Quick Tips to Control Your Diabetes and Lower Your Blood Sugar
Karla Robinson, MD
Are you having trouble managing your blood sugars or finding a dietary regimen that works for you?
Here are just a few tips that may improve your blood sugars quickly:
1) Eat, Eat, Eat! Ok, there is one stipulation…. you have to eat the RIGHT things. We will discuss what the “right” things are, but you HAVE to keep your body nourished with nutrients it can use. Many diabetics are told to lose weight in an effort to control their symptoms. This is actually great advice, but most are then left to figure out how to do it on their own. The first thought is generally “I just won’t eat as much.” This may or may not be the problem. Perhaps the food choices just aren’t the best ones, and there isn’t an “overeating” problem at all.
The thought that you can lose weight by depriving yourself of food is generally a faulty one. If you don’t eat enough throughout the day, you can actually hinder weight loss. Yes, you have to EAT to lose weight. I know it seems counterintuitive, but if your body is deprived of food, it will go into a “starvation” mode and begin holding on to every calorie it receives and storing it away as fat to be used in case of another starvation episode. We are intricately designed to survive! The take-home point here is to eat several small meals throughout the day to keep your body metabolism high.
Ok, so what do I eat?
The main culprit in blood sugar spikes after meals is the carbohydrate we consume. Carbohydrates are the nutrients used by our bodies to make glucose- the fuel for our bodies. As diabetics, that glucose is not utilized correctly and remains at high levels circulating in the blood. Just about everything is broken down into glucose eventually. For diabetics, the key is to keep carbohydrates to a minimum.
Some argue no more than 45 grams of carbohydrates per meal. Consult with your physician and nutritionist to determine a goal that is appropriate for you.
2) Read your labels. There are so many hidden calories and sugars in foods that we have no idea we are consuming. You have to be aware and read every label on everything you eat. If you are one who dines out a lot, ask for the nutritional values of each of the dishes.
The most important value to look at as a diabetic is the Total Carbohydrate (Carb) content. Remember this is written per serving. Make sure you know just how many servings you are having to know the correct amount of carbs. Each label will state the serving size for that particular food item. It does vary!
You might be surprised to find out that the “healthy salad” you ordered is laden with sugar in the salad dressing, “candied” walnuts, and the “sweet bread” croutons. Some salads with the dressings can be more than 60 grams of carbohydrates! It can’t be stressed enough, know what you are eating!
3) Know YOUR carbohydrate tolerance. Just because your diabetic friend can eat a slice of pie without having a spike in blood sugars, doesn’t mean that you can. Know your body. This only comes from reading labels and checking your blood sugar regularly. If you know that you have had a meal with 60 grams of carbohydrates, and your blood sugar takes more than two hours to recover to the target range, then you need to lower your carbohydrate load per meal.
GOAL: Blood sugars two hours after meals should be less than 140mg/dl!
4) Everything “sugar-free” is NOT sugar free! There are hidden carbs in many items labeled as “sugar-free” or sweetened with artificial sweetener”. Some big offenders are diet sodas, “sugar-free candy”, and even some “sugar-free” syrups. These can have up to 10-15 grams of carbohydrate per serving!! Read the nutrition labels for the total carbohydrate content, even if it is “sugar-free”.
5) Never exercise without eating something first. You often hear that exercise makes your blood sugar lower. This is so true, but if you have fasted overnight while sleeping and attempt to exercise prior to eating breakfast, this can actually make your blood sugar high! The body needs energy in the form of glucose to sustain you while exercising. If you haven’t eaten to provide that glucose, then your body will go into a process of producing its own, causing the glucose levels to rise in the blood stream. Always have at least a snack prior to exerting yourself, and always check your blood sugar.
6) Avoid the quick sugar burst from foods that are “healthy”. Fresh fruits sound like a great snack option. They are healthy, right? Yes, but as a diabetic there are some to avoid and some that fit well in the meal plan. Discover the fruits that are lower in carbs like apricots, blackberries, cranberries, prunes, and strawberries and avoid the ones that wreak havoc on your blood sugar like mangoes, raisins, pears, cantaloupes, watermelons, and cherries.
7) Never eat cold cereal with milk. Seems harmless, right? There’s something about the combination of milk and decorative sugar balls disguised as cereal that just doesn’t mix. Choose warm cereals instead, like plain oatmeal or grits.
All bread was NOT created equal…even if it’s wheat bread. Some of these loaves are packed with honey or high fructose corn syrup and can be almost 30 grams of carbohydrate per slice! Read your labels!! Stick to the bread that is 10 grams of carbs or less per slice and you can certainly enjoy a sandwich for a meal with less impact on your blood sugar.
9) Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. I know it sounds cliché, but doing some form of aerobic exercise for 45 minutes at least 4-5 times per week, can change your life. Not only does it help with weight control and improved glucose utilization, but it also helps you feel better. You will notice improved endurance, better sleep, and better performance.
*Prior to starting a new exercise routine, please consult with your physician first.