Setting goals for specific daily servings improves dietary habits of diabetics

Setting a specific goal to eat a certain number of daily servings of low-glycemic-index foods helps improve dietary habits of people with type 2 diabetes, according to research from Ohio State University.

Researchers learned that people can increase their consumption by almost two servings a day if they set that as a specific goal.

“We asked people to set goals because they motivate action,” said Carla Miller, associate professor at Ohio State University and the study’s lead author. “Telling people to ‘go out and do your best’ is not effective. It’s not specific enough, or targeted enough, or timely.”

Researchers interviewed the 35 participants with type 2 diabetes and set individual goals for them to eat either six or eight servings per day of foods low on the glycemic index.

After eight weeks, the group as a whole showed a significant average increase in their total daily servings of low-glycemic-index foods. They also showed a significant average decrease in caloric intake and overall dietary glycemic index.

Study participants ate about 500 fewer calories a day with goal setting. They also increased their intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, which are all low-glycemic index foods.

Self efficacy
The confidence that participants felt about meeting these goals was linked to their ability to reach them, according to the study.

People who had more confidence, or self-efficacy, were more committed. Higher commitment levels led to a higher success rate of reaching their dietary goals.

Researchers learned after the eight-week study that most participants had confidence in meeting their goals because they were already eating at least six servings of low glycemic foods a day before the study began. Not all participants reached their goals, however.

“What we found is that those who felt more committed to the goal felt the goal was less difficult. And those who had a higher level of self-efficacy felt that the goal was less difficult,” said Miller. “Increasing levels of self-efficacy and increasing goal commitment are critical to achieving goal behavior.”

“One way to build self-efficacy is by helping people set a specific goal that is moderately difficult, action-oriented, and achievable in small successive steps. Then those people with higher self-efficacy feel the goal is less difficult, they are more committed, and they feel more satisfied in achieving the goal," Miller said. “That satisfaction helps them say, ‘Let's set the next higher goal.'"

Glycemic index
Foods with a low glycemic index are carbohydrates that are digested slowly. They are less likely to increase blood glucose levels than foods with a high glycemic index.

Foods that tend to slow digestion include vegetables, whole grains, dairy foods, nuts and seeds, beans, and fruit.

On a scale of 1 to 100, foods with an index of 55 or less are considered low glycemic foods. Foods with a point value of 100 are equivalent to pure glucose.

Results from the same study published last year showed that these same participants reduced their weight, body mass index, waist circumference and hemoglobin A1c value after increasing their intake of foods low on the glycemic index.

Source: Ohio State University

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