Take control of diabetes with nutrition
If you think managing your diabetes consists only of taking your insulin and medications at the right time, nosh on this: Good nutrition is the number one way to control diabetes, according to Candice Jones, R.D., L.D., registered and licensed dietitian with The Christ Hospital Diabetes and Endocrine Center.
“Medication and insulin cannot control blood sugars on their own,” she says. “People with diabetes – no matter if they have type 1 or type 2 – have to get control of their diet in order to manage their health.”
People with diabetes should aim to keep their fasting blood sugar levels between 70 and 130 mg/dl and their hemoglobin A1C tests (to be taken every three months) less than 6.5 percent. Screening tools like the daily self blood test and regular hemoglobin A1C tests will tell how you’re managing your blood sugar in the short and long term. Starchy foods, fruit, milk, and sweetened drinks can elevate blood sugar, while alcohol could cause it to drop.
The best way to accomplish consistently healthy blood sugar levels is through a healthy diet. Eating well, in turn, can prevent diabetes complications. Jones shares her top-five tips to take control of diabetes with good nutrition:
Eat whole foods. “Unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains are some of the best ways to keep your blood sugar levels in check,” Jones says. Eating whole foods at every meal and avoiding processed foods with hidden sugar will help you stabilize your blood sugars in the short and long term. Include dairy products such as non-fat or low-fat milk and unsweetened yogurt for sustainable glucose.
Count carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a necessary nutrient for everyone. Sugars, starches, fruit and milk give our bodies energy, but they also raise blood sugar levels. Carb counting is good way to track your intake. Aim for 45-60 grams of carbohydrates per meal to prevent high or low blood sugar. For example, build your breakfast with a small piece of fresh fruit, 2/3 cup of light or fat-free yogurt and one slice of whole-wheat toast, which contain about 15 grams of carbs each. Jones recommends working with your dietitian to establish a meal plan that’s right for you.
Find balance in your diet.If you consistently eat a healthy diet, you can splurge every so often. The trick is to eat foods containing carbohydrates along with some protein with healthy fats such as nuts or avocado, or fiber. “Incorporating foods high in fiber and protein will slow the breakdown of sugar and allow it to be absorbed in the blood more slowly,” Jones explains. If you plan to eat pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, load your dinner plate with non-starchy vegetables like green beans for added fiber and limit the amount of potatoes and dressing. Don’t forget to add plenty of skinless, lean turkey for protein.
Control portion sizes. “There is no such thing as a diabetes diet – all foods can fit, it’s just about having the right portions,” Jones notes. Check food labels for serving sizes. Once you know how certain foods impact your blood sugar, you can figure out the portion size that’s best. The general rule? At each meal, fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth with protein, and the remaining one-fourth with starchy foods like whole grains.
- Stick to the plan (and schedule). “When it comes to controlling diabetes, there’s no quick fix – eating right takes planning, which can be done days or weeks in advance,” Jones says. Eating three sensible meals throughout the day and one healthy mid-morning and mid-evening snack can help keep your blood sugar stable. Discover what other people are doing to maintain their diet by attending The Christ Hospital’s diabetes support group.
Schedule an appointment with a dietitian or certified diabetes educator today by calling 877-904-4YOU or visit www.TheChristHospital.com to find more diabetes and nutritional resources.