Nutrition – Diet and Exercise in Diabetes

Lifestyle Changes, Obesity & Diabetes 

  1. Set reasonable goals 
  1. Start eating more nutritious meals with a lot of variety 
  1. Read food labels 
  1. Learn serving sizes/measure servings in the food 
  1. Counting carbohydrates 
  1. Start exercising 
  1. Monitor your success (keep a diary of your eating and activity and track your weight and waist circumference) 
  1. Be patient and do not give up 
  1. SETTING GOALS:  To keep you self-motivated and avoid frustration, set reasonable goals.  Studies show that people who lose weight gradually and steadily have a better chance of keeping the weight off in the long run.  Health experts suggest 1-2 pounds a week as a good goal.  This is better than suddenly losing a lot of weight with crash dieting. 
  1. EATING NUTRITIOUS MEALS:  Nutritious meals should have vitamins and minerals (colourful in general).  Eat vegetables, whole fruit and some whole grains/nuts instead of high-calorie processed food such as French fries, potato chips, ice cream, doughnuts and other desserts.  Limit the use of creamy sauces, dressings and dips with fruits and vegetables 

FIBER: Food items with high fibre such as beans, whole grains, fruit with peel and green leafy vegetables (broccoli, carrots and leafy greens are recommended.  Look for food with 2.5 or more grams of fibre per serving (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). Fibre slows down absorption and helps stabilize blood glucose 

PROTEIN: Protein should be lean and unprocessed such as chicken without skin, fish, eggs, and tofu. Avoid processed meat, such as sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni, beef jerky, deli meats, cured bacon and canned meat) 

SUGARY BEVERAGES: Limit the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages you drink such as soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks 

CARBOHYDRATES: Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our body. There are three main types of carbohydrates in our food. They include starches, sugars, and fibre. Starches (bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, and corn) do not raise blood glucose levels as fast as sugary food (desserts, juices, and soda pop). Limit sugary foods and choose whole grain, fibre-rich items and avoid processed white flour. 

FAT: Avoid saturated fat (Beef, poultry with skin, cheese, butter, ice cream) and trans-fat (Fried foods, Baked goods – chips or doughnuts or crackers, stick margarines).    Instead, you should consume heart-healthy unsaturated fat – olive oil, fish oil, Canola oil, nuts, avocado, and peanut butter) 

  1. READING FOOD LABELS:  Learn to read food labels with particular emphasis on serving size, number of servings per container, and the number of carbohydrates, fibre, and fat. Learn to measure serving size.  This will help you estimate the right amount of food you need to achieve your goals. Also, low fat or nonfat does not always mean low calorie.  Similarly, low carb is not always healthy. Reduce calories for weight reduction (do not supersize your plate, eat smaller portions). Cut back on eating out. 
  1. COUNTING CARBOHYDRATES:  Carbohydrates are converted in your body to sugar molecules absorbed by the intestines and raise your blood sugar levels.  Therefore, it is important to be aware of carbohydrates in your food, particularly if you are taking insulin or diabetes medications. 
  1. START EXERCISING:  Being active is good for blood glucose control, weight control and overall health. It also helps reduce stress. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends being active for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) spread over 3-5 days a week. Spending 30 minutes doing exercises daily would be the best way to accomplish that. An example would be a 10-minute yoga in the morning, a 10-minute recumbent bike at lunchtime and a 10-minute walk after dinner. Always check with your physician before starting exercise and start slowly. Balance & flexibility exercises (Tai Chi, Yoga, Stretches) or water exercises are suitable for older adults. 
  1. TRACKING PROGRESS:  You can improve your chances of success when you (or a dietitian/physician etc.) are monitoring you. The success rate in achieving goals is increased by keeping a food diary, weighing yourself regularly (or measuring waist circumference) and your blood glucose levels. CGMS (Continuous Glucose Monitoring System), a small wearable device, which continuously measures glucose levels in real-time, is an excellent tool to assess the effectiveness of diet, exercise, and stress on diabetes control. 
  1. BE PATIENT: Sometimes it may take a while before you start seeing results. It is essential to stay positive and think of it as a long-term project. Pessimism and stress may derail your progress. 

The best strategy in dealing with weight issues & diabetes is to work with your physician, a dietitian or a diabetes educator, so they can help you develop a management plan that best suits your situation. Good luck! 

(This information is for informational purposes only) 

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