November is National Diabetes Month, and every year during this time communities across the United States team up to bring attention to the disease. Over their lifetimes, 40% of U.S. adults are expected to develop type 2 diabetes, a health condition associated with serious complications including chronic kidney disease, or CKD, a problem that can lead to kidney failure, as well as blindness, nerve damage, and other health problems if it’s not controlled.
While diabetes is a growing health concern in the country as the national level, it is a particularly urgent health problem within the Latinx community, where diabetes rates are nearly double that of non-Latinx whites. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic men and women — more than 50% — are more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes than non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks, adding that nearly half of Hispanic children born in the year 2000 are likely to develop diabetes at some point during their lives.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, being overweight; having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes; being older than age 45; having had diabetes when pregnant; and being Hispanic/Latino, Alaska Native, American Indian, African American, Asian American or Pacific Islander, are some of the risk factors for diabetes.
The department described common symptoms like being very thirsty and hungry, having dry, itchy skin, urinating often, losing weight without trying, and feeling very tired, but added that a person with diabetes may also have no symptoms at all.
Despite the statistics, the good news is that it’s never too late to make changes, improve eating habits and achieve better health. Fortunately, many cases of diabetes can be prevented by making the right choices during meal times; for those who are living with diabetes, nutrition is an essential part of managing blood sugar levels and staying healthy.
Mascha Davis, Board Certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, shared with BELatina some tips to help you incorporate smart eating habits into your lifestyle to keep yourself and your family healthy and vibrant:
You can make your meals nutritionally balanced whether you are eating at home or eating out by including the following elements:
- At least 1 cup of vegetables — and try to make some of them green!
- A small handful (about ½ cup) of whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa.
- A lean protein about the size of your palm — tofu, fish, and chicken are great options.
Considerations When Eating Out
With the busy schedules of the holiday season, cooking all your meals at home is not realistic for many families. Grabbing a balanced meal on the go is becoming easier with more fast-casual restaurants offering good options, like Panda Express. For example, ordering a serving of the super greens, a small serving of brown rice, and the kung pao chicken is one of the best options. This meal has plenty of vegetables, some complex carbs from the brown rice and filling protein from the chicken, plus, it’s delicious.
Swap Out Sweet Drinks for Water
Soda and even juice add a lot of unnecessary sugar to your day without filling you up. This means that your blood sugar levels will rise but you’ll still be hungry soon after. Diabetics, and people who are pre-diabetic, need to be especially careful of sweetened beverages. Choose water with all of your meals and make sure you are drinking it throughout the day as well to keep your body hydrated.
Choose the Smart Option
When eating out, choose the options that are marked as to lower in salt, calories or fat. Find a menu with selections that are flavorful, filling and healthier for you. Living a healthy lifestyle is about balance and choice — be mindful about your eating but never deprive yourself completely.
Bring snacks to school, work, and fun outings to curb hunger. Don’t wait until you are ravenous to eat — this can lead to poor choices, eating too fast, and overeating. Have a snack between your meals and you will find that you are able to make better choices at mealtime. Snacks can be as simple as a handful of nuts, trail mix, a piece of fruit, or carrots with dip.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Kids require anywhere from 9 to 13 hours (depending on their age) of sleep a night, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Adults need 7 to 8 hours. When you don’t get enough sleep, your blood sugar can increase, as can your hunger, causing you to overeat. Prioritize your precious sleep as much as possible, both for your blood sugar levels and for optimal overall health.
Remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment when it comes to type 2 diabetes; therefore, developing a healthy diet and including a physical activity like taking a walk around the block or riding a bike are keys to managing the disease.
For more resources and a complete list of meals, the American Diabetes Association(ADA) offers nutrition overviews, cookbooks, and more, to help you through this process. If diabetes is making you feel emotionally strained and completely overwhelmed, the ADA can help you find a mental healthcare provider to guide you through the emotional terrain around your disease.
Mascha Davis is a Los Angeles Registered Dietitian & Nutritionist, humanitarian, and founder of Nomadista Nutrition. She has over 10 years of nutritional science and public health experience. Davis focuses on weight management and disease prevention and management.