Diabetes: Don’t Sugar Coat It

11-7-16-diabetesJennifer Carland, RD, CDN

One of the leading causes of disability and death is diabetes, a disease in which the body does not produce or use insulin properly. Our bodies need insulin to use glucose (sugar) as an energy source for the cells in the body. Insulin is made in the pancreas; if you have diabetes, insulin does not work properly to get glucose into the body’s cells, which results in high blood glucose levels.

If you or someone you care for has diabetes, there is a lot of information that you need to know in order to manage blood glucose levels. If diabetes isn’t properly treated, it can cause several other health complications such as kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, blindness, neuropathy (numbness) and amputations.

By balancing physical activity, insulin levels, and food intake – especially carbohydrates found in fruits, starches, grains, and dairy – blood glucose levels can be maintained at a near-normal level (<120 mg/dL) and may reduce or prevent complications from diabetes. Eating the same amount of carbohydrates at about the same time each day is helpful for most people with diabetes. If multiple injections of insulin are taken daily to control blood glucose, you may be able to be more liberal with meal times and food choices. Either way, it is important to spread meals throughout the day and not skip meals. Skipping meals may lead to low blood glucose and makes it more challenging to control appetite.

In general, a daily meal plan to include a variety of foods with the right proportions of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and fiber should consist of:

  • At least three servings of non-starchy vegetables
  • Two servings of fruit
  • Three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk
  • About six ounces of meat or other protein
  • Small amounts of healthy fat
  • Limited sugar
  • Actual amounts from each food group will depend on individual caloric needs, which depends on your sex, size, age, and activity level. Your Registered
  • Dietitian or physician can help work out a meal plan to get the right balance among food, medication and physical activity.

Foods that should be avoided/limited:

  • Saturated Fats – including animal fats (sausage, bacon, hot dogs, cold cuts) and commercially processed goods such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, and deep fried foods. These fats can increase blood cholesterol levels. The best types of fats are unsaturated fats found in fish, most oils, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
  • Sugar- large amounts can raise blood glucose levels and cause weight gain. Avoid soft drinks, candy, desserts, donuts, jellies, syrups, ice cream, etc. Sugar substitutes are acceptable.

Snacks are usually encouraged in order to maintain carbohydrate intake. As in all meals, snacks should include protein to help steady blood sugar throughout the day.

Try some of these protein and carbohydrate pairings for your snack:

  • A small apple or half of a banana with peanut butter
  • Cheese and whole grain crackers
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • One slice of whole grain toast with almond butter
  • A hard-boiled egg

By making healthy food choices, being active at least 30 minutes a day, and taking medications or insulin as prescribed by your physician, blood sugar can be maintained at near-normal levels and the risk of some complications may be reduced or prevented. Talk to your Registered Dietitian or physician today to learn more about how you can manage your diabetes.