Expert Advice for People with Diabetes, Part II

As a certified diabetes educator, a registered nurse, a registered dietitian and a licensed dietitian nutritionist, Clara Schneider has an expert opinion that you can trust.

Clara is on the advisory board at DiabetesCare.net and writes a weekly blog for the site.

We had the opportunity to interview Clara and find out what advice she has for people with diabetes.

Click here to read Part I.

When it comes to diet, does it matter which type of diabetes someone has?

The answer is yes. It also depends on what medicine the person is on and if the person needs to gain, stay the same or lose weight. For everyone it is necessary to know how many calories are needed and what a healthy meal plan should be for that specific individual. The kind of medication used may affect when food should be consumed.

All the medical needs and preferences should be considered when drawing up meal plans for people with diabetes. People with conditions like Celiac disease, renal disease or allergies require these conditions to be addressed as well as their diabetes. Everyone with diabetes should have an individualized meal plan.

What are the best food choices for people with diabetes? The worst?

It’s going to depend on the person. Again, diet must be individualized. Different people have different needs. Most people with diabetes can benefit from whole-wheat bread, but if you have a problem with gluten, this will hurt you. The person with diabetes should work with a dietitian to plan their food needs for diabetes and good nutrition.

For most Americans, healthy food selections include eating a balanced diet consisting of non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, fruits, a protein source and making sure nutrition is adequate to supply the proper amount of vitamins and minerals. Controlling the amount of carbohydrates throughout the day is very important.

Foods to Limit

People with and without diabetes usually need to limit processed meats and fatty meats. Eating foods high in sodium is not recommended for most people with diabetes. Food recommendations to avoid cancer and heart disease also apply to people with diabetes. I can’t say this enough: Controlling the amount of carbohydrates throughout the day is very important. Your dietitian will help you with this.

People who need to lose or control their body weight need to learn about portion control for all foods, not just the ones with carbohydrates. They should work with their dietitian to develop a plan that will work for them.

For a person with diabetes who wants something that is higher in carbohydrates, like a piece of cake, they need to know how to work it into their meal plan. If they are on insulin, do they have permission and knowledge to increase their dose to cover what they are eating?

How do you feel about artificial sweeteners? Are there better/healthier alternatives for people with diabetes?

Artificial sweeteners have helped many people with diabetes enjoy eating a greater selection of foods while keeping their blood glucose in control. As long as there is not a health problem with the artificial sweeteners, it is a personal choice. If artificial sweeteners are consumed, it should be in moderation and within the limits of safety for the sweetener.

What are some important things that people with diabetes should do in order to best manage the disease?

Each person with diabetes should be evaluated for all of their healthcare needs to plan the best meal plan for them. When working a meal plan, tell the dietitian ahead of time specifics such as if you are a vegetarian or have other preferences, or if you can’t stand a whole group of foods. Give someone this information so they can help you.

See a dietician and go to a recognized program so you can learn about your diabetes from qualified professionals. Go to follow-up appointments and get your questions answered.

Do not be afraid of getting help from your doctor and diabetes educator. If you are having trouble with something related to your diabetes, ask. Go for diabetes education updates. Sometimes something like a new kind of glucometer may help you with testing. Remember your medical team is there to help you. Do not be afraid to call them. People with diabetes need updates and sometimes need to change their medication. Remember your medical team should be providing current information and helping you with all aspects of your diabetes.

A question that would not be uncommon is: “My blood sugar was a little bit high. At what point should I be calling my doctor?” That’s an excellent question to ask your doctor. When should I be calling you? When should I be going to the hospital?

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