An expert shares the best nutritional advice for diabetics
by Teresa Schiffer
Sponsored by Central Florida Health Care
Whether you’ve recently been 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 restaurant, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but food 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 tips for anyone struggling to understand their nutritional needs as a diabetic.
“For those who are overweight or obese, any kind of weight loss is helpful, especially if it’s 5% or more. Reducing the extra weight a person is carrying in the form of fatty tissue helps improve the system’s ability better manage blood sugar,” says Lund. “When it comes to weight loss, there’s really no evidence that anything over-the-counter will work, so I’d recommend saving your money.”
Regular visits to a dietitian are recommended. Lund advises diabetics who come to the Central Florida Healthcare Clinic for 30-60 minutes per visit to assess their level of motivation, food preferences, impact of their culture on their diet, access to healthy foods, their budget and other factors. , all with the aim of helping the patient create a diet plan that is both practical and beneficial to 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 from a physician for severely overweight or morbidly obese patients, including prescription medications and bariatric surgery. These options should be thoroughly discussed with a doctor.
“Following a heart-healthy diet is also important because of the increased risk of heart disease associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” says Lund.
“A balanced meal with vegetables, fruits, grains – try making half of these grains whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa. Protein selection as part of a A healthy balanced diet includes lean beef and pork, skinless chicken, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, all of which are considered healthier protein options.
There are a number of other options available for protein, including dried beans, which are very inexpensive, and chickpeas, split peas, lentils, and other plant sources like tofu. Eating protein with non-starchy vegetables helps slow down the process of converting starch/carbs into blood sugar/glucose which then enters the bloodstream. Sugary drinks enter the bloodstream particularly quickly, 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 lactose sensitive, there are non-dairy options, such as soy milk and Lact-Aid milk, just be sure to check the label to make sure these options are fortified with the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Fried foods, fatty foods, and sweets can sometimes be eaten, but they should be carefully limited. Lund suggests saving these indulgent treats for special occasions.
Sugar substitutes can be helpful in helping a patient transition from a high-sugar diet to a low-sugar diet, but Lund recommends using sugar substitutes with caution, as some research indicates these substances may lead to increased insulin resistance. However, more studies are needed to conclude that there really is a risk.
If you want additional guidance on diabetes management, Central Florida Health Care offers comprehensive diabetes education at Polk County clinics.