Five Simple Nutrition Rules for People With Diabetes

Armen Hareyan's picture

Book by University of Pittsburgh nutritionist for people who want to lose weight and improve diabetes control

Five simple rules can help people with diabetes lower their blood sugar, lose weight and live a healthier life, according to a recently published book called ChangeOne for Diabetes.

Using lessons learned from a study of overweight adults with Type 2 diabetes, nutritionist Pat Harper, M.S., R.D., presents a sensible and realistic program for people who want to lose weight and improve diabetes control.

Based on a successful one-year study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the book focuses on small, steady changes in eating, activity and lifestyle habits that resulted in an 8 to10 percent reduction in body weight and an average of 25 percent reduction in blood sugar for those in the study.

"Although the book's focus is on how to improve the eating habits of people with diabetes, these weight loss tips can work for everyone," said Ms. Harper, a registered dietitian and coordinator of nutrition weight loss studies at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Medicine. "Slowly but surely, small changes add up to a healthier lifestyle."

Published by Reader's Digest (Jan. 2005), ChangeOne for Diabetes is grounded in just a few simple rules, according to Ms. Harper.

* Eat every 4 to 5 hours throughout the day;

* Eat balanced meals that include a protein food, a starch, a vegetable and/or fruit;

* Choose lower fat foods;


* Eat smaller portions of everything but veggies;

* Become more active.

Ms. Harper was the lead nutritionist in the Pittsburgh study, called the Diabetes Obesity Intervention Trial, which involved 52 overweight adults with non insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetes. A year after the start of the study participants had a mean weight loss of more than 8 percent and of those who were on diabetes medication at the beginning of the study, 77 percent were able to go off of their meds by the end of one year.

"During the study there was no structured diet, no carb counting, no specific fat or carb goals and no banned foods," she said. "People just followed the 'Rules' outlined in the book and they lost weight. As they lost weight their blood sugar went down, and they improved their overall health."

The book also features 100 delicious recipes, 200 photos, a walking plan, a unique approach to portion control, diagrams, demonstrations, checklists and handy tips that include:

A "master the plate" approach... by mentally dividing the plate into left and right halves. Then split the right half into two equal parts. Fill the left half with veggies. The top right is reserved for starches such as rice, potatoes or pasta on the bottom right leaves room for meat.

"Master your disaster" foods... by learning secrets of healthy recipe makeovers for such foods as French fries, apple pie, fried chicken, Buffalo wings and even cheesecake.

Additional, simple-to-follow steps cover the importance of timing meals, controlling portions, exercising and easing stress.

Ms. Harper received her M.S. degree in nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh, a B.S. in foods and nutrition from Fontbonne College in St. Louis, MO, and her dietetic internship from Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Her background includes clinical nutritionist at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and chief dietitian at the Children's Hospital of Buffalo. She previously worked at the University of Pittsburgh as a research nutritionist for the MRFIT National Heart Attack Prevention Study, for the Food Additive and Hyperkinesis Study, and several weight loss studies in the department of medicine, including the Diabetes Obesity Intervention Trial (DO IT study), the Multidisciplinary Intensive Treatment for Obesity (MITO) study, and the Optifast Study. She previously was a Nutrition Instructor at Penn State University.

This page is updated on April 21, 2013.