The key components of diabetes management include: a healthful eating pattern, regular physical activity and use of prescribed medications and/or insulin. Critically, following a healthy eating pattern can prevent diabetes and in some cases manage it to delay or even ward off the complications of uncontrolled diabetes.
The main goals of nutrition therapy include:
- Attaining blood sugar levels, blood pressure and lipid goals
- Attaining and maintaining a healthy body weight
Eating right is very important whether a person has diabetes or not. People with diabetes have the same nutritional needs as anyone else; they do not require special foods nor are complicated diets needed. A diabetes diet is simply a healthy eating plan tailored according to the individual’s needs, routine and schedule, food preferences, medical conditions, medications, and level of physical activity.
In general, a nutrition plan for diabetes is high in nutrients, low in fat, and moderate in calories. It includes 45-60% of energy from carbohydrates, 10-35% from proteins and no more than 30% from fat.
It is recommended for people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to consume a diet high in fibers such as whole grain foods, vegetables, fruits and nuts. High fiber foods are digested more slowly thus they help control blood sugar levels, without spikes. Also, it is important to consume unsaturated fats, which come from plant and fish sources, including olive oil, canola oil, nuts, avocados, flaxseeds, salmon and tuna..
Having diabetes doesn’t mean giving up on sweets completely or living life in deprivation. Patients can still consume sweets, but with a meal, and while cutting back on refined carbohydrate-containing foods such as bread, rice or pasta.
Regarding alcohol, moderation is essential. 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men are acceptable while consuming a meal. It is important to constantly monitor blood glucose, as alcohol can interfere with diabetes medications and insulin.
Whether trying to prevent or control diabetes, losing 5 to 10% of total body weight can help lower blood sugar levels considerably. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels also improve from weight loss. However, in children with Type 1 diabetes, the main focus should be on providing adequate energy for growth and development especially in cases of weight loss before diagnosis.
It is important to note that when it comes to preventing, controlling, or reversing diabetes, exercise is essential, as it leads to moderate weight loss and increases insulin sensitivity.
One of the easiest ways to getting more physically active is to start walking for 30 minutes, five or more times a week. Swimming, biking, dancing, hiking, and sports can be fun ways to incorporate more exercise into one’s daily routine.