Kensington Park recently presented a virtual discussion titled “Learning How to Manage & Decrease Your Risk of Diabetes.”
Our special guests included Margie Hackett and Patricia Szymkowiak who are transition nurses at the local Suburban Hospital, which is part of the John Hopkins Healthcare System.
In this article, we’ll continue their conversation on diabetes management by discussing the importance of healthy eating, and offer tips on how to prepare a meal plan for type 2 diabetes.
What is type 2 diabetes and how do you get it?
Type 2 diabetes is a long-term chronic condition affecting the body’s ability to absorb sugar (glucose) into the blood cells.
Over time, having abnormally high blood sugar for an extended period of several years can harden blood vessels and cause irreversible damage to nerves and other organs.
Normally, the hormone insulin is released into the body to help blood cells absorb glucose. However, people with type 2 diabetes are either unable to produce enough insulin themselves or their body is unresponsive to insulin, known as “insulin resistant.”
Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes
Around 90-95% of people who develop type 2 diabetes live a sedentary lifestyle and are overweight, meaning that for many people type 2 diabetes is preventable and in some cases reversible.
Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes increase after the age of 45 and if you have a family history.
Prediabetes is another condition that is caused by high blood sugar levels, but not in a high enough range to count as type 2 diabetes.
Roughly 70% of people with prediabetes will develop diabetes.
What are the symptoms and warning signs of type 2 diabetes?
Many people who develop type 2 diabetes are not aware that they even have the condition, as the warning signs can be subtle. However, the symptoms and warning signs of type 2 diabetes become more noticeable over time.
Watch for these symptoms and warning signs in your loved one:
- Increased thirst
- Blurry vision
- Frequent urination
- Pins and needles feeling (numbness) in the hands or feet
- Unexplained weight loss
- Slow-healing wounds
- Darkening of the skin around the neck creases and armpits
How eating healthy foods can help you manage type 2 diabetes
Two of the biggest factors for developing type 2 diabetes are being overweight and eating too many high glycemic foods, such as refined bread and sugars.
Following a healthy meal plan for type 2 diabetes will help your loved one lose weight, and eating foods with a low glycemic load can assist in controlling blood sugar.
Low glycemic foods can include most green vegetables, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, and bran cereals.
More emphasis should be placed on eating high-quality proteins, such as eggs, beans, and legumes that will satisfy hunger levels for a long time without significantly raising blood sugar levels.
A type 2 diabetes meal plan will also reduce sodium in the diet. Even though salt does not raise blood sugar, too much salt can raise blood pressure levels, which becomes more of an issue for people with type 2 diabetes.
Foods to avoid with type 2 diabetes
Since type 2 diabetes can raise blood sugar levels, eating excessive refined sugars must be avoided.
Most processed foods also contain refined carbohydrates with little to no fiber, which do little to satisfy hunger and will likely result in overeating and consuming too many calories.
Monitor your loved one’s intake of the following foods:
- High fructose corn syrup (sodas, sports drinks, candies)
- Processed carbohydrates (white bread, cake, pizza)
- Fried foods (fries, chips, fried chicken)
- Trans fats (shortening, fried foods, partially hydrogenated oils)
- High-fat dairy (full-fat milk, cheese, sweetened yogurt)
- High-fat meat (saturated fats)
- Artificial sweeteners, such as saccharine, aspartame, and sucralose
- Most processed boxed food
- Canned vegetables (excessive sodium levels)
Healthy diet recommendations and meal plan for type 2 diabetes
Most meal plans for type 2 diabetes will include the “The Plate Method,” approved by the American Diabetes Association. The plate method is a visualization of the proper portions of a balanced diet.
The plate method states that half of your plate should be covered in non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli and green vegetables.
The other half of the plate will be filled one-quarter of the way with healthy carbohydrates, and the last quarter with a high-quality protein.
Water or another zero-calorie or zero-sugar drink should be added to the meal.
A healthy diet for type 2 diabetes should include the below nutritious foods.
Approved non-starchy vegetables (50% of plate):
Do not fill half of your plate with starchy vegetables like white potatoes, which can easily raise blood sugar. For the majority of your plate, include these vegetables:
- Pea pods
- Salad greens
Approved healthy carbohydrates (25% of plate):
Not all carbohydrates are bad, and your body needs them for energy. Replace refined carbohydrates with these meal plan friendly ones:
- Whole grains
- Brown rice
- Black beans
- Sweet potatoes
Approved high-quality proteins (25% of plate):
Avoid all fried foods and extra fatty cuts of meat that are high in saturated fats. Instead, try to eat more of these proteins that contain healthy fats:
- Skinless chicken
- Reduced-fat cottage cheese
- Organic nut butter
- Wild-caught salmon and tuna
- Lean beef
The Mediterranean Diet
Following a Mediterranean diet can improve insulin levels and reduce weight while still being extremely delicious and satisfying.
The basics of the Mediterranean diet include:
- Greek yogurt
- Whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread)
- Chickpeas and hummus
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Leafy greens
- Seafood and fish
- Meats with lean protein
- Red wine
Kensington Park can provide a healthy eating plan for your loved one
Due to food deserts or limited access to a vehicle, many seniors who live at home may not have healthy food choices. They will often eat more highly-processed boxed foods over minimally-processed foods like fruits and vegetables.
Over time, your loved one may become malnourished, not getting the proper level of vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy and energized.
At Kensington Park Senior Living, we offer all-day dining, meal plans for type 2 diabetes, and other special dietary needs based on your loved one’s health care needs and preferences.
Our Dining Services team led by Chef Morissa can accommodate specialty diets including:
- Vegetarian diets
- Vegan diets
- Low carb diets
- Low sodium diets
- Gluten-free diets
- Heart-healthy diets
- Pureed diets
Our all-day dining room includes wait staff service, daily cocktail hours, and a cafe stocked with ready to eat foods.
Getting access to nutritious and delicious foods has never been so easy, and your loved one will certainly appreciate Chef Morissa’s amazing dishes year-round!
Want a healthy recipe? Check out Chef Morissa’s zucchini pizza bites recipe.
Kensington Park—your partners in care
We offer a full spectrum of clinical support and health care services so your loved one can “age in place.”
Your loved one will never need to worry about moving out of our community, even if their health care needs change. This is why Kensington Park is a haven for seniors living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
We offer everything your loved one needs on-site, including all-day dining, rehabilitation services, life enrichment courses, wellness activities, music therapy, brain wellness, events, and a staff of licensed nurses who work 24/7.
At Kensington Park, we Promise to love and take care of your family as we do our own.
If you have a loved one with type 2 diabetes and are considering moving them into assisted living, please contact us today for more information about our floor plans and amenities.