With the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, come many questions.
What can I eat as a diabetic?
Do I have to lose weight?
Are there things I have to avoid now that I’m diabetic?
The answers to all these questions can easily be obtained from a nutritionist, perhaps even more so than you can get them from your primary doctor. This is why doctors routinely advise new diabetic patients to see a nutritionist to gain valuable information about how they can help themselves and their condition through nutrition.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that is best controlled with diet and exercise. Making healthy changes to lifestyle choices helps to manage the disease and prevent many of the complications associated with it, including, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetic neuropathy, and premature death that can result from out of control blood sugars and complications.
What can you learn from a nutritionist?
A nutritionist can meet with you for only one visit or for several—whatever it takes to get you on a path to better health. He or she will probably weigh and measure you to see what your body mass index is.
Your body mass index or BMI is the best way to compare your weight to the weight scientists have found to be ideal for good health. It is a calculation based on your height and weight with the optimal number being 18-25.
Any number over 25 means you’re overweight and any number over 30 means you’re obese. Your nutritionist, once knowing your BMI can tell you if you need to lose weight and how much you should lose.
Your nutritionist will probably tell you that what you are eating reflects the amount of glucose, a simple sugar, is found in your blood. They will tell you that, while there is no hard and fast “diabetic diet,” there are some guidelines to follow when planning your meals and snacks.
Furthermore, you and your nutritionist can design a meal plan that works for you and that is based on foods you enjoy. You don’t have to suffer through unpalatable foods just because you have diabetes.
A good nutritionist will be supportive of cultural and lifestyle considerations when planning a menu, and be respectful of what you the patient needs.
What is a healthy food plan to follow?
Your nutritionist will tell you the difference between foods that contain mostly carbohydrates, those that contain protein and those that contain fat. Carbohydrates come primarily from foods of the earth—fruits, vegetables and grains.
Your nutritionist will tell you that a healthy diet consists of 40-60 percent carbohydrates and will help you choose carbohydrates that appeal to you and that provide you with the calories, vitamins and minerals to keep your body running properly.
Protein comes from beans, nuts, and meat primarily. If you are a vegetarian, you can get your protein from bean and nut sources rather than from meats. These kinds of foods, important for cell structure and our organs, should make up 20 percent of the food we take in every day.
Fats should make up less than 30 percent of your diet. You can find healthy fats in oils, such as vegetable oil, corn oil, and safflower oil. Healthy fats are also found in avocadoes, walnuts, dairy and fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Ideally, diabetics should follow this recommendation carefully because fat is calorie-dense food and you don’t have to eat very much to ingest a lot of calories.
Fat intake is also an important consideration because those with diabetes are at a high risk for heart disease and eating heart healthy fats, and limiting unhealthy fats helps to lower that risk.
Do you have to stay away from sugar on a diabetic diet?
While it was once thought that the diabetic should consume very little sugar, it is now known that a mild amount of sugar is completely acceptable. You can work with your nutritionist to find ways to eat sugar in moderation in order to make eating fun and food palatable. In the end, it is all about balance and eating foods to keep your body healthy, perhaps for the first time in your life.
Your nutritionist can track your weight as you begin to control your diabetes through the use of diet and perhaps medications. The more weight you lose, the less you need to rely on medications to control your diabetes. In this way, your dietician can work in conjunction with your doctor to make sure your diet and medication regimen is optimal.