Expert Hope Warshaw Gives Advice on What to Eat if You Have Diabetes

You don't have to prepare your own food separately from the rest of the family's, says Hope Warshaw, RD.
Hope Warshaw, RD, is a nationally recognized diabetes nutrition expert with 25 years' experience. She communicates practical solutions to individuals through counseling, and to millions through media channels and her best-selling books, including Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy.

Q: Do I need to pay attention to the sugars on the nutrition facts label?

A: No. Pay attention to the total carbohydrates. The sugars content includes the amount of added and natural sugar in a serving. The amount of sugars are included within the total carbohydrate count, which is the key piece of information you need for planning meals and snacks. It's also important to pay attention to the serving size. Today's serving sizes are standardized by food-labeling regulations.

Q: What should my blood glucose, blood lipid, and blood pressure numbers be? And what should I do if my numbers aren't within the target ranges?

A: People with diabetes should learn and stay aware of their diabetes ABCs.
  • A is for A1C. A1C is an indicator of average blood glucose control over the preceding six to eight weeks. A1C considers all the ups and downs of blood glucose levels during this time. The American Diabetes Association [ADA] recommends that your A1C be less than 7%. The ADA also recommends that fasting or premeal blood glucose should be between 70 and 130 mg/dL, while one to two hours after the start of a meal it should be no more than 180 mg/dL.
  • B is for blood pressure, which should be at or below 130/80. If your blood pressure is higher than this, you should discuss ways to reduce it with your health-care provider.
  • C is for blood cholesterol and LDL, lousy cholesterol, an important number for heart health. LDL should be at or lower than 100 mg/dL. HDL, healthy cholesterol, should be above 40 mg/dL for men and more than 50 mg/dL for women, and triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL for both men and women.
If any of your numbers don't meet these target guidelines, talk to your health-care provider about lifestyle changes you can make to improve them. He or she may also suggest that you take medications to help control your blood glucose levels, reduce your blood pressure, or improve your blood lipid levels.

Q: How should I get started making changes in my eating habits to start losing weight and eating more healthfully?

A: Start slowly. Don't think of these changes as a temporary "diet"; instead, think about how you can improve your eating and activity habits for the rest of your life. Give yourself plenty of pats on the back when things go well, and be easy on yourself when they don't. Start with specific, measurable goals and short time frames. Two examples: Two days a week, for the next two months, I will eat a healthy breakfast such as a whole-wheat English muffin with low-sugar jelly and a small banana, or half a whole-wheat bagel with low- or no-fat cream cheese and an orange or half a grapefruit. At least three days a week, I will take a 20-minute walk after lunch.

Set one to three goals at a time. Work on these. If you achieve them, set a few more; if you don't, see if you can make the goals easier or find others that will be simpler for you to achieve. Once you accomplish a goal, make it a permanent part of your lifestyle. Keep in mind that success breeds success.

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Last Updated: April 17, 2008

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