For a lot of people, the New Year means to let go of bad habits and create a fresh start, especially around setting goals towards better health and nutrition. This is not an easy task, especially for patients with diabetes.
Adopting healthy habits around lifestyle and nutrition requires more than having the willingness to change. It involves planning and having specific goals. Nutrition and physical activity are essential for your patients to manage their diabetes. Sticking to a healthy meal plan and a regular exercise routine can help your patients keep on target with their blood glucose levels and manage their diabetes.
You can guide and support your diabetic patients to adopt healthy habits that are realistic and sustainable for the long-term. Here are some ideas around a good lifestyle and nutrition practices for them.
- Avoid sedentary behavior and include 30-60 minutes of physical activity at least five times per week. Remind your patients that sedentary behavior is associated with poor glycemic control.
- Encourage your patients to find the right type of exercise for him/her; it has to be something that makes them feel good, and they enjoy, in order for it to become part of their daily routine and create a new healthy habit.
- Recommend to your patients they vary the type of physical activity or exercise. Tell them to make sure they include aerobic, resistance, flexibility and balance exercises.
- Varying their routine will help them work different groups of muscles and have various benefits for their physical, mental and general health (including better glycemic control)
- Recommend some types of exercise, such as dance classes, walking, cycling, elastic resistance bands, jogging, swimming, yoga, and even watch some YouTube exercise videos at home.
“According to the American Diabetes Association, exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, helps to improve insulin sensitivity and better blood glucose control in type 2 diabetes, and contributes to weight management”. (ADA, 2016)
- Help your patients develop an individualized nutrition therapy plan that will help them improve their glycemic targets, achieve weight management goals, and improve their overall cardiovascular health.
- Develop a plan with each patient that includes nutrition counseling. Counseling can be crucial for your patients to make healthy habits easier and help them be held accountable and stay on track.
- Encourage your patients to try new seasonal and local recipes with half of their plate full of vegetables. Have cooking methods, recipes and other educational materials ready for your patients to take with them.
- Help your patients to select a variety of nutrient-dense foods in appropriate portion sizes and decrease their intake of process and ultra-process foods.
- Encourage your patients to eat more fiber in the form of vegetables, beans, legumes, fruits, and whole grains. This will help them have better glycemic control.
“The American Diabetes Association (ADA) emphasizes that medical nutrition therapy (MNT) is essential by and large of the diabetes management plan “(ADA, 2019)
Talk to your diabetic patients and help them set up some healthy goals this New Year that include exercise and healthy eating.