Families Can Work Together to Control Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious condition, but it can be controlled with diet, exercise and medication. Many books have been written to assist people with diabetes — and no wonder, there’s a big market for them. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes — nearly 8 percent of the population. About one-quarter of those remain undiagnosed.

Family members can help a loved one who has been diagnosed with the disease. Physical activity helps control blood sugar, so families can start an exercise program together. (Be sure to consult with a doctor to make sure the exercise is done safely.) Stress and illness can also affect blood sugar, so be sure the family member keeps checking glucose levels during those times, and ask the doctor for guidance on making any adjustments in medication.

As for meal planning, now is the time to consult with a dietitian if possible. Having a professional guide the meal preparer through the process would be a great help for the family. In the meantime, the American Diabetes Association offers some great guidance:

Count carbs. Carbohydrates are what raise blood sugar levels. While the right amount of carbohydrates varies with the individual, the ADA suggests starting with a limit of 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per meal — that’s important information for meal planning. Foods containing about 45 grams of carbohydrates include a cup of pasta or rice; a medium baked potato; or a cup of black beans or corn. Other starchy vegetables, as well as nonstarchy foods, including fruit, sauces and yogurt, also often contain carbs. Check Nutrition Facts labels or consult a reference book or an online nutrient database for that information. And measure foods to make sure portion sizes aren’t too big.

Use the “Create a Plate” method to focus meals more on vegetables and keep carb and protein portions limited to healthful levels. Just draw an imaginary line vertically down the middle of the plate. Then, on one side, draw a horizontal line to cut that section in half again. Fill up the big section with nonstarchy vegetables — salad, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, carrots, for example. On the other side, fill one of the smaller sections with a healthful protein — lean poultry, beef or pork, eggs, fish or seafood, tofu or low-fat cheese. The other small section is for a starchy food — potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, peas, corn, or bread. When possible, choose whole-grain options (whole wheat bread or pasta, brown rice).

For more guidance, see the ADA website.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.