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What Should Diabetes Patients Eat?
10/12/2012

By now, most people either have a friend or family member with diabetes or at least know someone fwho has been diagnosed. While the diagnosis can be a shock, most will find they have a strong support system eager to help them get things under control. There will certainly be many people willing to tell you what you can't eat anymore; figuring out what foods you can still enjoy may seem like a tougher task.

But, program coordinator Dawn Hollaway from Blount Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Management Center says there is good news. "You can still eat the same foods by using portion control," she said. "To lower your blood sugar, lose weight and keep it off for a lifetime, you should focus on a healthy, individualized meal plan as opposed to a diet," Hollaway added.

While foods that are high in carbohydrates affect blood sugar, Hollaway says it is important to have a balanced intake of carbohydrates, protein and fat. "The number of carbohydrates needed for each person will depend on their activity level and their weight loss goals," she said. Hollaway says diabetes patients should definitely know which foods count as carbohydrates. These include starches such as bread, cereal, rice and crackers, as well as starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn. Fruit, milk, dried beans and snack foods also count, as do snack foods like chips, candy, cake, cookies and soda.

Part of balancing carbohydrates involves simply reading the label. "You will want to look at the serving size and total grams of carbohydrates," Hollaway said. "Fifteen grams of carbohydrate is a serving," she said, adding that it's equally important to keep an eye on the amount of fat the product contains.

Diabetes is considered an obesity-related disease. More than 60 million Americans are obese, and Tennessee ranks third in the nation for obesity. "In addition to adults becoming heavier, children are becoming heavier, too," Hollaway said. "During the past three decades, childhood obesity has increased dramatically among all age groups, having more than tripled among adolescents ages 12 to 19," she added. Nationwide, approximately 17 percent of American children ages 2-19 are obese – roughly, one in six. Most individuals with type-2 diabetes also have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well. These medical conditions place a person at an even greater risk for heart disease.

A person's body mass index (BMI) can be helpful in determining body fat. "A normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9," Hollaway said. "Overweight is between 25.0 and 29.9. Obesity is 30 and above," she explained. While BMI can be a useful tool, Hollaway says one of the most accurate indicators of body fat is waist circumference. "Abdominal fat is a predictor for obesity-related diseases," she said. "Women are considered to be at a higher risk for obesity-related diseases if their waist size is greater than 35. For men, it's a waist size greater than 40," she added.

"I encourage anyone with diabetes to attend an outpatient diabetes program and meet with a registered dietitian to obtain an individualized meal plan," Hollaway said.

Join Blount Memorial's Diabetes Management Center on Monday, Nov. 5 from 6-7:30 p.m. in the hospital auditorium for the annual Diabetes Services Fair. More than 20 diabetes-related vendors are expected. The event has no charge, but attendees are encouraged to bring a canned or non-perishable food item to donate to the Blount County Food Connection. For more information or to register, call 865-977-5767.

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