As the days get warmer and the hours of daylight longer, many of us are motivated to improve our daily health habits. This is especially true for people with chronic conditions like diabetes.
According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 34 million people in the United States have diabetes (10.5% of the population). Another 88 million adults have prediabetes, which puts them at increased risk of developing diabetes. Physical activity and a healthy diet are important to manage diabetes and prevent prediabetes from turning into diabetes.
Spring is a great time to renew our efforts to move our bodies to improve our physical fitness. After a long winter of icy sidewalks and low temperatures, a great physical activity target is to run 20 to 30 minutes outdoors several times a week.
If 20 minutes seem overwhelming, start with 10 to 15 minutes and gradually increase a few minutes each week. And raking the lawn and preparing gardens for seeds and new plants counts as an exercise! Every movement of the body is good for us. The American Diabetes Association encourages all people with diabetes to increase their physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
In addition to physical activity, healthier food choices can have a big impact on blood sugar (sugar) levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Some of us may feel that we have trouble eating our usual meals during the winter months. Maybe it’s time to try some new recipes with new flavors for a change.
One goal for many people with diabetes is to eat more vegetables. Vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals, and most are low in calories and carbohydrates.
If you have diabetes, limiting the amount of carbohydrates you eat with a meal or snack usually helps to minimize spikes in your blood sugar after you eat. So filling up with more vegetables can help us eat less bread and starch during a meal, which will help us decrease our carbohydrate intake.
Vegetables can be a great source of fiber that help us feel fuller after eating. When we add a large salad or serving of cooked vegetables to most meals, we often feel satisfied with fewer or smaller servings of bread and starch.
Grocery stores also have a larger selection of cheaper fruit in the warmer months. Melons and berries are great low-carb fruits that can be incorporated into salads or eaten as a dessert or snack. A bowl of fresh strawberries with a spoonful of whipped cream can be a delicious dessert during the strawberry season. Pieces of melon and fresh blueberries with some low-fat Greek yogurt could make a refreshing snack. You can find the sweetness of fresh fruit almost as satisfying as a chocolate chip cookie.
Adding fresh vegetables and fruits to your meal doesn’t have to be complicated. Look for products that are for sale that appeal to you. Buy it, wash it, and keep it ready to eat in your fridge. Look for recipes with fruits and vegetables that you enjoy eating. Online sources, including the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Food Hub (diabetesfoodhub.org), provide great resources for new recipes and ways to add more vegetables and fruits to our meals. Try these Italian Salsa Salad and Avocado Strawberry Salad recipes to see if they make a good addition to your diet. Happy Spring!
Avocado and strawberry salad
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into pieces
1½ cups of peeled, sliced strawberries
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons of raspberry vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons of honey
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of roasted, sliced almonds
Combine avocado and lemon juice in a large, non-reactive bowl. Add berries. Combine vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper. Add to the fruits and combine well. Serve over a bed of lettuce leaves. Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 160 calories, 17 g carbohydrates
Spicy salsa salad
2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed and drained
½ green pepper, chopped
10 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ cup chopped red onion
½ stalk of celery, chopped
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon salt
Squashed red pepper if desired
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Gently throw the ingredients together. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 40 calories, 5 g carbohydrates
Patti Urbanski is a registered dietitian with St. Luke’s.
Patti Urbanski, MEd, RD, LD, CDCES, is a registered nutritionist and certified specialist in diabetes care and education at St. Luke’s. She was a member of the Nutrition Scientific Review and Writing Committees of the American Diabetes Association that developed the ADA Diabetes Nutrition Guidelines in 2013 and 2019.