How to Create a Diabetes-Friendly Kitchen

Chances are that you spend more of your waking hours in the kitchen than any other room of your house. It's a place to eat, socialize, watch the news, or even check your email. When a kitchen becomes a minefield of temptations that sabotage your best intentions to eat healthy and keep your blood sugars where they belong, it may be time to rethink not just what you put into your kitchen, but where you put the various foods.

Here are some common kitchen scenarios and how you can rethink your kitchen so that it's easier for you to stick to your diabetic meal plan, feel more energetic, and keep your blood sugar in the normal range.

The Hungry Snacker

You get home and head straight to your kitchen feeling ravenous and ready to eat anything that's not moving. First stop? The refrigerator, where you reach in and grab whatever's at eye level. Yep, that big wedge of cheese and leftover baked ziti will do just fine.

Healthier set-up: Organize the fridge so that washed, crisped greens, raw, cut-up vegetables, and a bowl of fresh fruit are at eye level. Spend a little time on the weekend washing and cutting up the produce, so you won't have to do it when you're starved and pressed for time. "This way, you have a lot of options for the week ahead," says Jennifer Regester, RD, CDN, CDE, a nutritionist at the Gerald J. Friedman Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

The Nighttime Binger

Kicking back and watching your favorite TV shows in the evening really works up an appetite. And you may be thinking that you've been so good all day that you really deserve those chips, peanuts, cookies or whatever your snack of choice is. Sure, it is easy to just sit on the couch with an open bag of salty or sweet treats in your hand and munch mindlessly.

Healthier set-up: Buy individually packaged, single-portion sizes of all snacks. When you buy ice cream, skip the big carton, and get a box of low-fat ice cream pops or frozen fudge bars. Stock up on the mini sizes of pretzels, cheese crackers and mini chocolate chip cookies. When you want a snack at night, you'll be much more likely to eat with restraint. "If you have an individual size, you can see just what you're having and not overeat, which helps with blood sugar control," Regester says.

The Juice Consumer

When you're thirsty, you treat yourself to whatever you can find in the cupboards or refrigerator, and you don't look at the calorie count.

Healthier set-up: Keep a big pitcher of chilled water in your refrigerator and consider floating a lemon on top. "This really entices you to stay away from other drinks," says Kevin Weiland, MD, of Rapid City Medical Center in South Dakota and the author of The Dakota Diet.

The Cookie Monster

You like to bake. Your signature cookies are the talk of the neighborhood at holidays, and your kitchen's well stocked with white flour, sugar, butter, and shortening. The only problem is that you are your biggest fan. (After all, you reason, you have to sample these treats before giving them out.)

Healthier set-up: Since wholegrain, high-fiber foods fill you up more and keep your blood sugar from spiking rapidly, find some healthier whole grain recipes and become known as the Healthiest Baker on the block. Buy whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oatmeal, and wheat germ (which makes a great add-in when you are making cookies.) Look for recipes that call for olive or canola oil rather than butter, and be sure to spray those pans with no-calorie cooking spray instead of butter. But remember, even those these are healthier than baked goods made with refined flour, they still must be carefully accounted for in your meal plan.

The Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When you're in the mood to overeat, you don't really want to exert yourself too much. You're willing to settle for whatever you can reach, and you sure can reach the cereal shelf, the bread box and the cookie jar.

Healthier set-up: "You know you want something, but if it's out all the time you are more likely to mindlessly eat," Regester says. "If they can't see it, people will think twice about it." To "hide" foods, stash the tempting treats that you should be eating in small portions way up high on a shelf in a pantry where you can't see it. Better yet, put them up so high you need a stepladder to reach them. Then put the stepladder where you can't easily get to it.

The Clean Plate Club

Whatever's on your plate gets eaten, right down to the last crumb. Whether it's from habit or because your mother's reminders to "finish your food" still echo in your ears, you believe in finishing every meal completely, whether you're still hungry or not.

Healthier set-up: Invest in smaller plates, cups and bowls, and when you fill them to the brim or the rim, you won't be consuming unnecessary, unwanted calories.

Healthy bonus: Remember all the no-calorie "props" that can make a meal more pleasant. This means putting some flowers in the table in your prettiest vase, lighting a candle, playing soft music and sharing the meal with someone you love.