Research has found that reaching one’s “ideal” body weight is not necessary to prevent Type 2 diabetes or to improve control of existing diabetes. Participants in the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program with a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes were found to be 58% less likely to actually develop it if they lost 7% of their body weight and were physically active for 150 minutes a week. For a 250-pound person with prediabetes, this translates into losing 18 pounds and performing 20 minutes of exercise every day — goals that are realistic and achievable.
Focusing on nutrient-dense foods and beverages. Nutrient-dense foods and beverages are those that pack vitamins, minerals, and other healthful substances into relatively few calories. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry are nutrient-dense foods—when prepared without added solid fats or sugars.
Some nutrient-dense foods are also sources of carbohydrate. Although you might not be able to eat unlimited amounts of carbohydrate-containing foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and peas, and whole grains, you can make every bite count by choosing foods that are nutrient-dense rather than those that are high in sodium or that get a high percentage of calories from solid fats, added sugars, or refined grains.
Putting policy into practice
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 contains recommendations that fit into four categories: balancing calories to manage weight, foods and nutrients to increase in the diet, foods and substances to reduce in the diet, and taking action in the community. The report’s recommendations are based on research data and principles of nutrition science, as well as practical considerations that take into account the way people live and the challenges they face. The report also addresses overall eating patterns to follow, offering a framework that connects all of the individual recommendations regarding calorie balance and healthful food choices. (Click here for a basic overview of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.)
Balancing calories to manage weight
Focusing on calorie balance is important at every stage of life, and it has become particularly so in childhood, as weight-related diseases and conditions that were once diagnosed primarily in adults are now being seen increasingly in children and adolescents with excess body fat. Tips for maintaining calorie balance or encouraging weight loss, if needed, include the following:
• Know your (and your children’s) calorie needs. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 outlines estimated daily calorie needs based on age, sex, and physical activity level. Estimated needs for adults range from 1,600–2,400 calories per day for women to 2,000–3,000 calories per day for men. Estimated needs for young children range from 1,000 to 2,000 calories per day, and the range for older children and adolescents varies substantially from 1,400 to 3,200 calories per day, with boys generally having higher calorie needs than girls.
• Plan ahead to make better food choices. Overly hungry people often make poor food choices and eat oversize portions. By planning ahead to have healthy meals and snacks available at home and on the go, it’s more likely that you’ll consume nutrient-dense foods rather than highly refined, easy-to-grab items.
• Track food and calorie intake. As a person with diabetes, you may already be familiar with logging blood glucose results. Tracking food and beverage intake can make you more aware of what you’re consuming so that you can evaluate your choices and make changes as needed. One online food planner you may find useful can be found at www.choosemyplate.gov; click on “Interactive Tools.” (To see the new “MyPlate” icon that has replaced the food pyramid, click here.)