed “treats” every now and will not do as much damage as if we consume fatty, sweet and salty foods and drinks everyday.

Look at the Native American Food Guide at that gives lists of types of “common” foods that might be eaten everyday to satisfy nutritional requirement alongside lists of traditional tribal foods that can be used as substitutes. For example, in the bread group one could use cattails, dried corn, lukameen, and wild rice. Try new ways of preparing foods such as wild rice, venison, salmon, squashes, beans and corn.

It is not the purpose of this discussion to provide medical advice about “curing” diabetes or obesity. A person with diabetes must consult with a physician. One thing a diabetic will need to be aware of, however, is how to count carbohydrates. One way to educate yourself is to look at “Carb Counting” at, a web page that gives you a formula for calculating how many grams of carbohydrates you may consume depending on how much insulin you use. Also see the Native American Diabetes Project Diabetes Wellness Connection for information on how to control and prevent diabetes at

People also metabolize foods at different rates. Do not try to eat as much as your larger and more active spouse or friends.

Dropping hamburgers, fries and milkshakes and substituting fruit, vegetables, chicken and game meats, in addition to daily exercise can make a tremendous difference in body fat percentage and sugar levels.

Try tofu. Made from soy beans, firm tofu is a tasty substitute for meat. Prepare it with grilled vegetables, in soups and stews. Tofu tends to absorb the flavors of the foods it is cooked with and is a good “filler.” One-half cup of firm tofu is approximately 100 calories and contains 10 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrates, ten mcgs. of sodium, and 5.6 grams of fat. Many restaurants offer tofu dishes.

Start buying frozen chopped spinach to store in your freezer and use it as a staple. Your picky kids won’t notice it much, either. You can add it to pizza and baked potatoes as a topping and put it in scrambled eggs, soups, casseroles, salads, tacos, etc. You can also add sweet corn to a variety of foods.

Consider adding Brewer’s yeast to your diet. It contains the B vitamins, zinc and 40% of high quality proteins. You can take Brewer’s Yeast tablets or add power to drinks (it tastes strong, so try it with tomato juice of V-8).

Learn to like foods that are high in fiber and nutrients, but low in calories and with a low glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index cause your blood sugar to rise and fall quickly, making you hungry. Those with a low number allow your blood sugar to fall more slowly, thus satisfying your hunger longer. High GI foods are cakes, pies, muffins, breads, cereals, cookies, potatoes, rice, candy and sugars. Lower GI foods include most vegetables and fresh, whole fruits (not juice).

If you are a milk drinker, add a tablespoon or two of nonfat dry milk to your cup of milk in order to increase your intake of protein and calcium.

There are 15,000 species in the legume family. A 19-year study shows that men and women who eat legumes four times a week have a 22% reduction in the risk for heart attack. (Time, “How to Eat Smarter,” October 20, 2003, p. 55.)

When the bran layer is removed from grain, 80% of the nutrients are lost. Eat whole grains. They keep you fuller longer. Beware of bran muffins, however, that are very high in fat and calories.

Peel off the skin of chicken and turkey. Even baked, the fat content is very high.

Wild rice is Native to North America. Stop eating white rice (and certainly, fried rice at Chinese restaurants) in favor of wild rice. Add vegetables such as peas and carrots to the mixture.

Stop eating your children’s leftovers. Either pack it for later, feed it to the chickens, or throw it away.

According to the Northarvest Bean Growers Association, a daily intake of two cups of cooked dry beans, when part of a low-fat diet, has shown to significantly reduce cholesterol levels in men, and to improve glucose control in diabetics.

Trim all visible fat from red meats and after cooking, drain and blot off any more excess fat from bacon, sausages, breads, etc, with paper towels. Do not eat the skin of chicken or turkey. Chill canned meat so you can remove the layer of grease that accumulates on the top. Stop eating fried foods; roast, broil, bake or steam instead.

Severely curb or stop drinking colas. Even diet drinks can be problematic because they erode your teeth and they can make you crave sweet foods.

Buy an easy to use crock pot (slow cooker). You can put, for example, chicken breasts, carrots, new potatoes, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms and spices in the pot in the morning and the hearty meal will be ready for dinner. Crock pots are inexpensive, very easy to use and clean, they last long and the combinations of foods to cook are endless.

Eat smaller portions and eat slowly. If you eat quickly, try putting each food on a separate plate. This will make you slow down.

If you have difficulty consuming enough fiber, try Citrucel caplets.

Stop using salt and try herbs instead. Drain and rinse canned vegetables to get rid of salt and do the same for fruits to lose the sugar syrup. You do not need salt to cook pasta, rice, or oats.

We eat almost twice as much protein as we need. Unless you are very active, cut back on red meats.

If you need something sweet on oatmeal, try Stevia, an extract of the Stevia leaf that is 300 times sweeter than sugar and is safe for diabetics.

You can lesson the carbohydrate and calorie count of a sandwich or hamburger by removing the top half of the bun or one piece of bread.

If you drink a glass of wine or beer, drink a glass of water while considering if you really need another glass. Avoid hard liquor that has much higher alcohol content. Try no-alcohol wine and “near beers,” those brews with less alcohol.

A George Foreman grill solves many problems. You can easily and quickly cook meats and watch much of (but not all) the excess fat dribble away into the collection bowl. Our family grills slices of squash, zucchini, red bell peppers and green chilies for a low-calorie dish of vegetables, combined with grilled shrimp or grilled skinless chicken breasts. I know some athletes at NAU who have a GF grill in their dorm rooms and they’ve used it so much to make grilled turkey and vegetables, sandwiches and burgers the Teflon has worn off.

Roasted green chili peppers can serve as a garnish or side dish for any meal. We use Hatch chiles that come from New Mexico and are roasted at the local farmer’s market. I buy them already roasted in twenty-pound bags then I divide them into smaller portions in baggies to freeze. Because they are roasted, the skins come off easily after they are thawed and held under warm water. We put them on pizza, sandwiches, eggs, baked potatoes, in stews and when freshly roasted, I eat them plain. Beware of eating too many, however, because they’re members of the nightshade family you can get headaches. Go slow until you know your tolerance level (and, start with the “mild” variety, not “hot.”)

Baked potatoes have only around 100 calories plain and are filling. But when you add butter, sour cream, bacon and/or cheese, you can easily add up to 500 or more calories. Try your spud with no-fat Italian dressing instead, or if you must, a bit of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Better yet, have a yam (or half a yam) for a sweet taste and much vitamin A. Potatoes are primarily carbohydrates which means they are converted into sugar very quickly. Diabetics must beware of eating too much.

Stop eating canned meats and soups and cold cuts unless the label says “low sodium.”

Eat the entire fruit instead of the juice. Juice may contain some nutrients, but is high in calories and sugar. Eating a whole apple instead of drinking apple juice provides you with fiber and a feeling of satisfaction. And remember, Sunny Delight is not fruit juice.

Take a tip from Dolly Parton, who stands 5-feet-tall. “I just eat small portions of what I like,” says Dolly and admits, “You just have to watch it when you’re this short and have an appetite this big.”(Celebrity Diets, August 2002, at

Use small bowls and plates instead of your large ones. This helps you feel as if you are not being deprived, psychologically.

Only make enough dinner with one helping per person. If you make more than that, eaters are tempted to keep going back for more.

Make more vegetable and fruit dishes than the heavier main course (unless your main course is free of unprocessed foods, heavy fat and salt). In other words, make less chicken and dumplings, steak, and lasagna and more salad, grilled vegetables and fruit mixtures.

Desserts, if any, should be limited to a few bites, enough to enjoy it. A small tube glass filled with frozen yoghurt is satisfying. Taking a half-gallon of ice cream to your chair with you while you watch t.v. is mindless eating.