Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN is a culinary nutritionist, author, radio show host, educator, speaker, and consultant. To learn more about her, you can visit her website or blog, What the Fork Weekly.

The concept of food combining roots back to the Hay Diet, named for a New York medical doctor who created a dietary plan that prohibited the consumption of starches and proteins during the same meal. Oversimplified, the general hypothesis of the Hay Diet is that acidic foods like meats, fish and dairy should not be combined with alkaline foods like rice grains and potatoes. Why? I honestly can’t give you a solid scientific answer.

However, in my culinary nutritionist world, food combining means a balanced plate of macronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins and fat from whole food sources. This is something that I enthusiastically stand behind when I am working with people to prevent or manage illness.

A few years ago, I met with a woman diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. After our two-hour discussion in her home (yes, I work with people in their homes), I peeked in her pantry, fridge, and freezer. Understanding food choice is central to my ability to help people on their path to healthier eating. As expected, she had every diabetic-friendly product known to humankind: salad dressings, bread, frozen foods, cookies, and cakes. All at the advice of her doctor!

One look at the ingredient lists and I nearly gasped. Each read like a short novel and boasted foodstuffs including soy protein isolates (highly processed soy, likely genetically modified or GMO), cornstarch (most definitely GMO) and artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols like sorbitol or xylitol (that can cause digestive stress if eaten in excess).

So, I went back to my roots with this lovely woman. We shopped, cooked, and ate together, and while doing so, I was able to give her the tools to nourish herself and manage her illness with real food.

While in culinary school and then graduate school for nutrition, we were taught that diabetes could easily be managed by mindfully consuming a variety of fresh colorful fiber-filled vegetables with unrefined starchy carbohydrates (like brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes), healthy protein (such as beans, eggs, seafood, poultry, and lean meat), and the right fats (including extra virgin olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, sesame oil, and other vegetable oils).

What does this really mean for you?

Combining fiber rich carbohydrate foods such as starchy vegetables and whole grains with foods that contain protein and healthy fats can balance your plate and your blood sugar. If you want that sweet indulgence, how about a black mission fig with a few walnuts—a sweet, high fiber combo for a decadent and chemical free dessert.

Filling your plate with fresh whole foods and thoughtfully combining your food groups (and managing portion size) is the best food foundation for diabetics.

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