Diabetics need to eat right, especially around holidays

  • Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2013 5:47 p.m.
Staff Photo by Stephanie Turner
Theresa Feiner teaches the importance of nutrition.
Staff Photo by Stephanie Turner Theresa Feiner teaches the importance of nutrition.

The season of tricks and treats has arrived.

While some avoid the holiday’s delectable delights to avoid weight gain, others must try to avoid them for another reason – their health could count on it.

Diabetics are often marked by their high blood glucose levels, according to the American Diabetes Association. This means they must take steps to regulate those levels.

One way is regulating the food they eat, according to Theresa Feiner, diabetes educator and health coach.

“Food can affect diabetes,” she said. “It can improve symptoms, (or it) can affect the onset of diabetes.”

This is why eating a balanced diet could decrease your chances for developing the illness, Feiner said.

“Eating healthy is one of the most important things you can do to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” according to the American Diabetes Association.

Type 2 or Type 1 diabetes can be caused when your body doesn’t make enough insulin. This hormone is needed to convert glucose, starches and other food into energy. Glucose is the basic fuel for your body’s cells.

To avoid spiking their blood glucose levels, doctors used to tell diabetic patients to just avoid sugar. However, research has shown it’s more the amount than the type of carbohydrate that affects one’s blood glucose levels.

“We are not just talking about just cookies or just a soda,” Feiner said. “We are talking about a piece of bread or rice or potatoes or any of those carbohydrates. Most vegetables have some type of carbohydrate value, but potatoes and white things like rice have a higher blood sugar value, so they are going to increase your blood sugar more.”

Therefore, the solution lies with moderating your food intake, Feiner said.

“Eat a good meal, then have a piece of dessert,” Feiner said. “I would tell that to everybody.”

Around the treats of the holidays, this is one strategy diabetics can take.

More than 15 million people had diabetes in the United States in 2010. Around 200,000 of them were under the age of 20.

One of the biggest candy-eating feasts for children is less than four weeks away.

“It’s best to save sweets and desserts for special occasions so you don’t miss out on the more nutritious foods your body needs,” according to the American Diabetes Association.

For example, the candy consumed the night of Halloween can be a child’s dessert, Feiner said. Just keep in mind to have a good meal beforehand, and keep the candy portion down to a reasonable amount

If you accumulate a lot, you can also save or share the remains.

However, there are alternate activities to the candy hunting. Stay in, and watch movies or do crafts. Get dressed up, and walk around the neighborhood or go to a place hosting a Halloween-themed event.

Encourage your neighbors to put out healthier options than candy. Feiner, for example, puts out apples and carrots every year. People can pass out portioned amounts of food like pretzels or Goldfish.

Not putting food out at all is another suggestion that can be made. Families could give out Halloween-themed stickers, pencils or activity books, suggested Nancy Goslen, diabetes educator with Aiken Regional Medical Centers’ Diabetes and Nutrition Teaching Center.

The sweets – and problems – don’t stop that night. Cakes, pies, more candy and more treats tend to follow as the holiday season carries on.

One recommendation is, when you have a lot of choices, pick one dessert and eat only that one dessert.

“Have a small portion of it, (and) count it in your meal,” Goslen said.

Try to go to outings with your family and/or close friends, Feiner said. Having this nearby support can help you maintain your sweet tooth so you can enjoy your night.

Bring something you know you enjoy and can eat, Goslen said. This way you won’t be as tempted by all the other choices.

Diabetics who don’t maintain their sugar intake can get sick, Goslen said.

“(The holidays) are the hardest time for year for diabetics,” she said.

Some things diabetics can suffer from are blurry vision, slow healing cuts, extreme fatigue or extreme thirsty or hunger. Diabetes can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, blindness or kidney failure.

In addition to watching your food intake, diabetes can be treated with medicine and exercise.

Every case is different, therefore patients must be looked at case by case, Goslen said.

On Oct. 31 at 6 p.m., Feiner will be at Noble Breads and Grocer for her Skeletons in Your Cupboard and Treats for Diabetics and Low Carb Eaters seminar.

For more information, call the store at 803-642-8898.

For more information on diabetes or maintaining a healthy lifestyle, visit www.finernutrition.com, www.aikenregional.com/hospital-services/diabetes-care or www.diabetes.org.

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