Seven steps to manage your diabetes

Managing diabetes can feel very overwhelming – there are numerous medical appointments, check ups with allied health professionals like dietitian’s and many trips to the pharmacy. However, small and simple dietary and lifestyle changes can help control your blood sugar levels and make life easier.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 Diabetes?

While there are many factors that may impact the chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes (like age, gender, ethnicity, weight and diet and family medical history) Type 1 Diabetes is purely genetic. In a nutshell, a type 1 diabetic cannot make any insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) whereas a type 2 diabetic cannot make enough insulin to compensate for the high amount of blood sugar or blood glucose in their body.

Glucose directly comes from foods that contain carbohydrates like pasta, bread, rice, fruit and potatoes. When a person without type 2 diabetes eats a slice of bread, during digestion the carbohydrates break down into smaller glucose molecules. The pancreas then makes insulin and the glucose is either used for energy so we can move and breath or is stored in our muscles or liver for later use. However, for a person with type 2 diabetes, there is not enough insulin to allow glucose to enter the liver and muscles for storage (known as insulin resistance). As a result, too much glucose is left in the blood stream, hence “high blood glucose levels”.

Eating varied and nutritious foods and also exercising every day can help manage blood glucose levels.

Here are my seven steps to help you manage your Type 2 Diabetes;

1. Follow the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating for a healthy, balanced and varied eating pattern. Particularly ensure you eat 2 serves of fruit (a fresh piece of fruit, two small pieces like nectarines or plums or ½ a cup of no added sugar canned fruit) and 5 serves (1 cup salad vegetables, ½ cup cooked vegetables or ¼ a medium potato) of vegies every day.

2. Ensure you are eating wholesome and regular meals and snacks throughout the day especially if you are at high risk of hypoglycaemia. Talk with your General Practitioner and an Accredited Practising Dietitian to help prevent a ‘hypo’.

3. Portion control! Fill ½ of your lunch and dinner plate with a variety of colourful vegies, a ¼ of your plate with low GI carbohydrates like brown rice/ quinoa or freekah, wholemeal pasta or dark brown bread and the other ¼ with lean protein like skinless chicken, red meat, fish, legumes or eggs.

4. Choose low-fat cheese, milk and yoghurt as recommended by the National Heart Foundation.

5. Minimise the amount of total fat, (particularly saturated fat), and high sugar foods like biscuits, cakes, sugary drinks and chocolate everyday. Reducing the amount of takeaway foods can also help to reduce the amount of salt (sodium) in your diet.

6. Ensure you are drinking no more than 1–2 standard alcoholic drinks a day, if you choose to drink at all, and at least 2 alcohol-free days every week. Aim for 1.5–2L of water daily.

7. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day. You can go for a brisk walk around the block, take the stairs at work, join a gym class or do some gardening. Exercise can help clear glucose out of the bloodstream and into storage.

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