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Protect Yourself Against Type 2 Diabetes

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Fruit and insulin monitor

Diabetes is a growing concern for individuals in the United States with researchers forecasting prediabetes to climb from 90 million in 2015 to 107 million by the year 2030. Prediabetes is defined by one of two tests:

  • Hemoglobin A1C: 5.7–6.4%
  • Fasting glucose: 100-125 mg/dL 

An A1C test measures the percentage of red blood cells that have sugar-coated hemoglobin. An A1C level below 5.7% is considered normal, a level of 5.7-6.4% indicates prediabetes and a level above 6.4% indicates diabetes. Within the prediabetes range, a higher A1C level puts you at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes is reversible and can be prioritized by making lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep and exercising regularly. Staying on track can be hard, so Cooper Clinic Nutrition offers the following the tips to help protect yourself against type 2 diabetes and keep your blood sugar levels in check.

Reduce carbs and increase non-starchy vegetables
Carbohydrates can raise your blood sugar levels. Identify carbohydrate-rich foods and beverages in your diet and try reducing and/or replacing them with healthier carbohydrate choices such as the ones below. The Plate Method can be useful when deciding how much of each food group to include in your diet. The Plate Method recommends dividing your plate in three sections:

  • 1/2 plate = non-starchy vegetables (for example, salad, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, okra)
  • 1/4 plate = lean protein (for example, chicken, turkey, beans, tofu, eggs)
  • 1/4 plate = carbohydrates (for example, whole grain versions of bread, pasta, rice and unprocessed starchy vegetables such as beans, potatoes and corn)

There is an emphasis on non-starchy vegetables such as the ones mentioned above because they are low in calories and carbs, high in fiber and can help with satiety. As a bonus, these vegetables have a minimal effect on glucose.

Read more tips on portion control.
Limit drinking your carbs. Research shows consuming sugary beverages including sweetened lemonade, tea and fruit punch increases the risk of developing diabetes by 16%. Instead, reach for a flavored mineral water the next time you’re craving a soda or sugary drink. Some alcoholic beverages can also contain a fair amount of carbohydrates, which can add up quickly.
Planning snacks and meals 
Snacking can help you reach your nutritional goals throughout the day if planned correctly. Portion out and pack snacks ahead of time to prevent skipping meals from excess snacking. Pair a healthy protein with a high-fiber carbohydrate to keep you full throughout the day. Read tips about smart snacking.
Heading to the grocery store? Before you go, plan your meals and snacks and make a list of the items you need. Stick to purchasing items on your list only to avoid frustration at the store which can lead to, what I call, “grocery store fatigue.” Grocery store fatigue results in wandering, excessive purchasing and no structured meals to cook. Tip: avoid the grocery store when you’re hungry to reduce spontaneous cravings while shopping.

Need help with building your plate? Working with a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you set nutrition goals and prevent diabetes.

Other risk factors
Sleep is the foundation for good health. A study designed to investigate sleep quality and glucose metabolism levels has shown poor sleep is correlated with an increased risk of prediabetes. Make it a routine to shut down electronics early and get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Read more about the power of sleep and how it affects overall health.

Find ways to manage stress. Meditation can be effective in lowering the stress hormone cortisol which has been linked to increased risk of diabetes. Deep breathing is an additional option to not pass up.
Increase physical activity. Set a goal to increase activity to, at a minimum, 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Try taking a walk midday or after lunch—steps count too! Don’t let the weather get in the way. Fitness facilities such as Cooper Fitness Center offer indoor classes, professional fitness training and more so you can still get in a workout.

Watch your weight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports reducing just 5% of your body weight can help reverse prediabetes if you’re presently at risk. Track your goals with a weight log and remember to not fixate all your success on the scale. Working with a professional fitness trainer can help you meet your weight loss goals.

Invest in your health and wellness. Have you seen your doctor lately? Prevention starts with being proactive and taking action before something happens. Talk with your primary care physician to see what appointments you should be scheduling and how often. The best money spent will always be to your health.

Take control of your health and start making changes today. With consistency and simple lifestyle changes, you can prevent diabetes.

To schedule a one-on-one consultation with a Cooper Clinic Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to build healthy eating patterns or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition’s services, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Roy Plascensia, Texas Woman’s University Dietetic Intern, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition.