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Nov 20, 2014

Healthy Living Looks at Dieting for Diabetics

One of the most common misconceptions about diabetes is that it is caused by eating too much sugary foods. The truth is that it isn’t easy to predict who will be born with diabetes or who will develop it as they grow. It is known though that a lack of exercise, poor nutrition and consuming high calorie meals can lead to becoming overweight which can lead to diabetes.  This is why in this year’s celebration of World Diabetes the day the focus was on healthy eating. Tonight on Healthy Living, I sit down with the Ministry of Health’s Nutritionist to find out what you should be eating if you’re diabetic.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
A diagnosis of Type Two diabetes means several important changes for an individual. In addition to knowing the weaknesses of their body; diabetics are taught that a lifestyle change must be imminent. The greatest challenge for man is learning to eat healthy.


Robyn Daly, Nutritionist, Ministry of Health

Robyn Daly

“People don’t want to eat healthy; they don’t want to stop eating the foods they love.”


And, if you are faithful to Belizean cuisine, then the change could be considered major; most important to note is that – unlike the common misconception – sugar is not a diabetic’s nemesis.


Robyn Daly

“The first change is normally trying to reduce carbohydrate, sugary foods and also fats; those are the two main changes we need to advice on. That is the first step that we normally try to reduce. Many persons would believe that okay; I’m diabetic so no sugars, no carbohydrates and nothing like that. But in reality, you still can and you need to have some type of carbohydrate foods and staples in your diet, but it’s the amounts, the portions and the types that you’ll have. If you’re going to manage your meal plan correctly on Sunday you can have a small treat; a small treat. So that would normally say well I don’t have to cut it out completely. So they will try to stick to the plan a little bit better so that they can have what I call little treat days.”


Meal planning and substituting favorite food items is still not an easy sell. One of the critical areas to address is usually the liquid calories we put into our body. Some fruit juices are better left in fruit form and soft drinks – well Robyn suggests to save it only for extra special occasions.


Robyn Daly

“Drinks are normally very important point to touch for diabetics because it is in liquid form so it gets absorbed into the blood stream very quickly. So like that for example let’s look at watermelon, which is a high glycemic index food and it raises your sugar very quickly. Having a full glass—maybe an eight ounce or ten ounce glass of watermelon juice—could raise your blood sugar very fast versus having just the fruit and water. So especially if it has added sugar to it. So when we tell diabetics to have fruit juices, we have to make sure we advising on which type. So watermelon wouldn’t be a very good option to recommend for diabetics. We would say definitely have the fruit and water. It has a lot of sugar in it. We’re looking at like thirty-six to maybe forty-two grams in soda or soft drink. That’s a lot. There are two servings in one of those bottles. So a diabetic should never sit down and drink an entire bottle of coke. I mean it is not advisable because of the amount of sugar that you are getting. Imagine forty grams of sugar and you are multiplying that by two because you are drinking the whole bottle. You are looking at eighty grams for just one drink and then you are taking into your consideration your meal in addition to that. The diet version is a little bit better. There is no nutrients in soft drinks period so we need to make that point. It’s a real empty calorie food; it provides absolutely no nutrients but sugar. And if you are diabetic, you are watching your sugar anyways. So the diet has in artificial sugars: like Splenda, Equal; things like that. But those artificial sugars are better for diabetics to have but because it doesn’t provide much nutrients, we still need to make sure that we don’t make a habit of having the everyday.”


If you just can’t stomach water with your meal, fruit juices like papaya, apple and pineapple are recommended. Don’t add any extra sugar though and don’t drink more than two cups per meal. Portioning foods is another very critical lesson to learn.


Robyn Daly

“The most important point for portions for diabetics is the carbohydrates – naturally because that can affect your sugar level immediately. We look at how much rice will I have for one meal. Should I be having rice? What do I have that with. Since that is one of the common meals, we are going to look at minimum, depending on your calorie level, you would have half cup to cup. Meats should be about four ounces and it shouldn’t be anything oily, greasy, fatty because again we are looking at having balanced potions and healthy options. So our meat should most of the times be baked, grilled, steamed…roasted.”


Since the portions will be an adjustment – especially if you’re a big rice-eater, then fill the rest of your plates with vegetables. Another sneaky ingredient, diabetics should be mindful of is salt.


Robyn Daly

“Diabetics are at risk for cardio-vascular and heart disease naturally. Also they are at risk for high blood pressure. So they need to be monitoring fat and sodium content. Many times people don’t realize this, but it is true. You always see diabetics having high blood pressure as a side effect or sometimes for just being at risk for it.”


This year’s theme for World Diabetes day focused on just Healthy Eating for breakfast.


Robyn Daly

“We have to make sure we have a good breakfast; we are taking in foods that can jumpstart our metabolism, can jumpstart our day. So those are the reasons why we will have our high-fiber foods, les fats in the morning time….more fruits are advisable. We try to make sure that our breakfast is a healthy option and we don’t skip it.”


Choosing healthier options is an important first step but portion control and exercise are just as important.


Robyn Daly

“Once we learn which is healthier to have—white bread versus whole wheat bread—we are making a step in the right direction. Fry chicken versus bake chicken, full cream or condense milk versus our two percent fat or soy milk; we are making changes in terms of choosing healthier options. So once people accept that then it is easier for them to just have reduced portions. So that’s the main step that they need to learn. What are the healthier options for us to have and then we start to look at managing portion sizes cause it is very difficult if they don’t cut down portion size and don’t have the right foods.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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