Holidays…You Can Maintain!

Fall is a wonderful time of year…the weather is cooling down, leaves transform into gorgeous colors and those wonderful spices and smells of the season are coming from the kitchen. This season can be beneficial for our health such as when we enjoy harvests from our garden or delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables.

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On the other hand, this time of year can be the start of a growing waistline. Temptation seems to find us easier than ever. For most, a little extra willpower is needed to keep a healthy outlook around the holidays.

Halloween appears to mark the beginning of the ‘holiday season’. This means extra baked goods sitting around the office, aisles of temptation at the grocery store and invitations to festive get-togethers. Changing weather outdoors may also mean mixing up the exercise routine.

Weight management can become more difficult during this last quarter of the year. What can you do? Well, it becomes even more necessary to set goals. Plan ahead, and maybe even write down why improving your health through weight loss is important to you. Small steps can help:

1. Use 1 day to plan meals for the entire week and complete your grocery shopping.

2. Take advantage of that Crock-Pot so that a warm, healthy meal is waiting for you when you get home from a long day.

3. Try to keep meals regular to control your appetite so that goodies around the office are less tempting.

img_2225If pumpkin spice flavored everything or miniature candy bars have become a part of your routine…remember that tomorrow is a new day. Wake up with a new outlook, and set a small goal to work on over the coming weeks.

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Where does my diabetes fit?

No one is expecting you to drop everything in your life and devote every waking moment to poking your finger, recording blood sugars, counting carbs and attending medical appointments. It may sound this way when you start hearing all of the new tasks that people say you MUST do in order to get on the healthy bandwagon – but trust the guidance of your healthcare team or diabetes educator on this one. While the overall goal is good blood sugar control to better your health, there are many different approaches within the treatments for type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

You must take care of you first – emotional health is extremely important. This diagnosis can be a lot to take in. It cannot be tucked away into a drawer and only pulled out for special occasions. You live with the diagnosis of type 1 or type 2 diabetes for the rest of your life. It is important that you feel comfortable talking about your feelings and asking questions about your care.

Take a deep breath….and take this diagnosis one step at a time.

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You will learn how to fit everything that needs to be done into your life. It may not happen on day one, but you will get there. With this, you also cannot learn everything you need to know overnight. Ask your healthcare provider to be referred to diabetes education if you have never been. If you have previously attended, ask for a new referral for a little refresher. There is always something new to learn. Each person’s care is individualized – what works for your neighbor, sibling or coworker may not work for you. Also, keep in mind that diabetes is a progressive disease which continues to cause changes year after year in your body. Because of this, what worked for you 2 years or 6 months ago may not be working for you today. This is not meant to cause you distress. Remember, knowledge is power!

We know that family, friends and work are not going to stop for a diagnosis. Life must go on! You will learn to become more comfortable with testing your blood sugars in public so that you can still eat a nice dinner out. Smart meals can be packed “to go” so that work meetings or weekend soccer games do not throw a kink into your routine. Holiday meals will become easier and more enjoyable with your family once you feel comfortable talking with them about your diagnosis and what it means to you to eat healthy, controlled portions.

Find a routine that works for you and also works to control your blood sugars!

Crunchy Water…No More!

Salads…are they always the right choice when trying to eat healthy? The answer may surprise you – NO! The iceberg lettuce, romaine, spinach, kale or whichever green, leafy veggie you choose to start your salad with is not what impacts your waistline.  Several restaurant salads are coming packing the punch with toppings – tortilla strips, corn salsa, dried fruit, nuts, creamy dressing, etc. Many of these items can fit very well into a healthy diet – we just do not need to eat them all in one sitting on top of a salad that may tip the scales at around 700-1000 calories.

Today I sat down for lunch at nearby restaurant and was pleasantly surprised to find a leafy green starter salad on the menu. Slight concern was raised when I read ‘glazed walnuts’ as one of the toppings, but I gave it a shot. (Just a note…’glazed’ and ‘candied’ usually translate into more calories.) When my waiter delivered this salad to my table, a smile came across my face. There was not excess dressing weighing down the field greens nor piles of cheese, and the sweetened nuts were used very sparingly – just enough to give this salad a pop of flavor. So much for just crunchy water!

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I thought to myself as I enjoyed this wonderful dish…if I added a grilled chicken breast or salmon to this salad, I would have myself a nice little meal. As not all restaurants post their nutrition information, let’s break this salad down with similar ingredients for you to make at home:

3-4 cups leafy greens (the darker, the better)

1 – 4oz grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast sliced or cut into cubes

1 oz crumbled goat cheese

2 tbsp chopped, glazed walnuts (please substitute plain if you prefer)

2-3 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Nutrition Facts: 465 calories, 27 gm fat*, 728 mg sodium**, 18 gm carbohydrate and 35 gm protein.

*Remember that these fat grams are coming mostly from healthy, unsaturated sources.

**For a lower sodium option, consider making a homemade vinaigrette – bottled salad dressings tend to be higher in sodium.

Turning the Ship

It has been over 6 months since I last shared any bits of education. I could rattle off a million and one excuses as to why this is…let’s just say that life has needed living.

I am attending a conference to brush up on the disease process of diabetes along with treatment methods this week. My attendance here, around a group of peers, worked to spark a little inspiration and triggered energy to begin writing once again.

Interestingly enough, a topic discussed today covered emotional health along with achieving behavior change in patients. Being diagnosed and living with diabetes can take an emotional toll on an individual and surrounding family. It is my goal with all patients to help put their fears at ease through providing education and helping them achieve positive change in their lives.

During the lecture today, I noticed myself doing a little self-reflection. Behavior change is hard and does not happen overnight. I cannot say that I walk in the shoes of those of you who have been diagnosed with diabetes, but change in anyone’s life is difficult. Changes concerning health, physical activity and healthy eating tend to be even harder to work at. Just as I have put off writing about diabetes, which I have a true passion for, exercise and eating right have not been at the forefront of my life lately either.

So, just as my patients tell me every excuse under the sun for why they did not get their walking in or why an extra dessert snuck onto their plate during the week – it seems as though my excuses for not sharing education or eating all 5 servings of my fruits and vegetables daily were starting to add up.

Now then…

If you are currently experiencing a difficult time with either treating your diabetes or another chronic health condition, let’s start to turn the ship around and make some change. Positive change through goal achievement leads to improved emotional health – it is empowering.

Even though fall is here, it is time to stop letting all of those excuses pile up like the falling leaves….

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Set a small goal, make a plan and get out there to start working on it!

Walk This Way…

“Increase your physical activity”…This is a line that most individuals have read about or heard as advice from their primary care provider. For some, this is easier said than done. People have several questions – How much is enough? Do I need to ask my doctor first? Do I have to do 30 minutes all at one time? What can I do to get started?

Several of these questions can be answered by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). They provide great advice on starting a walking program. Included are questions that you can ask yourself to determine whether or not you need to ask your primary care provider before starting exercise.

A walking program can provide several benefits. Most individuals can participate as the expense is low – have a good pair of supportive shoes. It also allows some socialization – grab a buddy to start getting some activity in along with you.

Below is an example from NIDDK of how to start building up your total minutes of exercise each week. It is important to start slow at about 10 minutes per day if you are beginning a new exercise program. Remember to always include a warm-up and cool down where stretching should occur.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 8.04.01 AMWhen will you start your walking program?

Bringing Attention

I have been absent from writing articles lately as many tasks at work and at home have wiggled their way to the top of the priority list. I figured that today was as good of day as any to get back into the swing of things.

Most importantly…today, March 22, is Diabetes Alert Day! Millions of Americans have prediabetes.

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What does this mean? These individuals have sugars that are running higher than normal but not yet in the range to diagnose them with diabetes.

Why is this important? People who have prediabetes are at a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Higher than normal blood sugars can also increase your risk for heart disease.

So, what can you do? A few simple changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference! A dietary change such as making half of your plate at meals non-starchy vegetables can help to control carbohydrate intake.  Starting low and slow with some physical activity can help to lower your blood sugar after meals.

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Find out if you are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Heart Month

February is the month of red…Valentine’s Day has passed, but it is still American Heart Month.

Monitoring your heart health is very important if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. In order to keep your heart healthy, two recommendations often made that impact your diet are to control your blood pressure and maintain healthy cholesterol numbers.

Keeping your cholesterol numbers within a healthy range can help with the prevention of developing heart disease. A dietary strategy to help control cholesterol is reducing your intake of saturated fats. When reading food labels, a good number to keep in mind is 3 grams – choose foods with 3 grams of saturated fat or less per serving.

To control your blood pressure through dietary measures, cutting down on the sodium in meals can help. Once diagnosed with diabetes, it is recommended to eat less than 2300 mg of sodium, or approximately 1 teaspoon of salt, per day. The American Heart Association encourages an even lower sodium intake of less than 1500 mg per day to maximize heart health.

Read more tips from the American Heart Association, and consider taking their pledge to reduce your sodium intake.

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Keep your heart healthy!