By John Ruibal, MS, RDN, CSSD, Prowers Medical Center Food Services Manager
When you get the news that you have diabetes it can be very stressful. What can I eat? Do I have to give up all the foods I enjoy? Do I have to stay on my diet? What kind of exercise must I do?
These are all valid concerns and sometimes can seem overwhelming. The stricter you follow your new lifestyle changes like prescribed diet, exercise plan and medications, the better you will be able to control your blood sugars. Here are a few simple principles to follow as you start to change your eating and life style habits. Managing diabetes is a healthy lifestyle choice and can be followed by all members of your family.
- Remember this is a lifestyle change that you have to follow for the long haul. Small changes make a big difference and will make you feel better. Once you are following these simple guidelines and your body is used to your new changes you will be able to tell when you ate the wrong things.
- Space your meals and snacks out. Be sure not to skip meals. This will require a bit of planning especially if you are going to work, traveling or have other obligations.
- Concentrate on including a generous portion of non-starchy vegetables, think leafy and start eating vegetables high in water content like cucumbers, leafy greens and tomatoes. Vegetables should make up half your plate at meals.
- Cut back on simple starches or carbohydrates. These are your sugary foods including pop, candy, cookies, ice cream, pies and cakes. If you occasionally eat these foods, make sure to eat or drink them with your meal. Avoid having that cake, candy or pop as a snack or as a dessert a few hours after a meal.
- Walk, run , bicycle, swim or do other physical activity on most days. Start 10 minutes a day and build up to 60 minutes a day over the next 6 months. I highly recommend taking a walk after meals as this helps with blood sugar control and weight control.
- If you are over your ideal weight, a little weight loss will have a big effect on controlling your blood sugar. A 5% to 10% weight loss will have a dramatic effect on blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and insulin resistance. Think baby steps. Your ideal weight is the ultimate goal but that first 5% to 10% weight loss is a great first step.
- Read labels to cut down on simple sugars; watch out for terms like high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, pure cane sugar, and sugar.
- Try to use low fat cooking methods. Cut back on frying foods. Use techniques like baking, steaming, broiling, boiling or grilling.
- When attending parties ask to bring a dish. You can prepare foods that fit your eating plan so that you can enjoy with no guilt.
- Have foods and snacks available so that you are not tempted to eat restricted foods. A few healthy choice frozen dinners are good for those nights you do not feel like cooking.
These are very simple guidelines and do not take the place of talking to your health care provider. Follow their direction but partner with them. Make baby steps, gain some confidence and soon you will be in full stride with your new lifestyle of eating better and exercising. Diabetes can take years and even decades to cause serious health problems, so don’t delay and start managing it today.