You can prevent Type 2 — and you can also manage the disease if it’s already creeped up on you.
Type 2 diabetes doesn’t happen overnight. Today an estimated 86 million Americans are prediabetic and at-risk for developing full blown diabetes.
“I was shocked when the doctor told me I was diabetic,” says Debbey Ryan.
“No one in my family has diabetes. I weighed 225 pounds when I was diagnosed, and now I’m under 160 pounds with a goal to reach 150 and stay there.”
Ryan’s case is not unusual. But she has discovered life with diabetes is doable, her condition controllable with effort and a serious look at her diet.
“It’s about how your body processes different things,” she says.
When Ryan was diagnosed in 2009 she began a journey that includes oral meds but has never required insulin, thanks to her steady efforts with food intake.
“I would test regularly in the beginning,” she says. Two hours after eating she would test her blood sugar, and today has a good idea of how different foods impact her blood sugar.
“After awhile you figure out what the best kind of foods are for you. One person can eat an apple, and that’s a great snack, and for another person it can be terrible,” Ryan says.
When it comes to eating healthy before diabetes is even on the horizon, dietician Kate Rountree of Rountree Nutrition, who also works in Lafayette General’s bariatric department, says combining a clean diet with the right food pairings is crucial. For example, eat an apple with two tablespoons of peanut butter or almond butter rather than fruit solo for a snack.
“It’s ideal when you have diabetes or are at risk, and it’s a good recommendation for anybody to pair a protein with a fiber and carb source,” Rountree says.
Protein is digested more slowly and you fill fuller longer, while fiber is both a good filler and a good quality item for healthy eating.
“Try grapes with low fat cheese sticks or Greek yogurt with half a cup of fruit,” she says. “A serving of almonds with an orange or Satsuma is a good source of Vitamin C and a good source of protein.”
Rountree says movement is also a major element in dealing with diabetes.
“Exercise plays a huge part in reversing your risk,” she says. “It’s not just for weight loss. Movement of the body can lower blood sugar. Just by working out and exercising you can lower your risk. Add to that cleaning up your diet, and it’s going to help continue to lower your risk.”
Cleaning up in the diet department means much more than cutting back on sugar or switching to diet drinks. It’s a new way of eating that benefits the entire family.
“Eating from the ground up. Not from the box down,” Rountree says. “More sources of foods that are whole foods. Not necessarily organic, but fruits and vegetables and eggs and dairy and grains that are minimally processed and lean proteins.”
Banish the crackers and cookies and look for foods high in fiber. Swap drinks for water whenever possible.
“Diabetics are very thirsty,” says Ryan. “You need to stay hydrated. I love diet A&W root beer, but I limit myself to one a day and just drink water.”
Rountree suggests adding cucumber to water, drinking artificial sweeteners in moderation and trying more natural sources to sweeten like Stevia, which is available at most grocery stores now in the sugar section.
“If you’re looking for a sweetener, try a cleaner option like Stevia, which is derived from a plant and not manufactured chemicals.”