by TERESA SCHIFFER
Sponsored by Central Florida Health Care
Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with diabetes or have been living with it for years, managing your diet can be a challenge. With so many options available at every grocery store and eatery, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, but dietary diligence is still one of the most important things you can do for your health.
Ron Lund is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with Central Florida Health Care who works closely with many diabetic patients to help them manage their diet and health. He shared some pointers for anyone struggling to make sense of their nutritional needs as a diabetic.
“For those who are overweight or obese, any type of weight loss is helpful, especially if it’s 5 percent or more. Reducing the extra weight that a person is carrying in the form of fat tissue helps to improve the ability of the system to better manage the blood sugar,” Lund says. “When it comes to weight loss, there’s really no evidence that anything over the counter is effective, so I recommend just saving your money.”
Regular visits with a dietitian are recommended. Lund counsels diabetics who come to the Central Florida Health Care clinic for 30 to 60 minutes per visit to assess their level of motivation, dietary preferences, how their culture affects their diet, what their access to healthy food is like, budget, and other factors, all with the goal of helping the patient to create an eating plan that is both practical and beneficial for their health.
If food insecurity is identified as an issue for a patient, Central Florida Health Care is able to refer individuals to local food pantries for assistance.
There are some weight loss options available through a physician for patients who are severely overweight or morbidly obese, including prescription medication and bariatric surgery. These options should be discussed thoroughly with a doctor.
“Following a heart-healthy diet is important, too, because of the increased risk of heart disease with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” Lund says.
“A balanced meal with vegetables, fruits, grains – try to make half of those grains whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa. Selecting proteins as part of a healthy balanced diet include lean beef and pork, skinless chicken, fish, eggs, and nuts and seeds, which are all considered healthier protein options.”
There are quite a number of other options available for protein, including dry beans, which are very inexpensive, and chickpeas, split peas, lentils, and other plant-based sources like tofu. Eating proteins along with non-starchy vegetables helps to slow down the body’s process of converting starch/carbohydrates into blood sugar/glucose that then enters the bloodstream. Sugary beverages are especially quick to enter the bloodstream, especially if consumed on an empty stomach.
Low-fat dairy products, including milk, Greek yogurt, and cheese, are good choices as part of a healthy, balanced diet. If you are sensitive to lactose, there are non-dairy options available, such as soy milk and Lact-Aid milk, just be sure to check the label to ensure that these options are fortified with necessary vitamins and minerals.
Fried foods, fatty foods, and sweets are okay to eat sometimes, but they should be carefully limited. Lund suggests saving these indulgent treats for special occasions.
Sugar substitutes can be useful for helping a patient transition from a high-sugar diet to one lower in sugar, but Lund recommends using sugar substitutes with caution, as there is some research that indicates that these substances may lead to increased insulin resistance. However, more studies are needed to conclude there actually is a risk.
If you would like further guidance when it comes to managing diabetes, Central Florida Health Care offers comprehensive diabetes education in clinics throughout Polk County.