Kate Williams, RD
I have a close relative living with type 2 diabetes and chances are you have a friend or relative who does too. I have seen just how much commitment to exercise, paired with some dietary self-management (even small changes) can foster weight loss and blood sugar control. Diabetes can be confusing and overwhelming but with help, managing it can be easier. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes and pre-diabetes are public health concerns that deserve much attention. About 9.3% of Americans are living with diabetes and ~86 million are in a pre-diabetic state. One in 4 people who have diabetes don’t even know it.1
Self-help ways to manage and prevent type 2 diabetes:
Explore sound resources – Visit the online Diabetes Forecast magazine resources and consider a subscription to stay up to date on news and research, get recipes, information on products, medications and more! Health professionals and patients can benefit from checking out the 2016 Diabetes Care Standards: What’s New. Also spend time exploring topics of interest on the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) website.
Total carbohydrates - Carbohydrates are the nutrient that impact blood sugar, whether complex carbohydrates (like starches) or simple sugars. Starches are found in products like grains, starchy veggies (like potatoes and corn) and beans. Another form of carbohydrate is fiber. Fiber (the indigestible part of plant foods) is important to digestive health, helps you to feel full and promotes regularity. Simple sugar is a form of carbohydrate that is readily broken down and absorbed by the body.2 Examples of foods containing simple sugar include milk, fruit and sweets. Because carbohydrates can impact blood sugar, it is important to monitor your intake and use portion control as part of your diabetes management.
Know your numbers & needs - People 45 and older should get tested for diabetes and individuals under 45 that are overweight or obese with one or more risk factors.3 Dietitians can evaluate your nutrition-related lab work, lifestyle (diet & exercise) and weight and provide an individual plan to meet your needs. Cutting calories (if overweight), limiting portion sizes, eating heart healthy and monitoring carbohydrate intake are important. The Diabetes Prevention Program found that 5-7% weight loss paired with exercise delayed or prevented the progression of diabetes.4 Learn more here.
Keeping a journal/log is a great tool for patients as well as their healthcare team. Doctors and dietitians can connect the dots between diet/exercise/blood sugars when they are well-tracked. They all matter – if the food log is missing parts, or the blood sugar was only recorded before a meal, it’s like a puzzle with a few pieces missing – hard to decipher! Consider this:
Do food journals work? Numerous studies support food journaling as an effective tool to help people lose weight. A 2008 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found people who kept a food log, lost twice as much as those who didn’t.5 Food diaries promote awareness and accountability. Check out the numerous dietary tracker apps, many of which are free!
To weigh or not to weigh?Weighing daily, may be effective for some people, but if once a week works better, try to be consistent, (time of day and clothing) so you can see fluctuations or trends.
When and why to check your blood sugar - How often you need to test your blood sugar should be determined by your healthcare team. Testing before a meal and two hours after would give information about how a meal impacts your blood sugar. In addition testing when your body feels “off” or “different” may give you an idea of how a high or low blood sugar feels to you. See what log works for your needs.
It is important to stay active and continue to eat well, but many people struggle with this, not just individuals living with diabetes. Try these tools to help you keep motivated!
Wearable fitness trackers — Before investing in a wearable activity tracker, it’s a good idea to get online to read reviews, explore features, compatibility and more! Not sure where to start? Check out Consumer Reports Fitness Tracker Buying Guide.
Build community ties - Connect with others who can share experience and support. Check out www.tudiabetes.org (a program provided by the Diabetes Hands Foundation) to connect with “a community of people touched by diabetes”. Here you can join forums, blogs, view videos and so much more! Make a financial donation, participate or organize a Stop Diabetes Community Walk.
Try New Recipes — Eating a healthy diet is important for everyone. Keep your meals interesting with our delicious heart healthy recipe collection.
Take control today!
Kate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005.
- https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/diagnosis-diabetes-prediabetes. Diagnosis of Diabetes and Prediabetes. Accessed Sept 19, 2016.
- http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/types-of-carbohydrates.html?loc=ff-slabnav Accessed Sept 22, 2016.
- http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2016/jan-feb/2016-diabetes-care-standards.html Accessed Sept 21, 2016.
- https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/delaying-preventing-type-2-diabetes Accessed Sept 20th, 2016.
- http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-reasons-why-you-should-keep-a-food-journal-1463419285 Accessed Sept 22, 2016.