If the thought of following a "balanced diet" has you so confused you're a bit, well, off balance, not to worry. The June issue of Diabetes Forecast, the magazine of the American Diabetes Association, outlines some simple steps for adopting a diet that's not just balanced, but tasty and easy to follow, too.

Why strive for balance in the diet? "It can help you lower your blood sugar and lower your cholesterol," says Jamie Strauss, RD, LDN, an Aramark Health Care dietitian working at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. "And with a balanced diet, you'll also be limiting the carbs that can push your blood sugar up."

To keep your blood sugar in the normal range and to feel satisfied with the meals you eat, try to:

  • Pay attention to portion size. "The palm of your hand is a good measurement," says Strauss. "It holds about 15 grams of carbohydrate. When you aren't sure, measure the food in the palm of your hand."
  • Find out from your healthcare provider how many grams of carbohydrate you should be eating at each meal, and then familiarize yourself with what that translates into. The average person, Strauss explains, is allotted 60 grams of carbohydrate per meal on a 2,000-calorie-day diet. That may sound like a lot, but if you eat a small piece of fruit, two slices of bread, and a cup of milk with your meal, that adds up to 60 grams right there.
  • Skip white bread and processed cereal in favor of higher-fiber cereals and breads. Not only do they keep you feeling full longer, but they help lower blood sugar and blood cholesterol, Strauss says.
  • Vegetables and fruits are nutritious, but choose carefully. "Limit potatoes, peas, and corn," Strauss says. And when you choose fruit, opt for those with a higher fiber content, such as apples."
  • Be alert to labels that tout a product as being high in fiber, Diabetes Forecast cautions. Even though some foods boast on the label that they are a good source of fiber, the type of fiber they contain may not necessarily confer health benefits. It hasn't yet been proven that added fibers (inulin, maltodextrin, and polydextrose) have the same health benefits as the fiber found in, say, beans, and legumes.
  • Got milk? You probably should, but keep in mind that if it's not fat-free, you may not be doing yourself any health favors. Whole milk is high in saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels, according to Diabetes Forecast. Instead, opt for lowfat or fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese. And bump up your calcium intake even more by snacking on a Greek yogurt rather than a candy bar.
  • Watch what you spread on your bread. Avoid butter and stick margarine, Strauss says. Instead, use one of the soft tub margarines sparingly when you crave butter.

"The Balanced Diet: What it means and why it's important." Medical News Today. 27 May 2011.