- Written by Lynne Feldman
by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN
As we recognize American Diabetes Awareness Month in November, let’s take a look at our health and what we can do to prevent or even reverse diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 34.2 million Americans, or 1 in 10, have diabetes and 88 million Americans, or 1 in 3, have prediabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form that occurs when your body doesn’t produce or use insulin efficiently. It is common in people of all ages who are obese or overweight.
Will you get diabetes if it runs in your family? Family history, obesity, and lifestyle do play a role in developing diabetes. It is possible however, to prevent, delay, or even reverse diabetes by making small changes to the way you eat, losing weight, and exercising. Research has shown that making positive lifestyle changes is very effective for everyone, especially older adults. Losing 5% of your body weight may help lower your blood sugars, reduce your risk of developing diabetes, and perhaps reverse it.
If you’ve had a lifetime of struggles with weight issues, where do you begin? Set small and realistic goals that you can live with. Losing weight is important, but keeping it off is the key. Focus on long-term changes. Try limiting dessert to every other day to start (or cutting the portion size in half), and walking around your apartment or home for 15 minutes a day. When your goals become habits, you may feel proud of your achievement and move on to a new goal, perhaps increasing your exercise and looking at additional changes to your diet.
Healthy changes and recommendations include:
*Create a healthy plate with half of your plate containing colorful fruits and vegetables, a quarter whole grains, and a quarter healthy protein. You may include healthy fats (such as olive oil and avocado) and no-sugar added beverages (such as flavored unsweetened seltzer).
*Increase fruits and vegetables. Try cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, plus fruits and berries. Fresh or frozen vegetables and fresh fruits or those packaged in their own juice are ideal. Non-starchy vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber and may be consumed freely.
*Increase fiber. Add high fiber foods to each meal or snack including fruits, vegetables, chickpeas, lentils, beans (legumes), and nuts. Foods high in fiber often have fewer calories by volume of food, helping you feel full for longer periods. A good source of fiber contains approximately 3 - 5+ grams per serving. High fiber carbohydrates are an important part of your meal and a balanced diet is the key.
*Decrease processed foods and added sugars. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages (soda), sweetened desserts, white rice, and flour. Read labels when shopping and avoid products with sugar as the first or second ingredient. Select brown rice, quinoa, whole grains, and oatmeal. Optimal beverages include water, seltzers, and herbal teas.
*Eat less red meat, avoid processed meats. Red meat (beef, pork), bacon, sausage, and cold cuts may increase your risk of diabetes. Select lean chicken, fish, low-fat dairy, and eggs instead.
*Select healthy fats or plant oils. Try olive oil, canola oil, avocado, and Omega-3 fats in flax seeds, walnuts, and salmon.
Remember your goals! Cutting back on calories and increasing your activity are the keys to losing weight and lowering blood sugars. Take a walk around the block after eating a meal, move your arms and legs while watching television, stay active throughout the day. It IS possible to prevent or reverse diabetes, so start your journey to a healthier lifestyle today.
- Written by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN
Has the pandemic affected your eating habits? Are they positive or negative changes? Have you gained or lost weight due to stress or excessive snacking? It’s never too late to get back on the right track.
There are many factors that may influence our food choices, including stress, emotions, your health status, fatigue, the weather, or your income. If you feel any of these factors are affecting the foods and amounts you are eating, it’s time to take a closer look. Are you eating foods or meals that are rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains? Are you eating large amounts at one time or frequently snacking, perhaps due to stress?
Acknowledge your hunger or cravings, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just passing the time.
Let’s start from the beginning and think about what you are eating and why. Acknowledge your hunger or cravings, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just passing the time. Being aware and mindful, may help you make better choices. Think about what you are eating, why you are eating it, and how it makes you feel. Hunger is your body’s way of telling you it needs food and often those feelings of hunger never really go away until you finally eat what your body needs. Emotional hunger may be a craving for something comforting or sweet, and with distractions, it will often go away. Consider walking, reading, or calling a friend when emotional hunger sneaks in. Overeating, especially foods with high sugar content or caffeine, can increase anxiety or fatigue, the things we are trying to avoid.
Make a plan before you go to the grocery store. Having an idea of what you want to prepare during the week helps limit your shopping time. Look for healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, and legumes or beans. Autumn is a perfect time to visit local farmers’ markets to take advantage of the harvest and use your farmers’ market coupons. Create your list with items having a longer shelf life including cabbage, potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, winter squash, and cauliflower. Consider melons, apples, pears, citrus fruits, and a variety of frozen vegetables or fruits. Do not use sanitizer, soap, or detergent to clean your produce, simply rinse under cold water and scrub with your hands or a brush. With cold weather on the way, utilize your vegetables in soups and stews, and consider freezing them in individual containers.
Try to have a routine or a schedule that you can stick to. Schedules can help alleviate anxiety and regular meals may help to avoid frequent snacking in between. Avoid distractions during meals, turn off the television, and take at least 20-30 minutes to enjoy the smell and taste of your food. This gives your brain enough time to recognize you’re full. Be aware and mindful of portion sizes and your calorie budget. If you’re going to splurge on a high sugar or calorie item, ask yourself if it’s worth it and make sure it’s something you really enjoy. Enjoy small treats, and avoid having too many available in your home at one time. Think about your selection of treats, and making healthier choices. Consider fresh, frozen, or dried fruits, nuts, raw vegetables and hummus, or peanut butter and crackers. Limit snacking before bedtime for a better night’s sleep and to prevent weight gain.
Taking care of yourself and staying healthy includes making mindful and nutritious food choices. If you are at home with others, try to gather together for at least one of your daily meals. Consider Grab and Go meals from one of our dining centers or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels at 413-773-5555, X1230 or 978-544-2259, X1230.
- Written by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN
During the coronavirus, do you find yourself looking for ways to keep yourself healthy? Currently there’s not a vaccine or food that is guaranteed to protect you from coronavirus, but there are ways to keep your immune system working optimally to help you stay healthy during these times. We’ve heard about washing our hands, avoiding contact with sick individuals, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and being physically active; but good nutrition is also critical for good health. A healthful, balanced diet is necessary to keep our immune system strong, and eating a variety of foods is the key to good nutrition.
We’ve heard about washing our hands, avoiding contact with sick individuals, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and being physically active; but good nutrition is also critical for good health.
The nutrients your body needs include protein, to build and preserve body tissues and strength and to fight viruses or infections. Protein sources include lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and yogurt. Consider plant-based sources, especially if you’re finding meat to be more limited at this time. Nuts and nut butters, beans, lentils, tofu, hummus, and quinoa are excellent options. Try to incorporate protein sources into each meal or snack throughout the day.
Antioxidants, vitamins and minerals can also boost immune function. Beta carotene helps antibodies fight toxins and reduce inflammation. Sources include green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and cantaloupe.
Vitamin C and E are antioxidants that protect your cells and support immune response. Sources include oranges, grapefruit, red and green peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and strawberries.
Vitamin D may help reduce your risk for viral and respiratory infections. The best source of natural vitamin D is obtained outdoors in the sunshine. Food sources include egg yolks, cheese, mushrooms, tofu, salmon and fortified milk, soymilk, orange juice, and cereals.
Probiotics and prebiotics help boost the health of our microbiome (our gut). They help digest food, destroy disease causing microorganisms, and keep your immune system healthy. Food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, fermented pickles and sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and sourdough bread. Prebiotic rich foods include asparagus, garlic, apple cider vinegar, onions, berries, bananas, and whole grains.
Zinc is a mineral that has been helpful in shortening the duration of the common cold and boosting immunity. Sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, nuts, seeds, beef, pork, and yogurt.
Other foods that have shown benefits in boosting the immune system include blueberries, ginger, turmeric, garlic, elderberry, and green tea.
With summer approaching, consider buying many of the foods listed at a local farmers market. Find a farmers market near you at massfarmersmarkets.org.
Remember to stay hydrated! Water, fruits, and soups all provide necessary fluids to stay hydrated and healthy. Try to consume at least 6 to 8 cups of fluid every day.
If you find yourself craving comfort foods at this time, especially those with high sugar or fat content, try to limit the amounts, if you feel able. Be mindful of the foods you are eating and limit those that provide mostly calories and limited nutritional value.
In these uncertain times, take care of yourself. Plan your meals and snacks using foods listed above, try to maintain a healthy weight, and enjoy the bounty of the season. Consider Grab and Go meals from one of our dining centers or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels at 413-773-5555.
- Written by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN
Processed Foods: How Bad Are They?
Do you ever hear people say they want to stop eating “processed foods”? Do you know what this actually means? Have you decided you can’t eliminate processed foods since fresh foods may be too expensive? Let’s take a look at what they are and what are the best choices.
What are processed foods? Processed foods have been altered in some way prior to buying or preparing the foods. This includes food that has been canned, frozen, cooked, preserved, and fortified with added flavors or vitamins. Once we’ve cooked or prepared our food, we are processing it. There is a huge range from minimally processed to heavily processed foods. Of course unprocessed foods directly from the farm are ideal, but this may not be possible for many of us.
It is not necessary to avoid minimally processed foods as the processing may be done to lock in freshness and nutritional quality while the food is at its ideal ripeness and nutritional content.
It is not necessary to avoid minimally processed foods as the processing may be done to lock in freshness and nutritional quality while the food is at its ideal ripeness and nutritional content. In other words, vegetables may be canned or frozen at the peak of harvest season, or bagged or cut at a farm just prior to selling. Ground coffee, bagged vegetables, nuts, and seeds may be minimally processed at the perfect time for your benefit and ease. Other examples of beneficial processing may be fortified milk or juices with vitamin C, D, and calcium; or added fiber to breads; or cereals with added whole grains and seeds. When fresh fruit is not available or expensive, canned fruit packed in its own juice or water is an excellent alternative. Canned fruit with added sugars, corn syrup, and preservatives, on the other hand, are more processed and should be limited.
Instead of asking if a food is processed, ask how and how much it is processed. One way of checking if foods are more heavily processed is to read food labels. Minimally processed fruits, vegetables, and meats would be packaged exclusively as the fruit or vegetable, without added ingredients. Additional processing includes the addition of sugar, salt, sauces, artificial color, flavorings, antibiotics, nitrates, chemical fillers, and other preservatives. If the ingredient list is long and you cannot identify them, it’s probably heavily processed and should be limited.
Sugars may be added to foods to improve flavor, color, or consistency. Ingredients are listed on products in order of quantity. Tomatoes may be listed first on the ketchup label, then distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, and artificial flavoring. If you’re watching your intake of sugar or salt, this should be limited.
What you eat affects your health. Decrease your intake of highly processed food and reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Do your own cooking, include whole foods with limited additives such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Choose fresh meats, limit prepared and processed meals, meats, hot dogs, canned soups, and frozen pizza. For a nutritious meal, consider joining us at one of our dining centers (find a complete list on LifePathMa.org) or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels at 413-773-5555, X1230; or 978-544-2259, X1230.
- Written by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN
There are often many conversations surrounding diets and weight loss, but what about the person that struggles to gain weight? Many people say, “I wish I had that problem,” but for those who struggle to gain a pound, the problem is challenging and often difficult to overcome. For older people, weight loss may be an issue due to a variety of reasons including increased difficulty preparing meals or lack of desire to cook, limited resources, conditions such as cancer or depression, or decreased appetite related to taste changes or difficulty chewing or swallowing. These factors may all contribute to why someone might not be able to consume enough calories to maintain or gain weight. Obesity may be a risk factor for diseases such as diabetes or heart conditions, but being underweight can contribute to a weakened immune system, malnutrition, and weakness, making it harder to perform daily tasks and recover from illness.
For older people, weight loss may be an issue due to a variety of reasons including increased difficulty preparing meals or lack of desire to cook, limited resources, conditions such as cancer or depression, or decreased appetite related to taste changes or difficulty chewing or swallowing.
There isn’t a one size fits all plan to gain weight, but the goal is to consume more calories than you burn. To gain a pound a week, this may mean consuming approximately 500 extra calories each day.
Consider these tips for gaining or maintaining weight:
*Make the most of each bite and select foods that are nutrient dense or rich in calories and nutrients instead of foods that are empty calories with limited nutrients. Instead of soda, candy or convenience foods, consider nuts, nut butters, avocados, and full fat milk products including cheese, milk, yogurt, pudding, and cream soups. Serve cream sauces with vegetables or pasta, and add cheese, cream and butter to potatoes. Add beans to soups or stews; peanut butter, cheese, ice cream, or cream cheese to baked goods or smoothies; or avocado slices to sandwiches. Choose nutritious carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, pasta, or cereal with nutrient rich toppings for extra calories.
*Eat small frequent snacks and/or meals. Try to eat or drink every hour or two, especially if you have a poor appetite. Eating smaller amounts throughout the day and gradually increasing amounts consumed each time, increases your total daily caloric intake, ultimately helping you gain weight. Aim for at least 5 or 6 small meals each day. Consider a nutritious shake, smoothie, or milk as a supplement, perhaps a few ounces at a time instead of an entire bottle at once. Include snacks such as protein bars or drinks, peanut butter, cheese or hummus with crackers, nuts, eggs, or pasta salad with added meat or cheese.
*Consider your beverages. Drinking a lot of water or soda may fill you up without much benefit – select shakes, milk, or smoothies instead. When a recipe calls for water, add whole milk or cream if appropriate.
*Select foods high in protein such as eggs, fish, beans, nuts, and higher fat meats for added calories. Consider ground meats with sauces and extra cheese or cream if whole meats are harder to prepare or eat.
Consider joining us for a nutritious meal at one of our dining centers (find a complete list on LifePathMA.org) or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels at 413-773-5555. If weight gain continues to be a challenge, speak with your physician and consider a nutrition consult with a dietitian.