The Importance of Good Nutrition for Diabetics

A healthy lifestyle is something we should all strive to maintain, especially those living with diabetes. Staying on track with a good diet and exercise regimen and keeping blood sugar levels regulated is vital for diabetics. As we continue to celebrate National Nutrition Month, we spoke with Chelsea Reed, Registered Dietitian with the Center for Diabetes Management and Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Hillcrest Medical Center and Oklahoma Heart Institute, who shared some insight into best nutrition practices for those with diabetes.

Making every patient aware that different approaches work for different people is a critical factor. “We try to refrain from telling our patients that there are certain things they can’t eat,” explained Reed. “It’s not a diet, it’s just healthy eating. A lot of people have general nutrition knowledge in regards to what is and what isn’t good for them. When it comes to diabetes management, we tell patients that there is no such thing as a diabetic diet. A meal plan for diabetes is just general healthy eating, which can work for anyone. We really encourage healthy eating and steering clear of all of the fad diets. Fad diets, such as the ketogenic diet and the paleo diet, are not at all client based and are ultimately unrealistic. Everyone has a different lifestyle so not everything works for each individual. We want our patients to eat healthy and live their best lives.”

Being properly educated about the diet is also imperative. “A lot of our patients come into the office and say things like “I can’t eat sweets, I can’t have fruits, chicken is bad for me,” Reed explained. “None of these statements are true. General healthy eating is the top recommendation, especially for individuals with diabetes. Diabetics are typically told to stay away from carbohydrates because we associate carbs with things like bread, potatoes, pasta and rice. Carbs are actually in many healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which are all necessary in a healthy diet. We encourage patients to include those types of carbs in their diets because they are good for you.”

Eating a wide variety of healthy foods is recommended. “Try to include food from all groups,” said Reed. “It’s important to incorporate an adequate amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins such as lean meats and low fat dairy. Healthy fats should also be included in your diet. With a good balance of these groups, you will be on the right track. For better blood sugar, we recommend including a serving of protein with every meal and snack to help stabilize blood sugars. Try not to follow a diet that requires you to eliminate a food group because aspects of each group are important to your body. Attempt to stay away from fast food and processed foods, and limit yourself when it comes to sugary beverages and sweets.”

One of the primary treatments for diabetes is exercise. “Staying physically active is very important,” stated Reed. “Any kind of movement will help lower your blood sugar and A1C’s, which will help reduce the risks and complications of diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. You could split that up into 30 minutes five days a week or an hour a few days a week, but it’s really your preference and availability. Your exercises can be anything from walking or yoga to riding your bike. You don’t have to have a gym membership, but you definitely try to get moving.”


To learn more about the Center for Diabetes Management, please call 918-579-3385.