Managing your weight, eating a healthy diet, and monitoring and maintaining blood sugar (blood glucose) and blood pressure levels, as well as being compliant with prescribed medications and diet are essential.
Though some people might quickly admit that at times they find it difficult to follow a special diet (usually referred to as therapeutic diet); having preference for tasty sweet and savoury dishes which perhaps can be low in dietary fibre, high in fat, and contain large amounts of sugar, or salt. Such food choices over a period can more than likely contribute to disease, and reflect non-compliance.
Aim to improve your health, decreasing risk for disease and associated complications and maintaining blood sugar and blood pressure levels within accepted ranges which can provide added health benefits. Today’s article will focus on nutrition management of diabetes, food choices, and your daily meal plan.
World-wide diabetes mellitus accounts for 1.6 million deaths in 2015; while in 2012, high blood sugar levels resulted in 2.2 million deaths, usually occurring before age 70. In addition, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes mellitus increased significantly between the period of 1980 to 2014, from 108 million to 422 million.
Likewise, the prevalence of diabetes mellitus among adults 18 years and older increased from 4.7 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2014; note, rapidly increasing in middle and low-income countries. However, failure to manage diabetes mellitus complications can result in blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation (WHO).
Similarly, in TT, both cardiovascular disease and diabetes are among the main causes of deaths in the nation, accounting for 25.75 percent and 13.6 percent, respectively (Ministry of Health, 2016). The Healthy Caribbean Coalition, also reported that the prevalence rates for diabetes mellitus are increasing, and it remains the major cause of hospital admissions, kidney failure and limb amputations in the Region.
Given these statistics, making efforts to improve dietary practices, and manage body weight, blood sugar and blood pressure levels and overall enhancing nutritional status continue to be significant. Diabetes mellitus contributes to premature mortality, and that it can negatively impact quality of life, productivity, increase absenteeism in schools and the workplace, affect academic performance, as well as undermine economic growth and development in countries.
Most persons might be familiar with these words, “you are what you eat.” Promoting good nutrition and wellness for the diabetic patient can aid in improving and health. Therefore, the key is to consume a diet moderate to high in dietary fibre, low in fat (preferably adding healthy fats to your meal plan), at least two fruits daily, fewer of the starchy vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, and beetroot). Add staples such as brown rice, ground provision (eg sweet potato, yam, cassava), grain products, peas and beans, all types of non-starchy vegetables (eg melongene, dasheen leaves, spinach, cucumber, lettuce, watercress, christophine, pak choi, etc.), lean meats, fish, poultry without the skin, egg, low-fat milk and yoghurt, cheese to your meal plan.
Paying attention to portion sizes, types of carbohydrate, consistent mealtimes, and complying with medications can be helpful. In addition, understanding the diabetic exchanges, and/or carbohydrate counting can make a big difference; hence, scheduling a nutrition education session with a registered dietitian or nutritionist can assist the patient/client.
- Eat a balanced diet and healthy between meal snacks.
- Have consistent mealtimes.
- Take prescribed medications and follow your medical doctor advise.
- Plan weekly menus using the Caribbean Food Groups.
- Read food labels when grocery shopping; avoid purchasing canned fruit packed in light and/or heavy syrup, instead select those packed in its own natural juice. If you buy canned vegetables, drain the liquid and rinse the contents thoroughly under running tap water.
- Adjust recipes as needed.
- Select the following cooking methods for meal preparation: baking, boiling, steaming, and grilling.
- Limit fried foods, pastries, and watch your salt intake.
- Add fresh seasonings in food preparation e.g. garlic, chives, green pepper, pimentos, celery, etc. to your favourite dishes; omit seasoning salt e.g. onion salt, garlic salt, celery salt, bouillon cubes, etc.
- Drink water; avoid sugary beverages.
- Consume concentrated sweets sparingly (avoiding frosted cakes and cookies, and baked products filled with cream, and topped with sugar); watch your portion size.
- When preparing your plate, fill one half with non-starchy vegetables, and the other half divide into two with one quarter of starchy dish and the other one quarter with protein dish.
- Include a small bowl of tossed salad or cooked non-starchy veggies with each meal.
- Participate in physical activity (brisk walking, jogging, swimming, football, etc), but first check with your medical doctor.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels
Dr Claudette Mitchell, PhD, RD is an Assistant Professor, University of the Southern Caribbean, School of Science, Technology, and Allied Health