Extension Agent: Be part of the solution, not the problem
Today, diabetes is a fact of life for millions of Americans. According to the American Diabetes Association, almost 26 million Americans were living with diabetes as of January 2011. Also, Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases.
The incidence of Type 2 diabetes is particularly elevated within high-risk populations, including Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans and Asians.
Type 2 diabetes results from the body's ineffective use of insulin and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring more frequently in children.
Those who have Type 2 diabetes can do a lot to improve their health by controlling their blood glucose levels through good nutrition and regular physical activity.
People with diabetes do not necessarily have to follow complicated meal plans or eat special foods. All they need to do is eat healthfully by making better food choices. Whether they are using the diabetes healthy plate method, carbohydrate counting or choosing foods using the diabetes exchange list, people with diabetes should let their meal plan guide their food choices.
The healthy plate method is a way for diabetics to monitor carbohydrate intake and control portion sizes. To use this method, visually divide a 9-inch diameter plate in half. One of these halves should contain two servings of vegetables that are not starchy such as green beans or salad vegetables.
Divide the other half of the plate in two - one is for a serving of grain or starch; the other side is for a serving of protein. In addition to the food on the plate, one serving of a fat-free or low-fat dairy product can be added.
Diabetics should choose sensible meals low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. Sugar, salt and alcohol intake should be limited. Timing and sizes of meals and snacks should be as consistent as possible in order to help the body utilize carbohydrates properly. Skipping meals is discouraged, as it can lead to overeating at the next meal.
Planning healthy meals may seem like a difficult task, but it is not impossible. Information from the American Diabetes Association is available by visiting diabetes.org (click on "Food & Fitness").
Adopting good eating habits and exercising regularly will put everyone on the road to staying healthy, whether they have diabetes or not.
For more information about living with diabetes, attend the Crossroads Diabetes Expo on Nov. 9 from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Victoria College Student Center. There will be health screenings, educational sessions and information booths as well a luncheon with motivational speaker Nate Lytle and a question and answer session with a panel of experts.
To register, please contact Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 361-575-4581. Pre-registration by Oct. 25 is $3; cost at the door is $5 - see you there.
Source: news release written by Mickey K. Bielamowicz, PhD, RD, LD. Extension Nutrition Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System, February 2008.
Erika Bochat is a Victoria County extension agent- Family and Consumer Sciences.