Bars & Shakes?

May 9, 2010

Question:

I was diagnosed with diabetes a few months ago.  I’m wondering about those bars and shakes I see advertised for people with diabetes.  Are they good to use?  Sometimes I’m out and need a snack or quick lunch.

Answer:

There are numerous options for snack bars and shakes on the market today, and many of them are targeted at people with diabetes.  Some varieties may be good options for you for a between meal snack, but you will need to read the Nutrition Facts Label to determine if the product is a good option for you.  You will need to check the carbohydrate content; look for something that has a similar amount of carbohydrate to what you would normally eat for a snack.  For example, if you normally eat 2 servings of carbohydrate for a snack, then look for a bar or shake that has about 30 grams of carbohydrate.  You will also need to note the protein and fat content.  Snacks that have a good balance of protein, carbohydrate, and fat will be the best choices.  Generally, you would want to look for something that has around 5 grams of fat.

But beware that these specialty bars and shakes can be quite pricey.  Other options like granola bars, cheese and crackers, peanut butter and graham crackers, or even some types of trail mix can be just as convenient and less expensive.

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Gluten Intolerance

May 2, 2010

Question:

I have type 2 diabetes and just found out I have gluten intolerance.  I haven’t been able to figure out what I can eat.  I have been leaving grains out of my diet.  What should I do?

Answer:

Since you have gluten intolerance, you will only need to avoid the grains that contain gluten.  This includes wheat, barley, and rye.  This can be tricky at first since gluten can often hide in foods that we might not normally think of as containing wheat (i.e. marinades, sauces, soups, processed foods, etc).  You will want to make sure to read the ingredient list on the Nutrition Facts Label for every product you are considering eating for a while, until you have a more solid knowledge of which foods are ok and which foods you need to avoid.

However, you do not need to eliminate all grains from your diet.  Whole grains are a great source of fiber and are part of a healthy diet.  Grains such as corn and rice are perfectly fine for you to consume, and starches such as potatoes, beans, and lentils are good options for you as well.  Just remember that you will need to be aware of your portion sizes when eating starches in order to follow a consistent carbohydrate diet.

Peas & Carrots?

April 26, 2010

Question:

Is it ok to eat peas & carrots if you have diabetes?  I heard to avoid those two veggies.

Answer:

It is absolutely ok for you to eat both peas and carrots!  However, you will need to watch your portion sizes more carefully with starchy vegetables, which include peas, potatoes, and corn.  One serving of a starchy vegetable is about 1/2 cup, and it contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate.  Starchy vegetables should be enjoyed in moderation.  On the other hand, non-starchy vegetables such as carrots, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and squash can be eaten in larger amounts because they do not contain as much carbohydrate as starchy veggies.  One serving of non-starchy veggies is equal to 1 cup of raw or 1/2 c. of cooked, and one serving contains about 5 grams of carbohydrate.  It’s important to eat a variety of vegetables, but being aware of which contain larger amounts of carbohydrate will help you control your blood sugar and plan better meals.

Frozen Food vs. Restaurant Food

April 18, 2010

Question:

Since I live alone, I rarely cook (if ever).  I have type 2 diabetes and I’m wondering which is better… eating frozen dinners or restaurant food?  Thank you for your help.

Answer:

It will be easier for you to know exactly what you are getting with frozen food because all of the nutrition information and the portion size are listed on the Nutrition Facts Label.  However, it’s important to remember that frozen foods can still be very high in calories, fat, carbohydrates, and sodium.  This is why you should always read the Nutrition Facts Label before you buy the product.  Even if the front of the package includes phrases like “healthy” or “all natural”, you should still read the label so you know exactly what you are getting.  You can browse through thousands of foods at  http://foodpicker.org/ to find good options for convenience foods to purchase.

Eating out at restaurants can be tricky for a number of reasons.  The nutrition information is not usually posted on the menu; portion sizes are often 2-3 times a normal portion, and the preparation methods may vary from restaurant to restaurant making it more difficult to know exactly what you are eating.  When you do eat out, there are several steps you can take to help you make smarter choices.

1) If possible, check out the restaurant’s website before you go out.  Many restaurants have detailed nutrition information listed online, so you can decide what you want to order ahead of time.

2) Ask your server if nutrition information is available.  Most chain restaurants have this information available upon request.

3) Be familiar with what a portion looks like so you can easily eyeball how much you should eat.  For example, a 3 oz portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, and 1 cup of rice or potatoes is about the size of a tennis ball.  If the portions look too big, then ask your server for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal so you can take the extra food home for later.  This way you won’t be tempted to over eat.

4) Avoid buffets.

5) Look for the healthier or lighter options on the menu.  They may be highlighted in a separate section of the menu.

6) Always note the way the foods are prepared.  Look for items that are grilled, steamed, broiled, blackened, poached, or baked.

7) Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Talking to your server or the chef about the menu and the way foods are prepared can help you make a smart decision, and many chefs will be more than happy to make small alterations or substitutions in order to please the customer.

Type 2 Diabetes

April 10, 2010

Question:

My 45 year-old husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few months ago.  Is it true that you can reverse diabetes?

Answer:

Unfortunately, type 2 diabetes in not a completely reversible condition.  This condition occurs when the body cannot efficiently utilize insulin, which is the hormone needed to move sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells for energy.  However, the good news is that there are many steps your husband can take to improve his insulin sensitivity.  Exercising on a regular basis, following a consistent carbohydrate diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, and testing his blood sugar regularly are examples of activities that will help keep your husband’s blood glucose levels within a normal range.  The more normal his blood sugar is, the less likely it is that he will experience complications that are commonly associated with diabetes such as heart disease, nerve damage, or vision impairment.

Sugarless Candy

April 3, 2010

Question: My doctor recently diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes.  I know it is important to watch my sugar intake.  Is sugarless candy really sugarless?

Answer: Although sugarless candy may not contain any added sugars, it often still contains carbohydrate.  “Sugar Free” does not always mean carbohydrate free.  Eating carbohydrates will still have a similar effect on your blood glucose levels regardless of whether it is added to the food in the form of refined sugar, or if it naturally occurs in the food as is the case with fruit and milk.  Some types of sugarless candy may be an appropriate snack or treat in moderation, but it is important that you check the Nutrition Facts Label on the package to determine how much carbohydrate is in the food.  This will help you know what a serving size is, and how much of it is ok to eat on your specific meal plan.

Controlling Your Blood Sugar

March 28, 2010

Question: My fasting glucose number was 127.  Does this sound like pre-diabetes or diabetes?  What should I do to control by blood sugar?

Answer: Diabetes is typically diagnosed when fasting blood glucose is 126mg/dL or greater.  However, you should talk to your doctor about re-testing to confirm the diagnosis.  After you have a second test performed, if you are diagnosed with diabetes, you will want to discuss specific options for treatment with your doctor.

There are many ways to help control your blood sugar and lead a healthy lifestyle with diabetes such as regular exercise, monitoring your blood sugars regularly, weight loss (if indicated), and eating a balanced diet that provides consistent amounts of carbohydrates throughout the day.  Talk with your doctor and a Certified Diabetes Educator to help you develop a personalized game plan for controlling your blood sugar.  You may find it helpful to prepare a list of questions you have before your next appointment.

You may want to discuss topics such as:

What type of exercise regimen is appropriate for me?

How often should I check my blood sugar?

Do I need to lose weight?

Should I be taking medications or insulin to help control my blood sugar? (Remember to always tell your health care providers about all prescription and over the counter medicines you are currently taking.)

How can I plan healthy, appetizing meals that will fit my lifestyle?

Fruits & Veggies

March 17, 2010

Question:

I have pre-diabetes and am trying to lose weight.  How many servings of fruit and veggies should I have each day?

Answer:

Increasing your daily intake of fruits and veggies is a great way to help you control your weight.  Most fruits and veggies are a good source of fiber, which can help you feel full and satisfied throughout the day.  Eating 5 servings/day is a good goal to have.  Remember that it’s still important to watch your portion sizes, especially with fruit. A serving of fruit is equal to 1/2 cup of fresh or canned (look for canned fruit packed in water or juice, NOT in syrup) or one small fresh fruit (about the size of a tennis ball).  A serving of veggies is equal to 1 cup of fresh or a 1/2 cup of cooked.  It’s also important to remember that starchy vegetables such as peas, corn, or potatoes contain more carbohydrates and will raise your blood sugar more than non-starchy veggies.  Non-starchy veggies like spinach, broccoli, carrots, squash, or cauliflower are better options for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.  Fruit or vegetable juice counts as well (1 serving = 1/2 cup), but fruit juice can raise your blood sugar more quickly than eating the same amount of fruit.

Hello world!

March 10, 2010

Hello!

I am a nutrition editor at http://foodpicker.org , a website designed to help people with diabetes.

I hope you will be able to use this website and this blog to discover practical nutrition-related ideas for living with diabetes!