Four ways to make managing diabetes easier

GEHA | March 14, 2022

Diabetes Everyday health Nutrition
Managing a life with diabetes doesn’t have to be difficult.

Whether you have been recently diagnosed as prediabetic, have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, the key is to keep your blood sugar in your target range as much as possible. One way to do that is to eat proper serving sizes of healthy foods at the right time. Your doctor will work with you to develop a healthy eating plan, but here are four ways to get started on your own.

Meal planning

A good meal plan: outline when, what and how much to eat to provide nutrition and maintain target blood sugar levels. When putting together a meal plan, try to:

  • Include non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and legumes.
  • Stay away from added sugars and refined grains, such as white bread, rice and pasta.
  • Use fewer processed foods and more whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, non-salted nuts and seeds and grains.

Grocery shopping

It can be easy to get distracted and overwhelmed at the grocery store. Follow these tips to set yourself up for success:

  • Before you go in the store, plan a week’s worth of meals.
  • Make a shopping list based on this meal plan and organize it by your store’s sections for easier shopping and less impulse buying.
  • Don’t forget to check what ingredients you have at home, so you don’t buy unnecessary items.
  • Investigate foods that claim to be “low fat” or “reduced sugar” — they still may not be healthy. Read the nutrition facts on the packaging to get the real story. (See the next section for more on this.)
  • The oldest rule for grocery shopping is still a good one: Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach.

Food labels

The nutrition facts label lists the number of calories, carbs, fat, fiber, protein and vitamins the food item contains per serving size. It is important to compare the nutrition facts of different brands of similar items because the nutrition information can be quite different. Overall, you want to eat foods high in vitamins, calcium, iron and fiber. Eat fewer foods high in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium. Stay away from trans fat, as it increases your risk of heart disease. Remember, the percentage daily value of each item is based on eating 2,000 calories a day. You may eat more or less than this, depending on age, gender, activity level and current weight.

Carb counting

Monitoring the number of carbs in all meals, snacks and drinks can help match your activity level and medicines to what you eat. For people with diabetes, carb counting can help you stay healthy longer, improve your quality of life and prevent or delay complications from diabetes, such as kidney, eye or heart disease and stroke. This is because the digestive system turns carbs into sugar, which then enters the blood stream.

Carbs are measured in grams and may be found on the nutrition facts label. Because everyone’s body is different, there is no set number of carbs you should eat daily, but people with diabetes should aim to get about half of each day’s calories from carbs.

Ready to learn more about diabetes management? GEHA medical plan members are eligible for 10 hours of education from certified diabetes educators.

If you suspect you — or a loved one — may be at risk for diabetes, visit your doctor and discuss taking an A1C blood test. This simple blood test provides a view of your average blood sugar levels over the past few months. Using this data, doctors can determine prediabetes, which increases the risk of developing diabetes. Doctors can also use A1C results to diagnose diabetes or discover how well your diabetes plan is working.

If you haven’t established a primary care physician, GEHA has tips for finding the right primary care physician. You can also search for an in-network physician near you.

Additional resources for managing diabetes are available on the GEHA blog.


Sources:
“Eat Well.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 August, 2021.
“Diabetes Meal Planning.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 March, 2021.
“What Are Whole Foods?” naturalbalancefoods.co.uk, Natural Balance Foods.
“Grocery Shopping.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 August, 2021.
“Food Labels.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 April, 2021.
“Know Your Risk for Heart Disease.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 December, 2019.
“Carb Counting.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 August, 2021.
“Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar.” hsph.harvard.edu, Harvard School of Public Health.

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