3 Sweet Reasons to Choose Pears if You Have Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month and it’s also a great time to find perfectly ripe pears, which comes in handy since pears have a lot of the attributes we recommend in a diet to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. Pears are a low glycemic index (and low glycemic load) food – a medium-sized pear ranks 38 on the glycemic index – which means they have a mild effect on blood sugar levels. While there isn’t a cure for diabetes (yet!), we do know that food is a very powerful tool that can be used to reduce symptoms and improve overall quality of life. As registered dietitians, we see the power of food every day, and the research supports just how much of an effect food can have on reducing the impact of diabetes.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or want to make some preventative dietary changes, we think including pears in your diet is a great idea. Here’s why:

Fiber. Soluble fiber, the type that binds with water to form a gel-like substance in your digestive tract, slows the rate that your body pulls glucose from food in your stomach. In other words, soluble fiber can help slow down the rate at which your blood sugar rises. A medium pear contains 6 grams of fiber (24% of your daily needs), and some of that 6 grams is in the form of soluble fiber! From a preventative perspective, eating a diet rich in high fiber foods (like pears) might reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Flavorful sweetness. Reducing added sugar is an important part of keeping blood sugar levels stable at meals and snacks and avoiding spikes, or quick rises, in blood sugar levels. When you use pears to add flavorful sweetness to things like plain oats or yogurt, you get sweetness along with lots of flavor, so you wind up needing to use a lot less sugar (and oftentimes you won’t need any sugar at all!). Pears also add natural sweetness to smoothies and peanut butter sandwiches, so you can skip the added sweeteners altogether.

Kitchen creativity and fun. Being diagnosed with diabetes can feel overwhelming when it comes to revamping your food choices to keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Pears are a delicious way to add flavor and fun to your time in the kitchen, whether it’s diced in a chicken salad, sliced in a turkey sandwich, or ”pear-ed” with aged cheddar cheese for a snack. A diabetes diagnosis might mean changes to the way you eat, but it certainly doesn’t have to mean bland or boring meals and snacks!

For additional information on pears and diabetes, check out this link.

Smart Snacking 101: Using the Rule of Two

Snackable CollageFollow this snacking rule to stay satisfied and energized longer!

Snacking has some major benefits, aside from being fun and delicious. We can think of a couple easy scenarios where snacks are critical to a busy day:

1.  When hunger strikes in between your normal meal times. Having a snack between meals can help keep you satisfied, so you don’t nosh on the first thing (or everything) you see.
2.  When meals don’t have enough fruits and veggies, snacks come to the rescue to balance things out.

Not all snacks are created equal. Some snacks can leave you with low energy, craving more food soon after eating. As Registered Dietitians, we often get asked to share our tips for the ultimate snack that provides long-lasting energy, steady blood sugar and will keep you full. We recommend using the “rule of two”, meaning, we choose two out of three important components to make a pearfectly healthy snack.

Rule of Two: Include two out of three of the major macronutrients:
• High fiber carbohydrates: Like whole fruit, starchy veggies like peas, corn, potatoes/sweet potatoes, winter squash and whole grains
Protein-rich food: Such as lean meats, beans, nuts/seeds and dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk)
• Source of healthy fats: Including nuts/seeds, nut/seed butters, avocado, olives and oils

Getting hungry? Here are a handful of our favorite “rule of two” snack ideas:

• A pear, sliced in half, each half spread with 1/2 tablespoon almond butter.
• Two slices of turkey breast each spread with 1 tablespoon hummus and rolled up with 1/2 slice of cheese.
• 6 ounces low-fat plain Greek yogurt topped with 1/2 diced pear and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts.
• A pear and a 10-ounce low-fat (or soymilk) latte.

The Two Diet Changes to Make in 2016

When it comes to personal meal goals, it’s important to focus on making changes that will make an impact, but aren’t unrealistic or overwhelming. So, we’ve put together our top two big-impact changes. These are changes that studies have shown will help you stay at a healthy weight, prevent disease and have more energy!

1. Keep track of the colors on your plate: Mind your fruits and veggies and aim to get 1 1/2 – 2 cups of fruit and at least 2 1/2 – 3 cups of veggies each day. For more information about exactly how much you should be eating based on your age and activity level, check out ChooseMyPlate.gov. Research shows that getting enough colorful produce can help keep weight off and ward off nasty diseases like cancer and heart disease. This is why the new 2015 – 2020 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans continues to recommend eating a variety of fruits (specifically whole fruits) as one of the keys to a healthy diet.

One way to help you meet your goals is to set a general guide for when you will have your fruits and veggies each day. For instance, many people find that having 1 cup of fruit at breakfast and 1/2 cup with a snack or after dinner works well. 1 cup of fruit is equivalent to one medium whole piece of fruit, such as a medium pear, or 1 cup of pear slices. For a fast snack on-the-go, we love to pair (pun intended!) a pear with 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds (or 14 whole almonds).

As for veggies, a great way to divide the servings up is to eat at least 1/2 cup with breakfast or a snack, 1 cup with lunch and 1 1/2 cups with dinner. In the winter, it’s great to include veggie based soups with lunches and dinners to make it extra easy to get your servings in. And don’t forget salsa and tomato sauce, which also count as veggies. Click here for a downloadable pdf that makes tracking colors each day a fun challenge for kids and adults alike.

Inspired? Try this crunchy and delicious Watercress Pear Slaw. Watercress Pear Slaw

2. Make the switch to unrefined carbohydrates: Many fad diets make carbs out to be the enemy – but not all carbs are bad! Refined sources of carbohydrates, such as those made from white flour (white bread products)), white rice, and those with added sugars (cookies, cakes, soda, sweetened cereals, etc.) are quickly digested and don’t offer much staying power. Plus, they can contribute to weight gain and elevated triglycerides. Think of these carbs as treats–– you can still have in small amounts, but not as the main part of a meal.

Less refined carbs, which include whole grains (rolled or steel-cut oats, bulgur wheat, wheat berries, 100% whole grain pasta), whole fruits (like pears!), starchy vegetables (winter squash, peas, and corn), and beans and legumes (black beans, lentils, etc.), contain more nutrients, particularly fiber and protein. These carbs keep you feeling satisfied and your blood sugar and energy level at a more even keel.

Inspired? Try starting the day with this refreshing and satisfying Pear Oatmeal and Blueberry Smoothie!pear-oatmeal-blueberry-breakfast-smoothie-sm

If you make these two changes you will notice a huge difference in the way that you feel within days! Have a healthy and happy new year!

Snack Right to Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

Office candy dishes, gifts of baked goods, parties, dinners, and extra-packed to-do lists all shuffle in with the holiday season. And increased stress levels can also follow suit. While we can’t do your holiday shopping for you, we can offer up a helpful tool for keeping your energy level stable, your mood happier, and your weight steadier during the holiday season… snacks. But not just any old snacks will do, follow these four tips to ensure your snacks are energy-boosting powerhouses.

Use the Rule of 2: The combination of protein, high fiber/less processed carbohydrates, and fat is one that keeps blood sugar and energy levels stable for hours. At mealtime, make sure you have this triple threat (+ veggies!) on your plate. At snack time, aim for at least 2 of the 3…what we call the “rule of 2.” Examples: Sliced pear (carbs) with almond butter (fat); string cheese (protein) with hummus (fat); small latte (protein from milk) with walnuts (fat).
Recipe idea: Pear Slices With Goat Cheese, Pistachios, And Pink Peppercorns

Sip with Snacks: The winter air is dry. When you combine that with a hectic schedule with too few sips of water, dehydration often comes knocking. To ensure water intake throughout the day, hydrate along with snacks. A cup of herbal tea or sparkling water with lemon not only helps to hydrate but also makes your snack feel more satisfying by naturally slowing you down while you eat (because you’re also sipping). Including fruits and/or veggies in snacks also helps to hydrate, since these foods naturally contain lots of water.
Recipe idea: Pear And Pineapple Green Smoothie

Pear and Pineapple Green Smoothie smSQ

Practice Mindfulness: A busier-than-usual schedule mixed with more-abundant-than-usual treats lying around can lead to all-day noshing without really realizing or enjoying it. Mindfulness — having an internal conversation with yourself before eating to ask yourself if you’re actually hungry, what you’re really hungry for, etc. — is a vital component to ensuring that you don’t eat more than you need and also make choices that make you feel good. Before eating, ask yourself “Will this make me feel good now? In two hours? Tomorrow?” If you can answer yes to all three, and you’re genuinely hungry, then have enough to satisfy that hunger. If your answer is no, take a walk, sip some tea, catch up with a co-worker, or any other non-food related 5-minute activity.
Recipe idea: Grilled Chicken, Pear, and Avocado Toasts

Plan Ahead: Preparation is key during the holidays. Have a holiday party coming up? Think about your schedule, consider what time the party starts, what you want to eat there, and whether you need a snack beforehand. If you’re shopping on the weekend, plan where you’ll have lunch, how you’ll stay hydrated, and whether you need a snack or two in your bag (answer: you usually do.) The bottomline is that if you don’t plan out food choices ahead of time, you leave it up to chance and that doesn’t always bode well during the busy, sweet-filled holidays. But a little planning goes a long way to making you feel better all season long!
Recipe idea: Pear PB And J Bouquet

PBJ Bouquet 1