Diabetes 101: What to Know

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Diabetes 101

Healthy eating

A healthy eating plan is important for everyone who has diabetes. You don’t need to follow a strict diet, but you will likely need to make some changes in order to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range. An eating plan can also help you lose weight and control your blood pressure and cholesterol, as well. Here are foods to include in your diabetes eating plan:

Healthy carbohydrate (carb) foods

• Fruits
• Vegetables
• Whole grains
• Legumes (beans and peas)
• Lower-fat dairy foods, such as milk and yogurt

Limit carbs that contain added sugar, like soda, candy, cake and cookies.

Protein foods

• Poultry without the skin
• Fish and seafood
• Lean red meat
• Eggs
• Tofu

Limit protein foods that are fried or high in saturated fat, such as sausage, hot dogs and fatty red meat.

Fat foods

• Olive, canola and peanut oils
• Avocados
• Nuts and seeds

Limit fats that are solid at room temperature, such as butter, shortening, coconut oil and lard.

If you have high blood pressure, your provider may also recommend that you limit your sodium intake. Cut down on high sodium foods such as canned soups and vegetables, fast foods, and salty snacks like potato chips.

An easy way to get started with an eating plan is to use the plate method. Anyone with diabetes can use this approach. Here’s how it works:

• Fill half of your plate with low carb vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and tomatoes.
• Fill a quarter of your plate with a whole grain such as brown rice or a starchy vegetable such as peas.
• Fill the other quarter of you plate with a protein food, such as chicken breast, salmon or lean beef.
• Include a heart-healthy fat in small amounts such as avocado or almonds.
• Add a small piece of fruit or a cup of low fat milk or plain yogurt.

There are other meal-planning approaches that can work, too. Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian to help you develop an eating plan that will work best for you.

Physical activity

Being active most days of the week will make it easier for you to manage your blood glucose. At the same time, it can help you lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, manage your weight, sleep better and deal with stress.

Aim to be active most days of the week for at least 30 minutes. If that sounds like too much, set a goal to do 10 minutes of activity, three times a day. It’s OK to start out slow and work your way up.

Choose one or two activities that you might enjoy doing. Walking is a great choice because you can walk just about anywhere, and you don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment. However, swimming, dancing, tennis and bicycling are good options, too. Find something that you like to do so that you’re more likely to stick with it.

Always check with your healthcare provider before starting a new physical activity program, especially if you have heart disease or other problems related to diabetes such as nerve or diabetic eye disease.

Originally Published March 25, 2019

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