Diabetes: What Can I Eat? -- with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

WebMD Live Events Transcript; Event Date: Thursday, October 14, 2004

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Live Events Transcript

Fall is here, and for many people that means it's eating season, but there are so many diet restrictions! Take heart; our own special needs diet guru, Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, joined us on Oct. 14, 2004, to serve up recipe ideas and eating tips from her books, Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Diabetes and The Good News Eating Plan for Type II Diabetes.

If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Support for this University course is provided by Medical Mutual.

Elaine, I feel so angry about having this condition. I'm so resistant to change and refuse to adopt a new diet. Please help.

I understand the anger. I worked closely with my father, who had type 2 diabetes, for almost 20 years before he passed away. But if I could offer you some encouragement, the better you manage your diabetes, the better you will physically feel and the longer it will be until you have complications, if at all.

So there is a big payoff to understanding diabetes and managing it for yourself. If I could recommend my book: Tell Me What to Eat if I Have Diabetes. It's a quick read, and it really does not lecture you, but holds your hand and gently guides them through the information with understanding and compassion.

To give you a bottom line, though, today experts agree that the best way to manage type 2 diabetes and to protect against developing it is a healthy diet with:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (from fish and certain plant foods)
  • Plus regular physical activity

In the book there are 10 food steps to freedom and chapters on following those 10 steps in the kitchen, in the supermarket, in restaurants and fast food places. Plus a beginning section to answer your questions about the medical aspect of diabetes and the dietary end of it, as well.

Can you help me learn to control my incredible craving for sweets?

I have sweet cravings, too...for chocolate. My advice is to kind of roll with your craving instead of resisting it, but the key is to have a sample of the craved food, not to overeat it.

That's the part people have problems with. I've found, for people who don't have disordered eating, for example, that they really can give themselves a sample of a treat and be done with it. Fun size candy bars come in handy for this. Your goal is to be in a place where you can take a fun size Hershey's from the freezer and enjoy it piece by piece and then move on.

Once you tell yourself you can't have the treat, it generally only makes you want it more. Another key to keeping cravings at bay is to avoid being overly hungry. Also, avoiding caffeine helps some people. When they're in that sort of over stimulant caffeine rush, I've found some people end up craving things after that.

So, if you eat a healthy diet, eating when you're hungry, stopping when you're comfortable, mostly choosing healthy foods, whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans, lean meats, low fat dairy, there's no reason why someone with diabetes can't enjoy a reasonably-sized treat.

The key is to keep them reasonably-sized and not to overeat them, and it's best for people with diabetes to enjoy a treat or dessert along with part of a meal, so that the other healthy aspects of that meal, like fiber, and some healthy fats, can temper the effect the sugar may have on their blood sugars later.

The other key is to help compensate for the carbohydrate grams in a treat by decreasing the carbohydrate in the meal. For example, passing up the bread, knowing you're going to have some carbohydrate in your dessert a little later.

When eating a fruit should I also be eating a carbohydrate such as crackers or bread?

Generally, for people with diabetes, they find success in managing their blood sugars when they keep close track of their grams of carbohydrate, grams of fat, and grams of fiber eaten throughout the day.

The reason you're keeping track of fiber is because fiber helps your body manage the carbohydrate, so it's a good thing. And fat grams, because a reasonable amount of better fats also help your body manage carbohydrates from food. What you're trained to do is find the ideal combination in a particular meal that works for you personally in controlling your blood sugar.

So what you're trying to do is count the grams of carbohydrate from the fruit, like you would any food item that you're eating. Now there are certain fruits that have a higher glycemic index than others, but even still, they're really not too frightening at all.

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