During my two decades as the publisher of Walgreens Diabetes & You and walgreensdiabetes.com, I published a large collection of articles about the holidays. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to communicate some of the healthy living tips I have picked up over the years from our award-winning staff of writers, which includes two former Diabetes Educator of the Year winners.
So, here goes…
People with diabetes, just like most everyone else in the US, have begun to shop for the foods they plan to cook and share with their family and friends. Every year, families gather together to reconnect, and to reflect on all that has happened since the last Thanksgiving. The holiday is about giving thanks for the wonderful things in our lives – including, hopefully, good health. People with diabetes can stay on track with their weight and blood glucose control by maintaining a diabetes-friendly diet during the feast – at least, as much as their self-control will allow.
Thanksgiving can throw off your meal schedule, since a lot of cooking and socializing takes place throughout the day. People with diabetes can be successful if they make a plan for eating right during the holidays before they get caught up in the festivities. It might be a good idea to bring a few healthy snacks along to ensure that you can put something diabetes-friendly in your stomach at your usual mealtime, even if the people around you aren’t ready to eat. Keeping active, whether by playing an outdoor sport, or taking a walk with a family member or on your own, can also keep the holiday pounds off.
Thanksgiving dinners are notorious for their high-carb content: mashed or sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, turkey stuffing and, of course, most desserts. So focus on the greener things on the table, like vegetables, that are low in starch and calories. These healthy foods will help satisfy your hunger without causing you to crave something sweet and calorie-rich.
Your whole family can also eat healthfully by following your lead on Thanksgiving. Or, they can stuff their faces full of turkey, stuffing, string bean casserole and pecan pie, and leave the table with a bellyache. Everyone has to make smart choices to stay at a healthy weight, to prevent obesity and to be a good role model. Including yours truly.
November is National Diabetes Month, so now is a great time to reflect upon the 26 million people who already have diabetes, as well as the nearly 80 million with pre-diabetes (those on high alert for developing the condition). If you fall into any of these groups, or know someone who does, take the time to consider what kinds of food choices may lead to better health.
Sometimes, better health means that weight loss is necessary. Obesity increases the risk for diabetes, and losing weight can help keep your blood glucose level on target.
Luckily, it may not be necessary to lose all those excess pounds to improve diabetes outcomes. Losing just 5-10% of your body weight can help lower your blood glucose, total cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. Here, we will outline one eating plan that can help people with diabetes lose weight, among many other possible benefits.
THE PALEO DIET
Often, people do not make time to prepare their own meals or even monitor their food intake. This can lead to regular intake of packaged, processed foods. Many experts believe that this trend away from carefully prepared whole foods has contributed to the rise in obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
A growing number of nutrition researchers and doctors now suggest that we try a return to simpler diets, based on grass-fed and free-range animal products, fresh seafood, and whole fruit, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.
The Paleo (Paleolithic) Diet, also known the Hunter-Gatherer Diet, is a healthy-eating plan based on fresh, unprocessed plants and animals. Even though it is modeled after human diets from thousands of years ago, the Paleo Diet consists of easy-to-find foods, such as fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and grass-fed meats. Most versions of the diet do not include grains (like wheat, rye, and barley) or legumes (like beans). Only a few versions include dairy, if it is from grass-fed cows or raw (“unpasteurized”).
Supporters of the Paleo Diet also think that you should avoid all processed fats, such as vegetable oil, soybean oil and margarine. This is because they are not whole foods and have been shown to contribute to heart disease. However, they do approve of several types of oil, including flaxseed, walnut, macadamia, avocado, olive and coconut. Most sugar is also limited.
The Paleo Diet can be adjusted for your specific tastes, weight loss goals and blood glucose needs. The Paleo Diet is very strict about the types of foods you can consume, however those foods that abide by the Paleo premise can be consumed in unlimited quantities. On this diet, you and your healthcare team can choose how much carbohydrate, protein and fat is best for you.
WHY SWITCH TO THE PALEO DIET?
The Paleo Diet is high in vitamins and minerals, unprocessed, and low in foods that trigger allergic reactions. People with diabetes may benefit from improved blood glucose control, weight loss, and higher energy on this eating plan.
Here are other possible benefits of the Paleo Diet:
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
- Better blood glucose control
- Better brain health
- Stronger muscles
- Better digestion
- Increased absorption of vitamins and minerals
- Increased immunity
- Relief from allergies and skin diseases
- Improved energy levels
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Improved sleep
If you have poor digestion, allergies, high blood glucose, or any other symptoms of nutritional deficiency, think about speaking with your healthcare team about the Paleo Diet. With good planning, this healthy eating plan can be very nutrient-dense, low in allergens, and made specifically to suit your individual needs and tastes. It is a good idea to read more about this subject if you do decide to talk about it with your doctor or healthcare team. Have a look at some of the many books and articles written about the Paleo Diet, the Primal Diet, and “ancestral diets.” These are all slightly different eating plans based on the same basic idea: whole, unprocessed, and low-allergen foods are best.
Jonathan Jarashow, Publisher
Diabetes Digest Family of Magazines