We’re bombarded with endless to-do lists at every turn—at home, on the job and especially in regard to our health. Eat plenty of kale, broccoli, quinoa and yogurt. Exercise 30 minutes a day. Get up and walk around every hour. Get plenty of sleep. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming. But there are some simple ways that can help you stay energized, nutritionally balanced and reduce your likelihood of developing diabetes.
Diabetes can strike anyone and it does. Today, more than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, an increase of nearly 50 percent from just a decade ago. It is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and strokes. Each year almost 200,000 Americans die from diabetes and its complications. In addition to the enormous physical and emotional burden, diabetes costs the American public more than $245 billion annually.
Your best defense against diabetes is a strong offense. Follow these six common-sense steps and you can significantly lower your risk of developing diabetes.
- Rein In Portion Sizes
No measuring required. Start by serving home-cooked meals on smaller plates. If you serve less food, you tend to eat less. To achieve healthy portion sizes, try dividing your dinner plate. Fill one half with vegetables, and split the other half into two. Fill one quarter with a lean protein, such as fish, skinless poultry, beans or tofu. Fill the other quarter with a serving of whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta or a slice of whole grain bread. The right combinations will fill you up.
- Choose Healthy Fats
Yes, there is such a thing. Limiting unhealthful saturated fats (including trans fats) is particularly important for people with diabetes. Too much fat increases weight gain and insulin resistance, the underlying cause of abnormal blood glucose, lipids and blood pressure in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. An excess of saturated fat along with diabetes increases risks for heart and blood vessel diseases. Instead, choose foods that contain good fats including canola oil, sunflower oil, Omega-9 oil or corn oil, as well as fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout. Other sources include some nuts and seeds such as walnuts and sunflower seeds.
- Pick The Right Whole Grains
The only reliable way to ensure you choose a real whole-grain product is to check the ingredient list. The term “whole” or “whole-grain” should precede the grain’s name, such as “whole-wheat flour” or “whole-grain rye flour.”
- Sip Smarter
The average 12-ounce can of regular soda has about 150 calories and 38 grams of carbohydrate—the equivalent of more than nine teaspoons of sugar. Try replacing soda with unsweetened herbal iced tea or seltzer with a splash of cranberry juice. A recent survey suggests Americans consume 355 calories (that’s 22 teaspoons) of added sugar a day—much of it from soda and packaged foods. It’s likely that our weight gain is related, in part, to our increased intake of added sugars.
- Minimize Drive-By Dining
The average low-nutrition fast food meal is more than 1,200 calories—two-thirds of an entire day’s caloric allowance. It’s difficult to eat out frequently and meet your goals. Try making on-the-run breakfasts, brown-bag lunches or choosing a healthful frozen entree paired with a salad, fruit and milk a few times a week.
- Find that Pedometer and Get Moving
For every two pounds you lose, you reduce the risk of getting diabetes by 15%. Diet is one way to reduce unhealthy pounds, but don’t forget about exercise. Use a pedometer or one of the new wrist devices to record the number of steps you take on an average day. Set a goal that works for you then slowly increase. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.
Changing your lifestyle can be a big step toward diabetes prevention — and it’s never too late to start! Making a few simple changes now may help you avoid serious health complications of diabetes down the road. And besides, nothing tastes as good as feeling well! Don’t wait for an adverse diagnosis—make the six steps part of your routine now!
What additional steps do you take to ensure a healthy lifestyle?
Kathy Johnson is the Senior Director of Nutrition for Healthcare in Sodexo North America responsible for the nutrition programs and resources for Sodexo’s 1,300 organizations and 5,000 Dietitians.
— Sodexo USA, Inc. (@sodexoUSA) November 12, 2015