Living with Diabetes: H2U Answers Your Most Frequently Asked Questions

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As the H2U Connected Care Manager at HCA Healthcare’s Wellness Center, it’s my goal to help people live healthier and happier lives.  From health information for disease prevention or management to recipes and real life stories you can relate to, our program can help participants achieve their health goals by making lifestyle improvements.

Making healthy meal choices and lifestyle changes is particularly important for people living with diabetes. As we recognize American Diabetes Month® and this year’s theme, Eat Well, America!, here are some tips on nutrition by way of our most frequently asked questions.

How can a registered dietitian help someone with diabetes?

Nutrition is not a one-size fits all approach. A registered dietitian can provide, what we call, “medical nutrition therapy”. They can look at past medical history, laboratory results, medications, current eating habits and exercise habits to help create an individualized meal plan for diabetes management. Diabetes can be controlled through lifestyle changes, exercise, eating habits and medication management.

What’s the best way to prepare for a registered dietitian?

Take a food log to make the most of your time with a dietitian. Write down everything you eat, including your portion sizes and meal times, two or three days prior to the meeting. Ask questions about which foods will impact your blood sugar; what exercise does to your blood sugar; and how the medication you’re taking will affect your blood sugar.

What should people living with diabetes look for in blood sugar levels?

The American Diabetes Association guidelines for people with diabetes is to have a before meal  blood sugar level between 70 and 130 mg/dL (milligram per deciliter is how blood glucose results are reported). The blood sugar level should be at the highest, <180 mg/dL, two hours after a meal when the blood sugar enters the blood stream.

What type of foods can I eat?

The good news is you don’t have to  completely eliminate foods. It’s more about portion control and moderation. Carbohydrates are the food group that can raise blood sugar. But, if you eat carbohydrates in moderation and eat consistently throughout the day – I encourage people to eat every four to five hours – it will help stabilize the blood sugar level.

Are there any precautions to take when eating out?

Research the restaurant ahead of time – a majority of restaurants post menus and nutritional information online now. Another good tool to use is the plate method, which is how I educate my patients to make a well-balanced meal. Half of the plate should be non-starchy vegetables, such as, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes; one-fourth of the plate should be starches, such as, whole grains, beans, corn, potatoes, pastas; one-fourth should be lean proteins turkey, chicken, tofu, or fish and then a serving of low fat dairy and a piece of fruit. This method provides a better visual when you’re going out to eat or even a tool you can use at home.

Can I eat sweets?

You can fit sweets into your day – you just have to monitor the portion and total carbohydrates. This is the analogy I use – if I give you $100 a day to spend, you want to try to spend it throughout the day on your meals – not use it all at once. It’s the same with carbohydrates. You want to spread it out throughout the day and not eat all your carbs in one meal. That will raise your blood sugar level. So, you get a limit per meal of how many carbs you can have. Those sweets can fit in your meal, if you budget for it. But consume the sweets sparingly.  Save your carbohydrates for more nutrient dense foods such as, fruit, low fat dairy, or whole grains.  These foods contain more vitamins and minerals.

What’s the most important thing someone with diabetes should do to stay healthy?

  • Be aware of your numbers. Your physician can provide you with your A1c, a blood test that shows your average blood glucose over a three-month period of time. This will help to know where you’re starting, and where your physician wants you to be.
  • Create a plan to monitor your diet. Watch how many carbohydrates you eat per meal; make sure you eat well-balanced and portioned meals by eating a variety of vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, fruit, and low fat dairy.
  • Remain active. Physical activity will help keep blood sugar down. Try to fit in at least 150 minutes of activity per week.

Diabetes, though a chronic condition, is something you can manage and live a long and healthy life. You just have to remain in control by following a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise.

In honor of this year’s American Diabetes Month® theme, Eat Well, America!, enjoy this diabetic friendly recipe from H2U. Eat well!

Cari Riker is the Connected Care Manager for H2U at HCA Healthcare’s Wellness Center in Nashville. She is also a Registered Dietitian and Certified Health and Wellness Coach.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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