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Health Information | 07/05/2022

How to Stop Diabetes

By  Marlene O'Donnell, RD
healthy foods like grains and veggies with a glucometer
There are 96 million American adults – that is 1 in 3 – who have prediabetes. Prediabetes means you have a higher than normal blood sugar. Without making lifestyle changes, many people with prediabetes develop Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when your blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) is too high. Blood glucose is the main source of energy from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone from your pancreas, helps the glucose from your food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body does not make enough insulin or does not use it properly. Glucose that stays in your body and does not reach your cells may cause health problems. Overtime, high blood glucose may contribute to heart, kidney and nerve disease. Unfortunately, diabetes does not have a cure, but you can take steps to manage your diabetes and stay healthy.

According to the latest report by the American Diabetes Association, intensive lifestyle changes may improve your impaired glucose tolerance and prevent Type 2 diabetes by 43-58 % over 3 years. (US Diabetes Prevention Study).

To determine if you are at risk for developing for prediabetes and diabetes, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with your clinician and discuss a plan of action. Here are some lifestyle changes that may improve your blood sugar and decrease the progression of diabetes.

Aspects of a Healthy Diet

Eat the right carbohydrates and add more protein While it is a good idea to discuss with your clinician whether weight loss in general may be helpful, the composition of your diet is another important step in controlling your blood sugar. Eating whole grains over refined grains or simple sugar is best. It’s also helpful to add a lean protein to your meal or snack to stabilize your blood sugar and help you feel full.
Breakfast Ideas:
  • 2 pieces of whole grain toast with natural peanut butter or 2 eggs
  • Grits with eggs
  • Steel cut oatmeal with slivered almonds
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts and seeds
  • Colorful berries make a great addition to your breakfast
Lunch ideas:
  • Greek salad on whole wheat pita pocket
  • Beef and bean burrito
  • Grilled shrimp and whole wheat pasta salad
  • Chicken fajitas in a whole wheat wrap
  • Fish tacos with roasted vegetables
Dinner ideas:
  • Stewed chicken with cornmeal and beans
  • Salmon cakes with quinoa salad
  • Roasted chicken with lentil salad
  • Turkey meatloaf with sweet potato fries
  • Pho soup chicken or beef and stuffed cabbage.
Easy snacks:
  • 100 calories of nuts
  • Low fat cheese sticks
  • A rice cake with natural peanut butter or hummus
  • Hard boiled eggs with a piece of fresh fruit
Other ideas:
  • Add beans to your rice and soup
  • Experiment with different grains: quinoa, farro, wild rice, etc.
  • Experiment with baked or broiled fish 1-2 times per week
  • If possible, add 1-2 cups of vegetables per day
  • It may help to plan your meals, as it can sometimes be hard to eat well when you come home from work and don’t know what to prepare
  • Experiment with batch cooking, like cooking extra chicken or grains and adding them to a prepared soup or salad for an easy and healthy meal
  • Make it simple: a frozen pizza, bagged salad and fruit for a crazy dinner night
Sweetened Beverages Soda is made with a refined sugar that may cause your blood sugar to spike. Try to kick the soda and sweetened beverage habit; instead, drink more unsweetened sparkling water, herbal teas or diluted juice. Timing of meals You may feel better overall, improve your blood sugar and improve the quality of your sleep by avoiding eating 2-3 hours before bed. Additionally, you may want to experiment with a 12-hour fast, such as not eating from 7 pm to 7 am.

Improve the Quality of Your Sleep

Sleep quality may help with improved insulin resistance, decrease fat production, and help you identify when you are hungry and full. Some tips you can try to increase your sleep quality include:
  • Go to bed at approximately the same time every night.
  • Relax before bedtime, by taking a hot bath, stretching, or meditating.
  • Do not use the phone or watch TV in bed.

Get Moving

Exercise is a crucial step in preventing diabetes and improving body composition. Activity helps lower your blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity throughout the body. Walking after meals for at least 10 minutes may help decrease the rise of glucose after eating. Standing after meals may even help decrease the rise in blood sugar. Try picking up your dishes right after meals and walking up and down your stairs or walking your dog.

Most studies indicate that 150 minutes of physical activity per week (about 20 minutes per day) is best for preventing diabetes. Try to do both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Start slow with a 15 -20 minute workout, 1-2 times per week. Discuss with your clinician if you need a referral to a physical therapist to improve activity.

Some ideas to increase activity:
  • Use a standing desk.
  • March in place and use hand weights.
  • Make activity an appointment on your calendar. An exercise phone reminder later may be helpful.
  • Find an activity partner who can help make exercise more fun and keep you accountable.
  • Be creative with your activity; try jazz, folk, or ballroom dancing.
  • Find a new location or park in which to walk. The Trustee of Reservations of Massachusetts has some great walks and hikes for you and your family.
  • Try a new exercise app or a YouTube video.

Diabetes Resources

Some Boston area YMCAs offer diabetes prevention programs. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a list of national diabetes prevention programs offered in your area.

Make an appointment to see an Atrius Health nutritionist. Your nutritionist will help you develop an individual plan to help you improve your blood sugar. 

About The Author

Marlene O'Donnell, RD

Marlene O’Donnell is a registered nutritionist and certified diabetes educator with over 25 years’ experience helping people develop healthy eating habits and lifestyles. With a master’s degree in nutrition from Boston University, she has a passionate interest in diabetes, weight management, and cardiovascular health. In her spare time, she likes to spend time with her large extended family and participate in running, swimming and cycling.

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