Managing blood sugar to prevent prediabetes developing into diabetes or preventing medical complications if you are already diagnosed, as well as simply avoiding feeling awful each day, is a struggle 29 million people in the US face.
Diabetes is a disease that affects millions, not to mention approximately 8 million more who are unaware that they have a treatable problem.
Struggling with what to eat seems to be a constant concern for people who are trying hard to manage their blood sugar levels. They can feel overwhelmed worrying about what to choose, which foods to cook, or if they can ever eat out again with enjoyment.
Keeping blood sugar under control is definitely difficult at times but shouldn’t be paralyzing. There are ways to end the struggle.
Latest Report from the American Diabetes Association
Fortunately, there continues to be a great focus on the treatment and prevention of diabetes among the medical community. This means that new strategies, tools for healthcare professionals, and medications to help us all cope better with diabetes are constantly being developed.
2018 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes was recently published by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). This annual report gives all health professionals, patients and payers of people with all types of diabetes guidance on how best to treat diabetes and manage blood sugar for health. It also gives the practitioner tools to evaluate effectiveness of their interventions.
This report is updated annually based on current research and input from the medical field.
The goals for the care of diabetes expressed in this report are:
- Timely treatment decisions based on evidence in collaboration with patient based on their needs, preferences and other comorbidities (diseases). Improved self-management support is vital.
- “Care systems should facilitate team-based care, patient registries, decision support tools, and community involvement to meet patient needs.”
- Creating quality diabetes treatment programs and evaluating their effectiveness to promote improved processes.
- The ADA encourages patient centered care that is respectful and responsive to the needs of the person with diabetes because one size does not fit all people diagnosed.
- Evaluate social factors, including food insecurity, financial barriers, and housing, when creating a treatment plan and refer to community resources as needed
These goals sound just like what the doctor and dietitian ordered but not everyone has the opportunity to receive or practice these goals. They do however give us hope for the future of diabetes self-management and education.
Despite all efforts to educate and manage diabetes in the population, the ADA reports that “33–49% of patients still do not meet targets for glycemic, blood pressure, or cholesterol control, and only 14% meet targets for all three measures while also avoiding smoking.”
We can all do a little better at managing blood sugar to meet our treatment guidelines with a little more help.
Eating Well with Diabetes
People who have diabetes have the same requirements for nutrients that everyone else does.
It is important to eat adequate calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals while you work to maintain your blood sugar within normal levels.
Eating healthy foods and balanced meals is important but shouldn’t be so difficult.
There is no one size fits all diet for people with diabetes. Instead, meal planning that is person-centered or individualized to meet your needs is the proper way to manage your diabetes with diet.
Meal planning will help you stay in control of not only your blood sugar, but also your nutritional intake and weight status. Planning for the week, knowing what you will cook before you shop for groceries and avoiding unbalanced grab and go eating makes following a healthy diet easier.
You shouldn’t avoid any one food group or type of food nor should you skip meals to help lose weight.
Carbohydrate intake is recommended not something to be avoided. You need to learn which foods are carbohydrate containing because knowing how much and how often to eat carbohydrates can be very important to managing blood sugar.
Read the food label to understand exactly what each serving will contribute to your overall intake for the day. Use the food label to compare two like foods and choose the one that better meets your health goals of less added sugar, more fiber, more calcium, etc.
Remember to pay attention to the heart healthy components of a food you choose when reading food labels so you can reduce your risk of heart disease including saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat, or sodium.
Tips to End the Struggle
Beginning at the grocery store, you can choose foods that fit your meal plan to help you manage your diabetes.
- Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as green beans, carrots, summer squash, broccoli, salad greens and others. Stop by the produce section and load up your cart!
- Include starchy vegetables such as white and sweet potatoes, corn and winter squash as side dishes in correct portion sizes since they provide essential nutrients.
- Include a source of lean protein at every meal. Lean beef, pork, chicken, eggs, turkey, fish (especially salmon), lentils, and low fat dairy are good choices.
- Include whole grains in place of processed grains such as whole grain bread, rolls, pasta, brown rice, oats, quinoa and other whole grains for fiber and nutrition.
- Forget the sugar sweetened foods including beverages, canned fruit pack in syrup, sugar sweetened cereal and baked goods. Limit added sugars whenever possible.
- Use healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, and canola oil.
- Include nuts and seeds for snacking.
- Choose lower sodium versions, especially for canned vegetables and soups; limit pickles, luncheon meat, and other foods high in sodium to help control blood pressure.
When dining out, it is important to remember to maintain a healthy eating pattern.
- Consume an appropriate portion taking food home in a doggy bag for the next day’s lunch.
- Skip the bread basket and dessert.
- Request unsweetened drinks, such as water with lemon or unsweetened tea.
- Read the menu carefully for clues to which food is prepared with your health in mind such as grilled instead of fried or those without sauces to weigh you down.
Eating healthy is a big piece of the puzzle for diabetes management, but so is physical activity, weight control, and medication administration.
Consult with a dietitian to help you create your personal treatment plan so you can be successful and not struggle with diabetes.