Various items that a person with diabetes would regularly use or eat

Diabetes Alert: Research points to four eating plans to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes

As word gets out that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed, the public can get mixed messages on what is the best eating pattern to follow to accomplish this goal.  The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is addressing this dilemma by analyzing the facts. Every five years, the most recent being 2019, the ADA publishes a consensus report summarizing which eating plans are best.

The good news is there are choices! Here are the four eating patterns with the strongest research to support preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes:

Mediterranean Diet – This eating pattern emphasizes vegetables, beans, fruits and whole intact grains, seafood, olive oil, yogurt, and cheese (low to moderate amounts). In this eating pattern, herbs and spices are used liberally, while salting foods or eating foods prepared with salt is limited.  Fruit is used as the dessert.  Beverages are unsweetened.  Meatless meals are enjoyed often. Seafood is included twice per week while red meat is rarely included. This eating pattern is considered higher in fat with olive oil being the primary oil used in cooking and seasoning. If a person chooses to drink alcohol with the healthcare provider’s consent, red wine is included in moderation.

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) – This pattern encourages eating vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy options.  It includes whole grains with lean meats such as poultry or fish while limiting red meat.  As this eating plan also emphasizes meatless meals, beans and unsalted nuts can be used as protein substitutes. Sugary beverages and desserts are limited, and sodium is reduced to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. Vegetarian – A vegetarian eating plan may have eggs and milk but avoids all flesh foods.  It uses nuts, seeds, beans and other meat substitutes as sources of protein.  It is typically plentiful in fruits, vegetables and grains (preferably whole).

Low-fat – A low-fat eating plan keeps fat calories less than 30% of total calories.  The low-fat eating plans reviewed in the consensus report also kept saturated fat (fat that is solid at room temperature) to no more than 10% of calories.  Based on 2,000 calories per day diet, this plan would allow for 22 grams or less of fat during the day.  A low-fat eating pattern includes vegetables, fruits, grains (preferably whole), low-fat dairy and lean meats.

Here’s the bottom line: there is a variety of eating patterns that can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. All these eating patterns have the following aspects in common:

  • Keep eating “non-starchy” vegetables. Choose vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, peppers, onions, mushrooms, greens (just to name a few) often, including at breakfast! Add to smoothies, grill vegetables to top sandwiches, dip raw veggies into salsa or hummus as a snack, and grill kabobs as a side dish. Yum!
  • Limit added sugars and processed grains as much as possible. Choose higher fiber grains instead of the more processed choices.  For example, try whole wheat pasta in place of plain pasta.  Be sure to read the cooking instructions. Many times, whole grain foods require a minute or two longer cooking time. Enjoy fruit for dessert and choose water, black coffee, or unsweet tea in place of sugary drinks.
  • Choose whole foods over highly processed foods whenever possible. Try cantaloupe instead of chips, or plain or lite yogurt with fruit instead of cookies.  Making these choices typically requires a person to have a game plan.

Do you have a game plan?

Successfully making changes, especially in our eating patterns, requires planning. Remember these three P’s – plan, prep, and practice:

  • Plan: Make a grocery list and stick to it!
    • Prep: Portion out your meals and snacks.
    • Practice: Eat what you planned.

When it is planned and prepped, this is much easier to do!

Following one of these four eating plans – Mediterranean, DASH, Vegetarian, Low-Fat – combined with 150 minutes of physical activity per week, can absolutely prevent or delay type 2 diabetes! Are you at risk type 2 diabetes? Take the risk test at www.doihaveprediabetes.org .

For more information on UofL Health’s Diabetes & Nutrition services, including the Diabetes Prevention Program, visit https://uoflphysicians.com/service-specialty/diabetes-obesity-center/ or call 502-588-4499.

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Article by:

Beth Ackerman, R.D.

Beth Ackerman is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator at the UofL Physicians – Diabetes and Obesity Center. Beth is on the team of educators of the ADA-approved diabetes education team at UofL Physicians. She has counseled people with diabetes for more than 25 years. Ackerman serves as the Diabetes Prevention Program Workgroup co-chair for the Kentucky Diabetes Network and volunteers at Camp Hendon, a diabetes camp for children.

All posts by Beth Ackerman, R.D.
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