Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Healthful Eating: A Family Affair

by Patti Geil, MS, RD, FADA, CDE, and Laura Hieronymus, MSEd, RN, BC-ADM, CDE

• Eat healthy by aiming for five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Choose your drinks with care, and cut out drinks with added sugar. H2O (yes, good old water) is the way to go! Check the Nutrition Facts panel on the labels of foods you buy, noting calories, carbohydrate, fat, and sodium. Control your portions so you’re not consuming more calories than you burn. One quick tip is to use smaller plates, such as salad plates, to make your meals appear larger and more satisfying. If anyone wants seconds, serve additional helpings of fruits and vegetables.

• Play every day by including 60 minutes of physical activity in each day, whether it be using a hula hoop, throwing a Frisbee, or walking the dog. At least three days each week, try for 20 additional minutes of more vigorous activity such as kicking a soccer ball or riding a bike. Entering a community fun run or a walkathon as a family can give you extra motivation to get moving.

• Get together by making the most of the time you spend with your family. As the Y notes, strong relationships are the cornerstone of health and well-being. You may need to plan for one-to-one time with each family member, whether it’s a date night or just spending time sharing thoughts and feelings while doing household chores. Turning off the TV is one way to improve your family time together.

• Go outside to reap the mental and physical benefits of being around nature. While planned activities are important, unstructured playtime outdoors also benefits children and their development, particularly in the areas of curiosity, creativity, and stress reduction. Regular contact with nature is beneficial for adults as well.

• Sleeping well is probably one of the most overlooked components of good health. Doctors recommend 10–12 hours of sleep per day for children between the ages of 5–12 and even more for younger children. For adults, the benefits of adequate sleep include improved immune function, metabolism, mood, memory, and learning. Getting plenty of rest may play a role in preventing heart disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes.

For more information on the Five Pillars, access the Y Web site at www.ymca.net/healthy-family-home.

Healthful eating for diabetes
People with diabetes do not need special foods; in fact, the foods you eat to stay healthy with diabetes are good for your entire family. A healthy eating plan has the following characteristics:

• It’s controlled in carbohydrate (sugars and starches).
• It contains high-fiber grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
• It emphasizes smaller portions of meat and protein foods.
• It is low in fats and sweets.

Eating a variety of foods is important as well. A good place to start is with a healthy daily meal plan for teenagers and adults that includes at least the following:

• 2 to 3 servings of nonstarchy vegetables
• 2 servings of fruit
• 6 servings of grains, beans, and starchy vegetables
• 2 servings of low-fat or fat-free milk
• About 6 ounces of meat or meat substitutes
• Small amounts of fats and sugars

These are only general guidelines. The actual amount of food you need depends on the number of calories and grams of carbohydrate you need, which is determined by your sex, size, age, and activity level. A registered dietitian who specializes in diabetes nutrition can help you design a healthy meal plan that’s right for you and can be modified to satisfy the needs of the rest of your family.

The American Diabetes Association has developed a free resource called MyFoodAdvisor. It has features that allow you to track the carbohydrate, fat, calories, and other nutrients you eat each day, substitute healthier alternatives in recipes, and explore over 5,000 different foods. MyFoodAdvisor can help you create shopping lists based on your meal plan so you’ll make the most of your time and money. You can even save the meals and recipes you and your family especially enjoy to a personal recipe box.

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Also in this article:
Family Matters
Take-Away Tips



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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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