Type 2 Diabetes No-Nos: What NOT to do if you have type 2
Whether you have been newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or have been dealing with the disease for many years, it is vital to have the proper knowledge of what type 2 diabetes is, how it is best treated and your role in managing your disease.
Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a group of metabolic disorders in which the body is unable to produce any or enough insulin and/or to use it properly. This results in levels of blood glucose (sugar) to rise higher than normal levels. Glucose in your blood comes from the digestion of the carbohydrates that you eat. Your body needs glucose or sugar to use as a form of energy. However, sometimes too much of a good thing can be harmful. Too much glucose or blood sugar over time can do plenty of damage to your body and to your health.
Insulin helps cells in the body to absorb glucose and use it as immediate energy or store it as energy for future use. In a healthy person, the action of insulin helps blood glucose levels to remain in the normal range. For someone with type 2 diabetes, there is not enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range.
Therefore the ultimate goal in the management of type 2 diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels in the normal range in order to lower the risk for health issues related to high blood sugar levels. This can be done for a good majority of people with type 2 diabetes through diet and lifestyle changes. However, some people may also need to add oral medications and/or insulin.
The following are a few No-No’s when it comes to managing your type 2 diabetes:
Do not let your weight become the problem
People who are overweight carry a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who are at a healthy weight. The more fatty tissue you have the tougher it is for the body to properly control your blood sugar using insulin, causing insulin resistance. If you are overweight, just losing a small amount can have a big impact on blood sugar control and help prevent serious complications due to type 2 diabetes.
Do not eat without planning ahead
As a person with type 2 diabetes you need to be vigilant about what, when and how much you eat in order to control your blood sugar. You need to be keenly aware of how many carbohydrates you need daily and the best way to disperse them through your day. Total carbohydrates should generally provide somewhere between 45 to 60 percent of your daily total calories. A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and/or Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) can help you to calculate exactly how many calories and carbs you should be consuming daily. A general rule of thumb is 45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal with about 15 to 30 grams for in between meal snacks. Your best bet is to plan your day ahead of time so that you eat what you need throughout the day and never find yourself without or with the wrong types of foods.
Do not be uninformed about what you eat
Not only is it important to eat the correct amounts of food but to ensure the foods you are choosing are healthy ones. Eating a healthy diet is just as important for a person with diabetes as it is for anyone else. You need to be aware of good versus bad carbohydrates, healthy versus unhealthy fats and so on. The best place to start is Choosemyplate.gov. You can get all of the information you need on eating a healthier diet. Another great tool is the Nutrition Fact Panel on packaged food. Reading food labels keeps you informed of exactly what you are eating and how you can fit the food into your daily meal plan. RDN’s and CDE’s can help you to learn more about healthy eating and label reading.
Do not include food offenders
There are plenty of foods that people with type 2 diabetes can have as long as they are carefully planned for. Sugar, such as candy, cookies, cakes, pies, etc… have always been a no-no with diabetes but truthfully if used in moderation, portion controlled and planned for in the diet it can be consumed safely and with no issues for most people with type 2 diabetes. The key word being moderation! A few foods that are best avoided include regular soft drinks, high fructose corn syrup (check food labels), flavored waters with sugar, smoothies, and some coffee drinks. The key is to once again plan ahead. If you are going somewhere specifically for something like a smoothie or your favorite coffee drink, look it up first so you know how many carbs, sugar, etc… it contains. That way you know if you absolutely can or cannot fit it into your daily plan.
The more you learn about eating for type 2 diabetes, the easier it will be for you to know which foods you can or cannot have and how to fit the majority of foods into a healthy daily meal plan while still keeping your blood sugar levels in a normal range.
Do not try to fit all of your daily calories into one or two meals per day
We all get busy and it makes for a good excuse to just eat one or two very large meals per day. Unfortunately, people with type 2 diabetes don’t have the luxury of eating this way, although it really isn’t a smart way for anyone to eat! A better way to structure your daily meal plan is to include at least five to six smaller meals throughout the day. Eating smaller more frequent meals generally helps to keep blood glucose levels lower, resulting in smaller glucose responses and requiring less insulin. This can help improve blood glucose control and keep it on more of an even keel.
In addition, eating smaller meals can help to control hunger, cravings and calorie intake; increase your energy levels; and as an added bonus help with weight loss.
Do not become a couch potato
Exercise is a lifestyle habit that plays an extremely important role in managing diabetes as well as weight and overall health. Everyone should exercise as part of a healthy life style but for diabetics the stakes are even higher. The goal is to get active and stay active on a regular basis with a proper exercise plan. We are not just talking about exercise but also about being more active in your daily routine such as using stairs, parking farther away, etc... Every little bit helps! Exercise can help to better maintain blood sugar levels, maintain and/or lower body weight, increase heart health, improve blood pressure levels, improve cholesterol levels, increase energy, help you to sleep better, improve joint health, and the list goes on! Always check with your attending physician before starting an exercise program.
For more information about type 2 diabetes and nutrition check out my book Your Nutrition Solution To Type 2 Diabetes (New Page Books, Aug. 2010).