Jill Weisenberger MS, RDN, CDE, FAND (@nutritionjill) is an author and internationally-recognized nutrition and diabetes expert. Jill recently joined us for a Twitter chat on the subject of Diabetes Weight Loss. Here are some highlights from that chat:
Is it harder for people with diabetes to lose weight?
People with diabetes have extra challenges for weight loss, such as diabetes medications and the need to eat to handle low blood glucose.
Sometimes complications from diabetes affect the ability to exercise, too.
Many people with diabetes need extra help to lose weight, either through medications/insulin/managing low glucose levels, or with motivation and good planning!
Why is weight loss especially important for people with diabetes?
Weight loss decreases insulin resistance, lowers the risk of complications, and improves blood glucose management. Weight loss also improves sleep apnea, mobility, and can lower the need for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure medications.
Weight loss can also boost confidence and help people feel good about themselves, which motivates them for even better self-care.
Is there a best weight loss plan for people with diabetes?
There are many healthy, effective ways to loss weight. The best is one you like, that reduces calories, controls carbs, and that you will follow.
Consider a diet filled with fiber, low glycemic index fruit and vegetables. Focus on nutrient dense foods, high quality carbs, whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy products.
Any meal plan that focuses on whole foods, portion control, and slowly digested carbs can promote weight loss and glucose control.
One warning: many people mistake “sugar free” foods as ok for people with diabetes, but it is important to realize that often they are often junk food and should be avoided.
Are there foods that are especially good for people with diabetes who are trying to lose weight?
The best food plan is one you can stick with. And remember, it’s not really a diet, it’s a new, healthier lifestyle.
As much as you can, choose heart healthy foods like salmon, avocados, healthy fats, whole grains, fresh produce, lean proteins and Omega 3’s. Plant based protein is a great source of fiber and is very lean and low in calories. Beans have resistant starch, which is good for the blood.
Don’t forget fruits. Yes, they have carbs, but they are also full of cancer and heart disease fighters.
What are special precautions when changing eating habits?
When you change the way you eat, you may need to adjust your medications, especially your insulin. Fewer carbs means less glucose released from the liver and lower basal needs. Losing weight may make you more insulin sensitive and put you at risk for low blood sugar. So it is important to measure your blood glucose often to see the effects of food and exercise on weight loss.
Can I make comfort food diabetes smart?
There’s a saying about comfort foods: don’t deprive…portion size…. Most foods are okay if the portion is small enough. And now and then is okay, but not daily!
Even better is to adjust your comfort food recipes to make them healthier. Small changes can make a big difference. Use whole grain flour instead of white, and use healthy oils instead of butter. You can even use whole grain pasta for macaroni and cheese, and make creamy soups without cream by added pureed vegetable – which will add great flavor, too.
Healthy comfort foods are all about the choices. Focus on whole grains instead of white, and find suitable swaps that add flavor to your favorite foods.
Help! How do I tame the nighttime nibbles?
Eat healthy throughout the day and don’t skip meals. Make sure your dinner is filling by including healthy fats and fiber. Being well fed during the day will make it easier to resist nibbling at night.
If you have to, change your routine. Watch TV in a different room or do something different. Put up a sign that says “Kitchen is closed!”
How can I get more veggies into my diet?
Substantial salads are a great way to eat more vegetables. Try a pasta salad with tomatoes, peppers and broccoli. Smoothies are also great, especially if you’re on the go.
Consider using veggies in ways you don’t expect. Making lasagna? Use thinly sliced zucchini in place of lasagna noodles. Add cauliflower to mashed potatoes. Or diced mushrooms along with ground beef.
What is the Plate Method? Is it a good tool for meal planning?
The Plate Method is a simple, useful approach to healthier eating. “Divide” your plate into two halves down the middle, and then divide one of those halves. Fill the large ½ of your plate with vegetable, then fill 1/4 of the plate with starch, and 1/4 of the plate with protein. Add fruit, healthy fats and a low calorie drink.
The plate method is a great way to change the way you think about portions and balancing your meal.
Do food records help with blood glucose and weight management?
Good records help you understand your eating habits and what affects your blood sugar.
And even better, studies show that people who keep food records, lose as much as 40% more weight!
Diabetes changes over time, so working with a healthcare team is important.
Today there are lots of great smartphone tracking apps for diabetes and weight loss – find one that works best for you!