By: Sophia Speroff, MPH, RD
Diabetes affects an estimated 29 million Americans, with another 86 million at risk for developing the disease. Sadly, one in three Michiganders are at risk for prediabetes and more than a million Michigan residents have the condition.
While the statistics are overwhelming, there are six simple steps you can take to stabilize your blood sugar and eat healthier:
- It is a common misconception that once your doctor says the word “diabetes,” you’ll never be able to eat carbs again. While this is untrue, since our brains and muscles need the energy from carbs to function, it is true that you should be mindful about the amount of carbs you are consuming.
Talk to your doctor about a referral to a dietician or diabetes education class to find out how many carbs are right for you. Foods that contain carbs are fruit, milk, pasta, rice, cereal and bread, as well as starchy vegetables such as beans, potatoes and corn. So, dust off those measuring cups and watch your portions. Each of these food servings contain 15 grams of carbohydrates:
- 1 small piece of fresh fruit (4 oz)
- 1/2 cup of canned or frozen fruit
- 1 slice of bread
- 1/2 cup of most cereal
- 1/3 cup of pasta or rice
- 1/2 hamburger bun
- 1/2 cup of starchy vegetables
- 2/3 cup of plain fat-free yogurt or sweetened with sugar substitute
- 3 cups of air-popped popcorn
- When choosing carbs, pick as many whole grain or high fiber options as possible. This means wheat bread and pasta instead of white, sweet potato instead of white potato and brown instead of white rice. The best way to know how many carbs are in foods is to read the label. Don’t look for “sugar”, look for total carbohydrates. Use those measuring cups the first few times, and every month or so. You’ll be surprised that “just looking” at portion sizes can cause them to “grow”. Choosing wisely will help you feel fuller for longer and increase your intake of other nutrients.
- Know how many calories you need. Ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian or Diabetes Education class. This is important because eating excess amounts of food can cause your blood sugar to increase and contribute to weight gain. Additionally, being overweight or having a BMI in the obese range can increase your risk of developing diabetes.
- Fill up on non-starchy veggies such as greens, carrots, tomatoes and peppers. By doing this you’ll be increasing your intake of vitamins, minerals, fiber and promoting satiety. Aim to make half of your plate non-starchy veggies.
- In addition to making healthy carb choices and watching portion sizes, it’s important to make healthy choices in other food groups as well. Choose lean cuts of meat, such as sirloin, chicken, turkey and fish, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. When cooking, limit the fat, but when you do add it, use olive, canola, sunflower, soy oils, and focus on lean cooking methods such as grilling, baking and broiling. Additionally, limit your salt intake. Check with your dietitian or diabetes educator to find out how much sodium you should eat a day as this can provide more health benefits. Avoid processed foods and flavor meals with herbs and spices instead of salt.
Bonus tip: Increase your physical activity. The Diabetes Prevention Program Outcome Study found that even a modest amount of weight loss – about 5 to 7 percent of body weight – and increased physical activity, can delay or even prevent a diabetes diagnosis. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of developing diabetes.
While all of these changes may seem daunting, every step you take counts. Not only is smart eating essential in controlling blood sugar and preventing long-term complications, but these healthy eating habits also benefit the whole family.
For more information or to see if you are eligible for a diabetes prevention programs near you, visit http://www.priorityhealth.com/diabetes
About the Author: Sophia Speroff, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian of 10 years with her master’s in public health. Sophia has a tremendous background in both community and patient care and population health management. Her background also includes diabetes and chronic disease prevention and management, clinical dietetics, and wellbeing engagement in underserved communities. She has a passion for staying active, training for triathlons and half marathons and in her free time, Sophia enjoys hiking, folk dancing, and gardening.