In my last post we looked at a research where diabetics were given milkshake and vegetables to replace three meals for the day. This meant that they were placed on a very low-calorie diet. We saw where this resulted in them losing weight and had their blood glucose lowered. Interestingly, months following the experiment, and having returned to their normal eating habits, they were still diabetic-free. All this was achieved by simply consuming a very low-calorie diet.
I made a promise to take a more detailed look at the very low-calorie diet, and so I am using this post to fulfil that promise. Let’s begin by looking at what constitutes a very low-calorie diet. Please note that, I prefer to say lifestyle instead of diet. We, as diabetics must hasten to understand that it is a lifestyle change which will free us from the chains and shackles of diabetes. We must embrace eating certain foods in the right quantities and at a certain time, coupled with an active lifestyle, if we are serious about becoming diabetic-free.
Shedding Light on Low Calorie Diet
A low calorie diet means that you eat less than the recommended amount of calories. This could be from between 800 to less than 1200 calories per day. We all need to eat a certain amount of calories in order to maintain our body weight. A low calorie diet means that you are eating less than what you need to maintain your weight.
A very low-calorie diet means that you are probably eating roughly 800 calories per day. In the research we looked at before the participants were placed on 700 calories per day. There is no doubt that it is possible to lose weight on this diet. Considering that some people consume 2000 to 2500 calories per day to maintain their body weight, then it should not be difficult to lose weight on 700 calories per day. But, there are some concerns.
Concerns About a Very Low-Calorie Diet
Yes, you will lose weight and some illnesses will disappear, but, is a very low-calorie diet a safe one to do for the rest of your life? Can you make this your lifestyle? Are you eating a wide array of fruits, proteins, grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables on this diet? If you are always eating certain foods because they are extra low in calories, should you do this for an extended period of time?
According to Bridges (2016), “furthermore, patients are generally put on such a limited-calorie diet only when they face life-threatening consequences if they remain at their current weight…and a doctor would ensure any patient he or she puts on such a diet returns to the surgery for check-ups each week, because of the health risks and side-effects they may be subjected to by the lack of calories and nutrients.”
Moderation is the key for diabetics and others who want to be healthier. As it relates to our health, it is smarter for us to consume a variety of foods in the right quantities. This ensures that we get all the possible nutrients, in the correct proportions.
If we make it a habit to eat whole foods and include a lot of plant-based foods on our plates, then the result is that we will be less inflamed and so various lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes and possibly obesity and high blood pressure, hand-in-hand with high cholesterol will stay far. For many, it is a fact that when we lose some weight, then we see a reduction in some of these illnesses.
Death’s Door and Maintenance
But, here is my question. How long can you stay on a low-calorie diet, especially a very low-calorie diet? These diets are usually recommended for persons who are at “death’s door.” It is many time a last resort to be tried for a period of time.
The issue is always maintenance. If you chose a very low-calorie diet, what happens when you need to eat differently, or choose to eat differently? Do you still observe some basic health guidelines and eat so that you will avoid being diabetic again?
Remember, diabetes is a lifestyle disease and so, once the lifestyle slips away from what is essential to keep your blood sugar in the normal range, then “trouble will be staring us in the face.”
Side-Effects of a Very Low-Calorie Diet
Some of the side-effects of a very low-calorie diet are:
- Heart issues
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Lean muscle loss
Does it make sense to make a trade for these, when a different approach could make you win on both sides of the fence? I do not trade in this case. I chose low-calorie in the past to kick-start my weight loss program and to help to motivate me, but after I lose the first 10 pounds, I make a lifestyle change which I can maintain for the rest of my life.
Some Low-Calorie Foods
Here are some foods which are good for you, but they are also great as part of a low-calorie meal for those of us determined to change our lifestyle so that we can be healthier and free of diabetes and other illnesses such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All of this plus the bonus of losing weight as we continue to embrace plant-based foods as an integral part of our meals. I ensure that I eat a wide variety of whole foods with all the lovely colourful choices to ensure that I receive my required vitamins and minerals. Please see some options below.
- Almond milk. You get only 30 calories from one cup of unsweetened almond milk. This is a dairy free milk with a nutty taste. I make this at home by soaking the almonds overnight and blending it with some water in my NutriBullet, then I strain it and there you go, I have unsweetened almond milk. I use this milk in my hot beverages, such as coffee and tea, in my smoothies and to make pancake. I am currently experimenting with using the almond to make flour to use for pancake or other such delights. How could I forget? I also use almond milk in my porridge. I sometimes use almond milk straight as a drink and add some cinnamon for flavor.
- Cinnamon. One teaspoon of cinnamon contains 6 calories and makes a good addition to your smoothies, oatmeal porridge, hominy corn porridge, you name it, cinnamon makes your food burst with flavor and it has been proven to be great for those of us who need to control or possibly eliminate diabetes.
- Lentils. A half cup of lentils will give us only 115 calories. They are high in protein and so I sometimes make a lentil dish to supplement my other foods when I want to consume less animal protein. I love making burghers with lentils.
- Kidney Beans. You will get approximately 108 calories for every 1/2 cup of kidney beans you eat. This is an easy way for you to get protein from plants which are also low in calories, but high in fiber. Remember that a high fiber diet is good for our colon, will keep us feeling full and will help us to lose weight and to control our blood glucose level. Kidney beans, like lentils are also on the cheaper side, another plus for those of us who have to find extra money to purchase medication and glucometer strips.
- Cucumber. Cucumber is one that I love to include in my meals whenever I can. It gives me only 22 calories in 1/2 cup. I love to cut cucumber slices and eat with my animal or vegetable protein, and at the same time it is great to know that it will help me to keep my calorie in-take really low, I will lose weight and lower my blood glucose. All of this sounds good to me. I also love the fact that it is a “wash and eat food” because I eat the skin and the seeds.
- Plum. What about a fruit which gives you only 30 calories? This fruit satisfies my sweet tooth and it is also loaded with anti-oxidants, making it a popular fruit for health reasons.
- Strawberries. Imagine that you can have a whole cup of this fruit and you would consume only 49 calories? This is also a fruit that has been well documented as a complimentary plant food to help in the control or elimination of diabetes. Like other fruits, they are loaded with fibers, but this particular fruit also has its’ fair portion of vitamin C. Strawberries are also awesome for persons with asthma and cholesterol concerns/issues.
- Cod Fish/Saltfish. I love eating salted cod fish. Yes, we need to watch our salt in-take, but because I am relatively good with my eating plan for the most parts, I find that my body allows me to have a bit of codfish, maybe twice per month without making my blood pressure go out of whack. Again, like with other foods, moderation is the key. Cod fish contains 70 calories for every 3 oz. we consume. It contains a nice amount of Selenium which helps to reduce oxidative stress and muscular damage. In my country we love to eat cod fish with ackees.
- Ackees (these are not too low, but I love eating ackees and I do great with it, so I have included for your information). We get 151 calories from 3.5 oz. of ackees. Whenever I can, I include them in my diet, but in moderation. Here is why. Yes, I am a Jamaican and I love ackees and saltfish/cod fish. We get carbs from ackees which help us to produce enough energy so that we are able to effectively function. Ackees also help with regulating our blood sugar levels. This helps to keep diabetes at bay. Isn’t that wonderful to hear?
- Chicken breast. For every 3 oz. of chicken breast you consume, you will get 92 calories. I love to purchase, boneless, skinless chicken breast and my new favourite way of consuming it is by poaching. Later this week I hope to look at this method of cooking where I place in a large enough pot and cover with seasoned water. No more than about an inch of water covering the chicken breast. I simmer and keep the flame low until it is cooked. This takes me about 15 to 18 minutes dependent on the size of the chicken breast. I sometimes cut it in smaller pieces so that it will cook in less time. This is nice to include in a green salad.
- Pork Tenderloin. 3 oz. of pork tenderloin will give us about 92 calories. I love my pork tenderloin on days when I will need to have a lot of energy. Yes, I eat mostly plant-based foods, but, I also eat some cuts of meat in moderation. Pork tenderloin is one such animal protein that I like to eat. I like to rub some jerk seasoning on my pork tenderloin and roast and eat with my choice of vegetables and carbs. I will be experimenting with poaching my pork tenderloin, especially after the research I undertook when writing the following article – How to Control Diabetes with Diet: Cooking Method.
- Pumpkin. If you want to be on a very low-calorie diet for awhile, I hope you like eating pumpkin, as you will get 30 calories per cup. It is rich in potassium and anti-oxidants and therefore has the reputation of helping to lower blood pressure and prevent blood sugar spikes.
- Green Vegetables. These are super low in calories and includes, lettuce, callalaoo, cabbage, pak choy, bok choy, to name a few. I cannot see myself eating for days without including these in my meal plan. I eat something from this group everyday.
A very low-calorie diet is usually recommended for persons with serious health issues and probably no other alternative. It is extremely effective for weight loss and will ultimately repair other health-related illnesses, but it is not recommended for an extended period of time because we would be deprived of some vitamins and nutrients.
Nonetheless, it can be used to kick-start weight loss and place us on the beginning of the road to a healthier lifestyle which we can maintain and be healthier and happier in the long run. If you need to lose weight, I encourage you to see your doctor and discuss the best weight loss method for your condition. Failure to act now, could be detrimental to your health.
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- Bridges, Michelle. “The Danger of a Low-cal Diet.” 12WBT. 12WBT, 2016. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.
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