1. Eat fruit, just not by itself.
Our Pritikin doctors and dietitians want you to eat fruit (remember, fruits are low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods that will help you lose weight). Our only recommendation is that you combine your fruit with something else. For example, in the morning add some berries to hot, whole-grain cereal. In the afternoon, pair a piece of fruit with veggie sticks. After dinner, make fruit your dessert. These “extra” foods add extra fiber, which can help stabilize blood sugar after a meal.
2. Fill each plate of food with low-calorie-dense, fiber-rich choices like vegetables, beans, and fruit, and you will lose weight.
Weight loss is your #1 goal. Even a 5% reduction in weight can change the way your body uses its own insulin and responds to the foods you eat. So, if weight loss is your goal, vegetables, beans, and fruits are foods that will help you reach that goal. Choosing these low-calorie-dense, fiber-rich foods more often will help keep hunger at bay with a lower caloric cost, and they’ll help you lose weight without having to count calories.
3. Be consistent.
Start each day with breakfast (oatmeal or another type of cooked whole-grain cereal is our star choice). Other excellent choices include an egg-white omelette loaded with veggies, as well as plain, nonfat yogurt topped with fresh fruit like blueberries and strawberries. Continue the day listening to your hunger and satiety cues.
Only eat snacks (healthy Pritikin diet choices like bean-rich soups, baked potatoes, and fresh veggies) if you are really hungry for a snack, and be sure to fill your plates at lunch and dinner with low-calorie-dense foods like big veggie salads, vegetable entrees, beans and lentils; starches like yams and baked potatoes; and water-rich whole grains like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and barley.
To keep your cholesterol in good shape (a very important goal because having diabetes dramatically increases the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events), keep your animal food intake in good shape – no more than 4 ounces daily of lean animal meat like fish, white skinless poultry, or lean game meat like bison or venison.
Egg whites are also a good choice, as are nonfat dairy foods such as skim milk, nonfat yogurt (no sugar added), and nonfat varieties of ricotta and cottage cheese (low-sodium).
The best choice of animal meat for heart health is omega-3-rich fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and trout. If you’re using canned fish, like canned sardines, select very-low-sodium varieties. Your next best choice for heart health is most other fish, plus shelled mollusks (clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops).
4. After dinner: Skip dessert and snacks – then get moving!
At the Pritikin Longevity Center, our guests with diabetes often see improved morning blood sugar numbers based on the choices they made after dinner the night before. Skip dessert and snacks, and instead go for a 20-30 minute walk or do some light exercise to help lower blood sugar in the morning.
5. Be patient.
At Pritikin, we counsel our guests that blood sugars will not drop to normal levels overnight. The good news, we have observed for the past 40 years, is that as weight drops and fitness levels improve, so does insulin sensitivity. What’s most important is how these numbers trend over time, rather than what they do after your first few days on the Pritikin Program.
If you’re starting the Pritikin Program at home (not at the Pritikin Longevity Center), do keep in close touch with your endocrinologist. There is an excellent chance he or she will need to make adjustments (reductions) to your medication needs, the result of drops in blood sugar you will likely be experiencing on the Pritikin Program. It’s vital your pill dosages are monitored closely to ward off rapidly descending blood sugar and the potential for hypoglycemia.