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There’s no such thing as a “diabetic diet”

Nearly twenty-six million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes and one of the most common misconceptions about the condition is that patients must adhere to a strict diet plan.

“I think that’s what people fear the most – that they are now on a ‘diabetic diet’ and have to give up their favorite foods,” says Sally Brozek, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. “But that’s absolutely not true. There is no such thing as a diabetic diet. In fact, diet plans are completely individualized – it’s all about how you live your life.”

Effectively manage diabetes with diet

“Think about making a healthy plate,” she says. “We want half of our plate to be filled with vegetables that are rich in color and high in nutrition.” She recommends eating only moderate portions of meat – keep serving sizes to about the size of your palm.

Taking up the remaining quarter of your plate should be whole grains, such as brown rice and whole wheat pasta, as well as fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and milk. Limit your consumption of refined “white” carbs (such as white bread or baked goods) because they often contain large amounts of sugar.

Make healthy choices while dining out

If you have diabetes, you can still enjoy dining out, but Brozek cautions that restaurants can be a pitfall in a healthy eating plan. “When we eat in a restaurant, we are automatically going to get large portion sizes and have to guess a lot about what is in the food we are eating,” she says. Stick with vegetables, whole grains and moderate amounts of protein when dining out and keep portion sizes reasonable.

If you are served a large portion of food, have half of it wrapped up to take home. Don’t be afraid to ask your server how the dish is prepared – steer clear of anything that is fried or cooked with excessive sodium or sugar.

Fit dessert into a healthy lifestyle

“We all like desserts and they certainly have a place in our diet, but in moderation,” she says. “Nobody can be healthy eating rich desserts every day.” Keep portions of sugary desserts very modest – about half a cup of ice cream, sherbet or pudding.

Other lifestyle factors for people with diabetes

Exercise also plays a crucial role in managing diabetes. “Physical activity does a lot to help us manage blood glucose levels and to promote weight loss,” Brozek says. “I recommend 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week.”

At Piedmont Healthcare, there are many resources available to patients with diabetes. “We have the Diabetes Resource Center, which is recognized by the American Diabetes Association,” she says. “We also offer a variety of classes on managing diabetes as well as individual consultations."

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