Dietitians-Diabetes and nutrition

Your diabetes Dietitian is an important resource in the successful management of your condition. A Dietitian will help you keep your diabetes in control, can help lessen your dependence on diabetes medications, will help you manage your weight, and will aid you in meal planning and understanding the importance of making good food choices.

The Diabetes Dietitian

A diabetes Dietitian is a registered Dietitian who has specialized and trained in the field of diabetes. He or she consults with diabetic patients in the areas of food intake and blood sugar or glucose control. The Dietitian can help the patient determine if current medications are working correctly and devise meal plans based on these medications. The Dietitian will also aid the patient in managing hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

A great many diabetics visit with a diabetes Dietitian only once, if at all. This does not allow the Dietitian enough time to develop an effective management plan for the patient.[1]  If you have been diagnosed as a type1 diabetic, a type 2 diabetic, a gestational diabetic, or a pre-diabetic, you are advised to have a diabetic Dietitian on your professional health care management team. You should meet regularly with your Dietitian because long term counseling will help you stay on track in terms of following a diet that assists with the control of diabetes.

Help From Your Dietitian

A diabetic Dietitian will help you manage your disease in a variety of ways. During your first meeting, you will discuss your medical history and the progress of your disease. He or she will help you with meal planning and important issues in the management of your diabetes.

Meal Plans: During your initial meeting with your diabetes Dietitian you will discuss your lifestyle and eating habits. You can tell the Dietitian your favorite foods. You will be asked how much you exercise and how often you eat. It is a good idea to keep a journal for a week or two before your first meeting, noting what you eat, when you eat, and how much you exercise. This will assist the Dietitian in planning your meals.[2]

The goal of your meal plans will be to manage your blood glucose levels while ensuring you get the proper nutrition.

Blood Sugar: The meal plans designed by your diabetes Dietitian will be aimed at helping you avoid spikes in your blood sugar levels. You may find yourself eating smaller, more frequent meals to keep your blood sugar at a manageable level. Portion size will play a big part in maintaining your levels. Plus, your Dietitian will teach you how to ‘snack healthy’ and what to eat when you do have sudden spikes and dips in your blood sugar.

Counting Carbs: As a vital part of your meal planning, you will learn to count carbohydrates. This includes knowing good carbs from bad carbs. Remember, carbs break down in your body and become sugar and can be a real problem as you try to manage your condition.

One way your Dietitian may you in your efforts to manage carbs is by teaching you how to interpret the glycemic index. This index is a method used by many diabetics to manage carbs during meal times. It assigns numbers to carbohydrates ranging from high to low. Diabetics should consume lower carb foods to maintain a steady blood sugar level.[3] By knowing which carbs to eat you can successfully plan your meals.

Weight Loss: Your diabetes Dietitian will also help you with weight loss. Weight is a huge factor for many diabetics; once the weight comes down, diabetes symptoms often become more manageable.

Learning to manage your weight is closely tied to your food intake and your meal planning. Your diabetes Dietitian will teach you that what you eat – the calories you ingest – is related to the energy you put out each day. He or she will help you develop an exercise plan that matches your meal plan. This combined plan will ensure that you burn the right amount of calories each day to begin to lose weight or maintain optimal weight.

You will meet continually with your diabetes Dietitian. He or she will teach you how to monitor your progress and will encourage you on your journey. As your body begins to respond positively to your new meal plan and exercise program, it will be necessary to make additional changes to keep progressing. Your Dietitian will work with your doctors to ensure you are getting the best advice on management of your disease.

References

[1]  Diabetes education and knowledge in patients with type 2 diabetes from the community: the Fremantle Diabetes Study. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institutes of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12614974

[2]  How to Eat Well. (n.d.). Retrieved from Vermont Department of Health: http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/diabetes/eat_well.aspx

[3]  Nutritional Management in Children and Adolescents with Diabetes. (n.d.). Retrieved from Pediatric Diabetes: http://www.ispad.org/FileCenter/ISPAD%20Guidelines%202009%20-%20Nutrition.pdf

This article was originally published July 12, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/10/2015.