Living (well) with diabetes
Diabetes is on the rise, as the U.S. population grows older, heavier and more diverse.
Older Americans and non-Caucasians face the highest risks of developing the disease, says Dr. Farah Akhtar Hasan, Advocate Christ Medical Center’s head of endocrinology. And while people can’t do anything about their age or genetic makeup, they can control their lifestyle.
“Improving eating habits, losing weight and exercising more frequently would go a long way toward reducing the incidence of diabetes in this country,” she says.
But for those who already have diabetes, making healthy lifestyle changes is a way to help you live better with the disease.
Balance the carbohydrates, fat and protein in your diet to ensure that your blood sugar levels remain as stable as possible, says Christ Medical Center dietitian Janel Hayden.
Food-portion control and monitoring are key to keeping blood sugars stable, Hayden says, but adds there is no one diet for all people with diabetes. Instead, follow these simple, healthy eating tips:
- Do not skip meals. Eat at least three well-balanced meals each day.
- Eat at consistent times every day and space meals to no more than five hours to six hours apart.
- Avoid concentrated sweets: regular syrups, sugar, honey, jam, jelly, hard candy, cake, pie, cookies, chewing gum, soft drinks and fruit drinks.
- Include fiber-rich foods in a daily meal plan by choosing whole grain breads, cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables and dried beans.
- Use fresh fruits or canned fruits packed in water or natural juices. Avoid fruit canned in “heavy” or “lite” syrups. All juices should be 100 percent fruit juice, unsweetened or “no added sugar.”
- Remember that “sugar-free” labels on foods, such as cakes, cookies and candies, does not mean the foods can be eaten freely and are completely sugar-free. Check labels for grams of total carbohydrates.
- Bake, broil or roast meats. Avoid frying or breading meats. Avoid adding extra servings of butter, margarine or cream sauces to vegetables.
And don’t forget about exercise. It helps control blood sugar levels and body weight. Try to include exercise in a daily routine. Be sure to check with your physician before starting an exercise program.
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