When you visit the Diabetes Centre in Witbank you will meet the team involved in your diabetes care. It is very important to early on establish a good relationship with each of the members for maximum support during your diabetes journey. Your dietician is a crucial member of the team as the quality and quantity of the foods you choose to enjoy will have a negative or positive effect on your glucose levels, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and overall health. Here is a list of ten things every patient should know before they see the dietician:
Tips for Better Diabetes Management
The question – “What diet should I follow?” – has perhaps never been more confusing, more controversial, or more stressful. There are more diets, diet books, diet opinions, and news headlines than ever before. In reality, no single “diet” trumps them all, especially for people with diabetes – all approaches have their pros and cons, whether you’re talking about health effects (e.g. blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol), cost, convenience, or taste. So instead of a “diet,” we need to rather think about eating in terms of what science is considering to be healthy.
Even though each individual with diabetes will have his/her personal food preferences and will follow a unique lifestyle, we can still have a good solid foundation in terms of proper nutrition for diabetes.
A Starting Point: Brainstorming Your Eating Patterns
When you see your best blood sugars (ideally 5 – 8mmol/L) 120 minutes after a meal, what did you eat? How did you eat? When and where did you eat? How did you manage your diabetes around these times?
When you see higher blood sugars (over 8mmol/L) 120 minutes after a meal, what did you eat? How did you eat? When and where did you eat? How did you manage your diabetes around these times?
As you look at your answers, can you pull out some common themes or patterns? Can you write some rules or guidelines for making better mealtime choices?
If you are struggling to identify patterns, I recommend taking a few days to record what you’re eating, along with doing blood glucose tests before and 120 minutes after your meals. The ultimate goal is to come up with a list of eating principles that helps keep your blood glucose in check, gives you enough energy, and is realistic in day-to-day life.
Everyday challenges and how to overcome them
It’s critical to understand where your pitfalls are and how to overcome them. Here patients have listed five biggest obstacles, as well as some of the ways they try to overcome them. You may find it helpful to make a similar table for your own obstacles.
– Choose salads or chicken/fish with a side of vegetables
– Read nutrition facts/labels, when available
– Substitute salad or vegetables in place of potatoes (including French fries or chips) or pasta
– Avoid the white bread
– Ask for sauces/dressings on the side
– Drink lots of water
– Remember you don’t have to clean your plate
– Ask for a bowl of berries for dessert
– Have predictable go-to snacks when on the run: almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds
Resisting bad food choices when they are readily accessible
– Keep junk food out of the house
– Eat at home before attending an event where unhealthy food will be served
– Fill up on the healthy stuff first
– Mentally link enough pain to eating the bad food (“I will regret eating this”) and pleasure to making the better choice (“This is making me healthier”)
– Remember what the unhealthy food tastes like (“Yes, I know what mint chocolate chip ice cream tastes like”) and appreciate that you don’t have to eat it just to experience the taste again.
Avoiding boredom or feelings of restriction.
– Use cookbooks, recipe websites, or food blogs to find tasty, healthy food options that fit with these commandments
– Substitute half of the flour for Oat Bran when making baked goods
– Use whole wheat pasta instead of normal pasta
– Make reasonable exceptions once in a while (see #5)
– Make healthy eating a major priority alongside all the other time demands in your life
– Have a variety of fast, go-to recipes – such as steaming frozen vegetables, smoothies with frozen fruit, scrambled eggs, ground chicken with vegetables, sautéed salmon or tinned fish
– Make a grocery run for everything you need for a week
– Buy frozen products: vegetables, fruit, fish, and chicken
Set ground rules for your exceptions ahead of time – otherwise, it’s easy to fall into the trap, “Just this one time.” For example
– I break the sugar commandments when I’m doing long bike rides
– I break the white rice/<30 g carb commandments when eating sushi, one of my favorite foods
One tough thing about eating is that very small errors in judgment, repeated consistently, add up to big health risks over time. It can be hard to see these in the moment, and often, we don’t even realize that we’re making a bad choice. Add to that an ever confusing nutritional landscape, crazy fad diets, and unrealistic expectations, and it’s pretty stressful out there! That is why it’s so important to visit your dietician to help you set realistic expectations and to help you with practical advice to manage your diabetes the best way you can.