A DIAGNOSIS of diabetes in the family comes as a shock and sets in motion a range of emotional and practical lifestyle changes. How well you come together as a family to master those changes not only restores peace in the home, but also positively impacts on the ongoing well-being of your loved one with diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic, lifelong condition but, with good medical care and through education to empower more effective self-management of the condition, the potential complications can be prevented or delayed.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Understanding diabetes, its symptoms, treatment and lifestyle impacts is key for the whole family.
All people with diabetes should be offered a referral for individualised nutritional education provided by a registered dietitian with experience in diabetes management.
Registered dietitians are uniquely skilled in equipping people living with diabetes with the knowledge to better understand the impact of food choices on blood glucose levels and overall health, which can lead to improvements in quality of life.
A registered dietitian will take into account factors like culture, religion, age, other health conditions, medications, and your finances, food preferences and family dynamics which will influence the approach that will work best for you and your family.
Below you will find some practical tips to follow for families with a loved one with diabetes.
CHOOSE HEALTHIER CARBOHYDRATES
All carbohydrates tend to raise blood glucose levels, but some carbohydrate sources provide nutrients important for health. Focus on high fibre carbohydrate sources such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unsweetened dairy products and legumes such as chickpeas, beans, peas and lentils instead of refined carbohydrates with added sugar, fat and salt. From a blood glucose perspective, the portion size of these foods is critical.
EAT A RAINBOW OF VEGETABLES AND FRUIT
Vegetables, particularly non-starchy vegetables, contain much bulk relative to the amount of energy they provide.
They also contain phytonutrients or plant chemicals that play many vital roles in the body including behaving as antioxidants (repairing the body from daily damage) and stimulating a good immune system response.
Although fruits also contain these properties, they do contain natural sugars which can affect your blood glucose management, so, don’t eat fruit to excess.
SWOP OUT RED, FATTY AND PROCESSED MEAT WITH HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVES
Replace red, fatty and processed meat with protein-rich legumes such as beans and lentils, as well as eggs, fish and poultry.
CHOOSE HEART-HEALTHY FATS
Fats are an essential component of one’s daily food intake. But, the type and quality of the fats you consume is vital.
Eat foods rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids or anti-inflammatory fats found in naturally fatty-fleshed fish like mackerel, pilchards, sardines, salmon, trout, and herring at least twice a week.
Reduce your intake of saturated fats such as animal fats, coconut and palm kernel oils. Rather choose mono-unsaturated fats like olive or canola oils, avocado, olives, and nuts.
Remember that fats are a concentrated source of energy and should only be used in small amounts.
TREAT ANY NEW FOODS AS AN EXPERIMENT
Test your blood glucose before and after trying out something new to understand the effect of your food choices on blood glucose levels.