Managing Diabetes

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• Lose weight if you are overweight. Type 2 diabetes linked to obesity often disappears if the obesity is corrected. Even limited weight loss can lead to better blood glucose control.
• Participate in regular physical activity. Regular physical activity improves fitness and quality of life and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also helps with weight loss or control. In Type 2 diabetes, regular physical activity helps to improve blood glucose control and possibly decrease the need for insulin or oral medications.
• Watch the amount of saturated fat, trans-fat and cholesterol you consume, as they tend to raise blood cholesterol levels. Foods to watch out for include fatty meats, fried foods, high-fat dairy products, bakery goods and margarines. Choose lean cuts of meat and limit yourself to 3-ounce portions twice a day. Eat less red meat and more skinless poultry and fish. Use beans as your main dish instead of meat.
• Increase your intake of fiber. Fiber comes from plants and may help to lower blood glucose and levels of fats in the blood. Foods high in fiber include bran cereals, cooked beans and peas, whole-grain bread, fruits and vegetables.
• Eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables as opposed to refined foods. Not only do whole foods contain fiber, but they also contain numerous plant chemicals, or phytochemicals, which appear to be beneficial for health.
• Eat regular, well-balanced meals with snacks as needed. This will help to improve your blood glucose levels and reduce overeating. A well-balanced meal consists of about 1/4 protein foods and 3/4 carbohydrate foods.
• Understand that “sugar-free” doesn’t mean carbohydrate-free or calorie-free. “Sugar-free” foods are often sweetened with fructose or sugar alcohols (xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol). These sweeteners may have a smaller effect on your blood glucose levels than table sugar, and they are okay to use in moderate amounts. But foods containing fructose or the sugar alcohols will still contain calories.
• Even foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners (such as sugar-free pudding) still have calories and are not “free” foods.
• Know the carbohydrate content of the foods you eat. Carbohydrates occur naturally in milk and fruit, and are also found in pasta, bread, rice, dried beans and peas, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn or green peas.
• Use alcohol in moderation. If your blood glucose levels are in good control and alcohol is consumed with foods containing carbohydrate, one drink a day is acceptable. However, it is important to monitor your blood glucose to know how you react to alcohol since alcohol can lead to hypoglycemia.

Advantages of Whole Foods 

• Know where to go for reliable information. The following organizations offer credible information for consumers with diabetes:
American Dietetic Association: www.eatright.org
American Diabetes Association: www.diabetes.org
National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases: www.niddk.nih.gov

Whole plant foods – minimally processed foods from plants that are in their whole, near-natural state are generally lower in calories, higher in fiber and higher in nutrients than their refined counterparts and have a lower glycemic response. A four-ounce potato contains 82 calories while the same amount of potato chips contains 608 calories. Examples of whole foods are fruits, vegetables, beans or legumes and whole grains. Whole foods are more satiating – that is you feel fuller on fewer calories. This is important because most people with Type 2 diabetes need to lose excess body fat to improve their blood sugar control and blood lipid profile.

Refined foods – foods that have been processed from whole ingredients often lose fiber and important nutrients. For example, white flour is a refined food made from whole-wheat kernels. Sugar is a refined food made from sugar cane. Besides losing fiber, vitamins and minerals, these foods are most often much higher in calories per serving than their original form.

 By Beth Fontenot, MS, RD.

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