Managing diabetes can be a challenge. A smart nutrition plan is part of a necessary balancing act because food intake, physical activity, and blood sugar determine the amount of insulin that is required to maintain a healthy level of blood sugar. To be quite honest about it, you are the one with all of the control to effectively manage this treatable disease process. Even though it requires mindful planning and vigilance, individuals with diabetes can (and should) plan to live a long and healthy life.
Experts recommend that anyone with diabetes take a balanced approach to effective blood sugar management rather than adopting diets that eliminate certain foods, such as low-carbohydrate diets. Eating a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, low-fat dairy products, lean meats (fish/white meat poultry), and small amounts of nuts and olive oil can be an easily adaptable and effective way to control whether or not you age ‘healthfully’ or ‘miserably.’
Non-Food Tips for Optimally Managing Your Diabetes Talk to Your Doctor – If you are considering a change in diet, consult with your doctor first. Your doctor can evaluate your individual needs and refer you to have multiple private sessions with a local Registered Dietitian.
Your Insulin and Medication Needs May Change – Keep in mind that right now, your medication is based on your current habits. As your habits change, your insulin and medication needs may change, too. Be sure to see your Sound Family Medicine Provider regularly.
Be Consistent about Testing Your Blood Sugar Levels – Regularly test your blood sugar levels. Check it several mornings a week when you first wake up. The rest of the week, randomly check your blood sugars: shortly before you eat a meal, two hours after a meal or before bedtime.
Watch for Signs of High and Low Blood Sugar – Be aware of the signs of low or high blood sugar. If you suspect that your blood sugar is high or low, test your sugar levels. Make sure you know how to manage both high and low sugar levels effectively, if you have questions, be sure to call and ask your doctor’s nurse. You might need to make an appointment to see your doctor for a medication reevaluation.
It Takes Time to Establish New Habits – When you hit a plateau or a roadblock, don’t give up. Keep making good food and exercise choices and eventually those choices will become a habit.
Nutrition Matters – Here are some nutrition tips to help you remember how to make these new eating habits a regular part of your ‘diabetes-for-life’ lifestyle.
1. Eat three regular meals a day. Avoid skipping meals and spread your breakfast, lunch and evening meal carbohydrates over the entire day (your estimated carbohydrate needs per meal are established when you meet with a Registered Dietitian). This will not only help control your appetite but also help in controlling your blood glucose levels.
2. At each meal include high fiber carbohydrate foods. Such as whole wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat noodles, brown rice and whole wheat cereals. The amount of high fiber carbohydrate you eat is important to control your blood glucose levels. The average adult needs 25-40 grams of fiber daily.
3. Cut down on fat, particularly saturated/trans fats. These two fats are linked to heart disease. Choose monounsaturated fats/oils (olive & canola oil). All fats contain calories. Fat is the greatest source of calories so eating less fat and fatty foods will help you to lose weight. Losing weight helps to lower your blood sugar. Here are some tips to cutting the ‘bad’ fats from your diet:
Use less saturated/trans fat by having less butter, margarine, cheese and fatty meats.
- Choose lower fat dairy foods such as nonfat or 1% milk, low fat or fat free yogurts, reduced fat cheese and lower fat olive oil mayonnaise and trans fat free olive oil margarine spreads.
- Grill, steam or oven bake instead of frying or cooking with unhealthful oils.
- Watch out for cream sauces and dressings. Swap for tomato based sauces instead.
4. Eat more fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables. Aim for at least 5 – 10 servings a day.
5. Include more beans and lentils. Such as kidney beans, butter beans, chickpeas, red and green lentils. These can help to control your blood glucose levels and blood fats. Try adding them to stews, casseroles, soups, or to a salad.
6. Aim for at least two portions of oily fish a week. Oily fish contains monounsaturated fats called omega 3 fatty acids, which help protect against heart disease. Eat oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, and wild salmon.
7. Limit sugar and sugary foods. This does not mean you need to eat a sugar-free diet. Sugar can be used in foods and in baking as part of a healthy diet. However, if you must drink soda pop DO use sugar-free/diet carbonated drinks, as sugary drinks and juices cause blood glucose levels to rise very quickly.
8. Reduce salt in your diet. The recommended amount of salt is 1,500 to 2400 mg (milligrams) daily – more than this can raise your blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and heart disease. Limit the amount of processed foods you eat and try flavoring foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.
9. Drink alcohol in moderation. That’s a maximum of two drinks per day for a man and one drink per day for a woman. Remember alcohol contains empty calories so think about cutting back further if you are trying to lose weight. Never drink on an empty stomach, as alcohol can make hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels) more likely to occur when taking insulin medication.
10. Don’t be fooled by diabetic foods. They offer no benefit to people with diabetes. They:
- Are expensive
- Contain just as much fat and calories as the ordinary versions
- Can have a laxative effect
- Will still negatively affect your blood glucose levels.
Ask your Sound Family Medicine physician if you are an appropriate patient to benefit from Medical Nutrition Therapy with one of the Registered Dietitians at Nutrition Authority, PLLC. Most insurance companies will cover nutrition consultations. Also, check your employee benefits plan at work. Some plans cover up to $500 for counseling by a Registered Dietitian per year.