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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 30, 2014

Common questions about managing Type 2 diabetes

By M. ELISE KLOPFENSTEIN, HCHC dietitian | Feb 21, 2013

Why is good nutrition important in managing diabetes?

Eating a healthy diet can help control you blood sugars and blood lipids; help you maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you are overweight; allow you to take less medication or avoid taking medication; prevent complications from high blood sugars like nerve, kidney or vision problems; prevent other complications like heart disease and circulatory problems.

What do you say to those people who say, “My brother has diabetes so I will just do what he is doing.”?

Each person with diabetes is different! Every person with diabetes should receive medical nutritional therapy based on his/her medical needs. Your dietitian may suggest very specific goals for your weight, diet, and exercise depending on your health status.

What are some nutritional guidelines for Type 2 Diabetes?

Lose weight if you are overweight; exercise to promote or maintain weight loss; monitor carbohydrate intake to maintain blood sugar control; obtain carbohydrates mainly from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and low-fat or skim milk; consume at least 130 grams of carbohydrates per day (do not use low-carbohydrate diets to treat diabetes); use sugar substitutes if desired; limit saturated fat, trans fat and dietary cholesterol.

What is healthy weight loss?

The goal is to lose weight slowly and safely, 1 to 2 pounds weekly. Enjoy foods from all food groups. Avoid fad diets that eliminate any specific foods or groups of foods. Eat smaller portions and exercise more.

What and how much exercise?

First consult with your doctor before beginning. Aim for 30 minutes most days of the week. Include aerobic exercise and resistance training for the best results. Start slowly and increase the duration and intensity of exercise if you are new to exercise.

What carbohydrates do we need to monitor?

Limit your carbohydrate intake to what is suggested by your dietitian. Use carbohydrate counting, or the exchange system to estimate your carbohydrate intake. Even sugar and sweetened foods can be included in your diet when you have diabetes. Substitute them for another carbohydrate in your diet now and then. These foods are “empty calories” (contain little or no nutritional value) so should be used in moderation.

What about the sugar substitutes?

I encourage all people to use them if they desire. Use those recommended by the FDA. They can help you enjoy sweet treats by lowering the carbohydrate and calorie content. They don’t appear to cause weight loss or control blood sugars.

Why are fats a concern for people with diabetes?

We all need to limit saturated fats, trans fat and dietary cholesterol as they contribute to heart disease. People with diabetes are at an increased risk for heart disease.

As a general rule use liquid oils instead of solid fats when possible. Trans-fats are produced by the food industry by taking liquid oils and changing them into solid fats. This process improves the shelf life and stability of flavors of processed foods. They are found mainly in packaged and processed foods, so limit packaged crackers and cookies, and commercial bakery products. Use soft margarine instead of stick margarine. Read food labels for trans fats.

Where should someone with diabetes start?

Talk to your doctor, dietitian and diabetes educator about which changes are most important to YOU! Start slowly by changing your habits one at a time. Seek support from you dietitian and/or diabetes support group.

For additional questions or concerns contact Elise Klopfenstein RD LD CDE MPH at 385-6143 or email KlopfensteinE@HCHC.org or see HCHC Dietitian on Facebook.

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