8 Quick Tips For Managing Diabetes With Your Lifestyle
From constant blood sugar monitoring to making smart food choices, living with diabetes can be a challenge. Perhaps the most challenging part is there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to diabetes management.
If you were hoping to find a daily menu or a printable diet plan for diabetics, Denny Hemingson, FDN, a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner, says it’s not quite that simple.
You’ve probably heard your body is a temple, but it’s also a microbiome that forms different responses to a variety of food and exercise plans. “A food that sends blood sugar sky high for one person may have little to no affect for another,” Hemingson explains.
While diabetes management is very personal, Hemingson has 8 quick tips that’ll make it more manageable.
Remember: you and your doctor are the judge and jury when it comes to your diabetes treatment plan, so always consult with your physicians before making any major changes.
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Tip #1: Track What Works for Your Body
Your individual genetics and microbiome can affect how your body will respond to different foods. Consider trying different menus and tracking how your body responds over time.
“A combination of food logging, exercise, and diligently keeping track of what works for their body has enabled many people with diabetes to maintain their health without medication, or with lower doses,” Hemingson explains.
Hemingson recommends using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which your doctor can prescribe. It's a far easier – and motivating – way to monitor your glucose levels without finger pricks.
"It gives people almost real time data of how various foods impact blood glucose and what activities can lower it," Hemingson says.
You might also find that factors other than food have an effect on your glucose levels. For example, stress levels and poor sleep can spike your blood glucose levels. Many find that yoga, meditation, and mindfulness apps like Simply Yoga, Headspace, Calm, and Simple Habit can reduce stress, improve sleep, and help with diabetes management.
Managing diabetes includes a lot of trial and error, so experiment with different meal plans and introduce some stress-reducing habits to your lifestyle. Track how your body responds and keep doing what works for you.
Tip #2: Eat Healthy Fats and Low-Carb Foods
Generally speaking, foods lower in carbohydrates are best to control diabetes. However, moderation is always key.
How you react to high-carb foods depends on how often you eat them. Your genetics and unique microbiome also play a part. According to Hemingson, the safest way to consume any food is to eat moderate amounts while keeping track of your body’s reaction.
Additionally, healthy fats are a must, as they keep energy high but don’t spike your blood sugar. Examples of healthy fats include:
- Dark chocolate
- Whole eggs
- Fatty fish
- Chia seeds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut and coconut oil
- Full-fat yogurt
Tip #3: Avoid High-Carb Foods and Refined Sugars
Foods high in carbohydrates can cause blood sugar spikes. Processed foods and foods high in refined sugar can also be quick to cause problems. Alcohol and caffeine also tend to raise glucose levels.
Try finding healthy, low-sugar substitutions for your favorite treats, so you can feel satisfied without suffering the consequences of a blood sugar spike.
Some low-sugar, low-carb snack ideas for diabetics include:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Yogurt with berries
- Veggies and hummus
- Roasted chickpeas
- Apples with peanut butter
- Caprese salad
- KIND bars
- Guacamole with cucumber slices
- Mini Babybel cheese
Tip #4: Prevent Diabetes Through Diet and Exercise
The same lifestyle guidelines used to manage diabetes are the ones used to prevent it. According to Hemingson, appropriate diet, exercise, and blood sugar data-tracking can facilitate the lifestyle changes necessary to prevent Type 2 diabetes.
As always, you and your doctor know your body best, so listen to its signs and take action when necessary. If you are pre-diabetic, talk to your doctor and start monitoring your symptoms.
Tip #5: Avoid Dried Fruits and Juices
Because of its sugary reputation, fruits might start to seem a bit scary, but you don’t have to completely avoid all fruit. It’s best to eat small amounts of your favorite fruits and track your blood sugar afterwards.
Berries are a great, low-sugar fruit to start with. On the other hand, dried fruits and fruit juices are concentrated sources of sugar that cause your blood sugar to spike.
In fact, one glass of apple juice has the same amount of sugar as a can of Coca-Cola! If you have diabetes, its best to stay away from fruit juice and dried fruits and instead go for low-sugar fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
Tip #6: Add Whole Foods To Your Daily Menu
There is no one-size-fits-all plan for a person with diabetes. What works well for one person might not be the winning treatment plan for another. Hemingson says, “Remember to consume low-carb, healthy, whole foods that give you energy without a blood sugar spike.”
Whole foods are, in a word, unprocessed. They are as close to their natural form as possible, and they have a whole lot of nutrition!
Examples of whole foods include:
- Grains, like wholegrain rice or quinoa
- Beans and legumes, like lentils and lima beans
- Nuts and seeds, like almonds and pumpkin seeds
- Fruits and vegetables, like apples and asparagus
If your blood sugar is high, Hemingson recommends reaching for whole foods. “No healthy, whole food will likely be harmful at this time, but it’s important to maintain moderation. The importance of monitoring your blood sugar data so that you can maintain healthy glucose levels cannot be understated.”
Tip #7: Get Moving
Of course, eating healthy is important to manage your diabetes. But what about exercise?
Having a dedicated gym routine or even a 5-minute daily walk finds a vital place in many people’s treatment plans. Particularly around mealtimes, whatever gets your body moving is beneficial.
Exercise requires glucose for energy and can help drive glucose into the muscle tissue, instead of letting it circulate in the bloodstream.
Tip #8: Use Your Diabetes Medicare Benefits
If you’re eligible for Medicare, take advantage of your diabetes benefits!
You have access to up to 12 hours of diabetes self-management training (DSMT), which includes free nutrition advice tailored to you. Fewer than 5% of Medicare beneficiaries use this benefit, which is a shame!
DSMT classes teach you all about blood sugar control, how to manage your diet, and more. These programs are typically offered at hospitals, clinics, and medical offices.
If you meet certain eligibility criteria, you may also qualify for free Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) services with a registered dietician. You don’t have to manage diabetes alone!
Learning to manage diabetes can be a challenge. However, consider making some adjustments like adding in more whole foods, throwing out the fruit juice, and monitoring how these changes affect your body over time.
And don’t forget to utilize your Medicare benefits! Medicare offers many free services for those with diabetes. If you have Medicare Advantage, check with your plan to learn more about covered services or extra benefits.
To learn more about your Medicare options, call us at 833-801-7999. Our licensed insurance agents can help you make sense of the best plans in your county.
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