Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight can become a struggle for many people with diabetes. Findings from London Medical’s recent survey amongst type 2 diabetes found that over half (59%) said that a lack of reliable nutritional information and advice had impacted on their confidence to make informed decisions on diet and lifestyle.
Carin Hume, diabetes specialist dietician at London Medical, gives ten tips for diabetics to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle:
- Eat real, whole foods as close as possible to their natural state.
- Get to know your food labels. Processed foods can contain hidden sugars and fat that may not be known about.
- Eat plenty of different types and colours of vegetables – most people simply do not eat enough vegetables.
- Address snacking. This can be a ‘mindless’ eating behaviour for some where they are not conscious of how much eat they are eating.
- Limit liquid calories. Fruit juices, smoothies and alcohol can be high in calories and sugar. Recent research has also found that low-calorie sweeteners found in diet drinks can raise the risk of diabetes by affecting how the body process sugar.
- Make sure your diet is full of protein. Protein is the macronutrient that contributes the most to keeping us full. To get adequate protein, think eggs or sardines on toast or Total Greek yoghurt with berries for breakfast and a salad with at least a palm size amount of meat or fish for lunch.
- Find an exercise you love – anything that raises your heart rate and keeps it up while you’re working out will improve your aerobic fitness. Exercise helps the body to use insulin which controls your blood sugar, as well as burning extra body fat and reducing your cholesterol. This will help you to better manage your blood sugar levels. Check your blood sugar after every workout, so that you can adjust if needed and always carry a small carbohydrate snack, like fruit or a fruit drink, in case your blood sugar gets low.
- Avoid sitting for long periods. Most of us realise that exercise is good for a whole host of reasons, but what is not quite so obvious are the dangers of sitting. Excess sitting decreases the activity of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase which helps us burn fat as well as decreasing bone mineral density.
- Sleep! Research consistently shows that getting less than 7 hours sleep per night increases our risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes. When we are sleep deprives we make poor food choices, such as craving refined carbohydrate foods.
- Set achievable goals. We have to be realistic, environmental influences have a significant impact on weight gain and make it very difficult to control calorie intake. Will power is not infinite and can be likened to a muscle- if we keep taping into our willpower to determine the hundreds of unconscious decisions we make in a day, the willpower muscles fatigues and we end up eating the muffin or chocolate cookie, or skipping a run or a walk. A healthy lifestyle is about designing an environment that makes it easy to achieve our goals.
Carin Hume is a registered dietitian with expertise in diabetes, including type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. She also has a special interest in type 1 diabetes and exercise and technology such as continuous glucose monitoring and wearable devices. Carin qualified as a dietitian in 1997 in South Africa and has completed further studies in sports nutrition, dietary management of gut disorders, cognitive behavioural therapy, and functional nutrition.