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Simple Steps to Stop Diabetes

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Diabetes is afflicting more people at younger ages and at rates that are multiplying. This is a direct result of our widening waistlines and our less active lifestyles. However, this is a highly preventable disease.

Cooper Clinic’s Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDE, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator, offers five tips to prevent diabetes.

1. Lose extra weight. Weight loss is one of the most powerful things you can do to reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Every pound you lose can improve your health! According to a large study done by the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a modest weight reduction of five to ten percent (which can translate into as little as 10 to 15 pounds) along with regular physical activity can reduce one’s risk by close to 60 percent. The key is to set small, realistic weight goals and seek a social support network to help you reach them. In a nut shell, you want to move more and eat fewer calories. Here are a few helpful hints to make this happen:

  • Adopt a “can do” attitude. Prediabetes is reversible and you can do it! Focus on the positives, like what you “can” eat, instead of what you “can’t.” Choose healthy high-fiber carbohydrates, such as whole grains such as 100 percent whole wheat bread, potatoes and corn. Eat small portions of fruit, such as berries and bananas. Go for the low-fat and fat-free yogurt and milk for the nutrient-packed carbs your body needs for bone-building strength and energy. The key is fitting in the right portion that matches your meal budget of calories and carbohydrates. Meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist to get a personalized plan to learn how many calories and carbohydrates you need to maintain a healthy weight and blood sugar.
  • Eat more for less. You can volumize your meals and snacks by including more “bulk” for fewer calories. For example, one cup of broccoli has only 50 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrates, and one cup of cooked rice contains more than 200 calories and 45 grams of carbohydrates. This does not mean skip the rice, but try to balance out your plate with more veggies and smaller portions of starches. Aim for a two to one ratio of veggies to starches. For example, two cups of broccoli and carrots to one cup of brown rice. For a snack, choose four cups of low-fat wholegrain popcorn with 100 calories in favor of 29 tiny M&M candies for the same number of “empty” calories.
  • Keep records and be accountable. Write down or log online what and when you eat and drink for at least a week, and use this information to set a few nutrition goals. Ask yourself, “Are my portions too large? Am I skipping meals, such as breakfast? Am I eating or drinking too many ‘extras’ like sweets or alcohol? Am I over-snacking? Am I eating most of my calories at the end of the day?” Make small tweaks to your existing habits, such as selecting a higher fiber cereal or adding an apple to your lunch. Keep on logging and learning about your eating habits. And remember, small changes can produce big rewards.
  • Forget fad diets. Diets abound, but they often lack important nutrients and do not stand the test of time. Most people can lose weight quickly when they dramatically reduce their calorie consumption by severely restricting food groups such as starches. Most of that is water weight and precious muscle and the weight reappears with a vengeance. This is not a diet, but a long-term lifestyle. The healthier choices you make now to reduce your risk of diabetes are the same ones you will wish to maintain across your lifetime. Avoid wasting time on a quick-fix diet that will fail you!

2. Prioritize physical activity. Slash your diabetes risk with regular exercise. One of the eight healthy steps to Get Cooperized™ is participating in moderate physical activity a collective 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Embark on a plan that includes physical activities you enjoy; that way you are more likely to stick with it daily. Pre-select which days and times of day fit your schedule and make it an appointment. When you are starting out, consider dividing the time into smaller, more manageable segments, such as ten minutes of walking three times a day, three times a week. Breaking it down has been shown to produce the same effective results as completing your physical activity all at on time. Just like other self-care habits, such as brushing your teeth and getting adequate sleep, prioritize exercise as part of your daily lifestyle. Aim to maintain this routine for at least six months, so it will become a part of your schedule.

3. Plan to eat more fiber rich plant foods. You do not have to become vegetarian to be healthy, but you can add in more fiber by eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Incorporating high-fiber foods in your diet helps you to lose weight and gain control of your blood sugars. Fiber boosts fullness which keeps you satisfied longer while eating fewer calories. Choose a variety of plant foods prepared in various ways. The average person needs 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily.

4. Select small amounts of healthy fats. A diet rich in healthy fats and oils (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and low in unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats) has been shown to lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Olive oil, peanut butter, nuts, seeds and avocados are all great choices. Do not forget the heart healthy omega-3 fats in fatty fish like salmon and plant sources of omega-3s in canola oil, ground flaxseed and walnuts. Use discretion when you portion out even the healthy fats. One serving of nuts is ¼ cup (a small handful), 1/8 of an avocado or one teaspoon of olive oil. Remember that all fats are calorie dense and can add up quickly.

5. Reduce your intake of simple sugars. White rice, white bread, white pasta and white potatoes rapidly convert to sugar in your body causing a sharp rise in your blood sugar. Other culprits include sugary soft drinks and fruit juices. Over time, consuming a lot of these refined carbohydrates and sugar may pack on the pounds, and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Prevention of diabetes is within your reach. Start out with a few simple steps to achieve a healthy weight and stay physically active. For more information on nutrition consultations, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDE, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Cooper Clinic.