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Managing Diabetes in Senior Adults

Posted by Jessica Fleigle on Nov 2, 2016 11:06:13 AM

Senior with Diabetes2.jpg

When caring for seniors with diabetes, it is important to focus on nutrition. A diabetic diet needs to be packed with nutrient-rich foods including vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Having regular meal and snack times is also important in order to manage their blood glucose levels.

Since November is National Diabetes Month, now is the perfect time to discuss a consistent carbohydrate diet. This diet is one of the most effective meal plans for people with diabetes because it helps manage blood glucose levels, while giving seniors flexibility in meal planning. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy for metabolic functions and physical activities. Without them, the body cannot function.

Carbohydrates come in three forms: sugars, complex carbohydrates (starches) and fiber. It is important to understand the different types of carbohydrates in order to manage diabetes through diet. 

Sugars: Sugary carbohydrates are also known as simple or fast-acting carbohydrates. Sugar can be found naturally in fruits and milk, and as added sugar in desserts and refined grains.

Complex Carbohydrates:  Also known as starches, complex carbohydrates include potatoes, beans and whole grain foods such as oats, pastas and breads.

Fiber: Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. It is found in plant foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. Foods with high fiber content are part of a healthy diet, because they help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

To learn about meal service providers for seniors with diabetes, click here.

What is the necessary carbohydrate intake?

The National Academies' Institute of Medicine recommends that adults should get 45 to 60 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. This means that 900 to 1,300 calories should encompass carbohydrates for those eating a 2,000 calorie diet. Therefore, it is important to feed the body carbohydrates.

The necessary carbohydrate intake varies from person to person depending on age, weight, blood sugar and activity level. For example, seniors generally need fewer carbohydrates on a daily basis, as they are less active and their bodies metabolize more slowly. However, it is still important for seniors to maintain a consistent intake of carbohydrates in order to sustain their nutrient needs and regulate their blood sugar levels.  

Great ways to ensure seniors with diabetes are getting the correct amount and type of carbohydrates are creating a meal plan or using a food service provider that offers balanced meals. Having a set meal plan or using a food service provider also helps to avoid malnutrition.

What is a consistent carbohydrate diet?

A consistent carbohydrate diet is a meal plan that helps its users keep track of the carbohydrates they consume and stabilize their carbohydrate intake. The ultimate goal is to ensure every meal has the same carbohydrate count. This diet is effective for managing diabetes because it helps control blood sugar levels.

How does a consistent carbohydrate diet work?

When using a consistent carbohydrate meal plan, carbohydrates are counted in portion sizes (15 grams), also known as carb choices. The number of carb choices varies between individuals based on their health status, age or past eating habits. The number of carb choices also varies depending on whether users are eating a meal or a snack. Generally, meals should be between three and four carb choices while snacks should consist of approximately one to two carb choices. However, when caring for seniors with diabetes, individualized carb choice levels for meals and snacks may be necessary. 

How do I educate seniors with diabetes on a consistent carbohydrate diet?

Understanding how many carb choices foods have is the first step to being able to educate seniors on the consistent carbohydrate diet. Foods considered to have one carb choice include a slice of bread, a cup of milk or a small apple. For most manufactured foods, the carb choices are listed under the term "Total Carbohydrate" on the Nutrition Facts label. The “Total Carbohydrate" is listed in grams. Remember, 15 grams equals one carb choice. 

It is also important to read and understand the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label. The “Total Carbohydrate” section of the Nutrition Facts labels is based on one serving size. Therefore, eating three servings is triple the amount of carbohydrates.

Providing seniors with a consistent carbohydrate diet is one of the best ways to manage their diabetes. If seniors do not feel comfortable with preparing their own meals, suggest a food service provider, such as GA Foods, that uses registered dietitians to plan the meals. Having the experts plan and provide the meals takes all the guess work out of the equation.

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Topics: Senior Health, Diabetes, Healthy Home Delivered Meals, Healthy Meals for Seniors

Diabetic Meals with Flair and Flavor

Posted by Michael Thrash, CEC, CCA, PCII and Levinia Clark, RD, LDN on Jan 20, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Healthy diabetic meals don’t have to be bland! While it’s true that sugar does make food taste delicious, there are other ways. These tips can help you add lots of flavor to low carbohydrate and low sugar meals, without compromising nutrition.

Spice it up!

Home_Delivered_Meals_LR-1.pngA simple way to add flavor to low carbohydrate and low sugar foods for diabetics is to familiarize yourself with your spice rack. Herbs and spices not only bring more flavor and complexity to foods, but can also add nutritional benefits. For example, cinnamon brings out the natural sweetness in many vegetables. Ginger is not only full of flavor, and like cinnamon, can add sweetness without sugar, but has been used to reduce nausea and improve circulation.

While a single spice added to your meal is delicious, spice mixes are even better. Sprinkle a spice mix (be sure it’s low in sugar and salt) over vegetables before roasting them, or on top of meat in place of sugary sauces.

Fresh herbs also pack quite a lot of flavor without adding carbohydrates. Chopped basil or parsley are at home in many a dish. Be sure to add fresh herbs close to the end of cooking to preserve the most flavor! You can also chop up fresh herbs and sprinkle them over a meal after plating.

Add a Bit of Acidity

A splash of lemon juice, a bit of tomato paste (unsweetened, of course), or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar might be all a dish needs for a flavor boost. Adding a bit of acidity can enhance other flavors in a dish without adding any sugar or salt. Just a little bit of balsamic or champagne vinegar is sure to brighten up a salad, and a squeeze of lemon can completely replace the need for sugar in your tea!

Grab Your Crock Pot

Healthy_Meals_LR.pngWhile it’s certainly faster to grill or roast foods, slow cooking can add a lot of flavor to a dish. Many naturally occurring flavor compounds in vegetables and spices are destroyed at higher temperatures, so slow cooking your meals can ensure that these flavors are preserved. Additionally, slow cooking allows all of the flavors to blend together, creating a more complex dish. Sprinkle on some chopped fresh parsley to a slow cooked chili for an extraordinarily delicious meal that’s low in sugar.

Try Fermented Foods

Eating fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles is all the rage, and it’s no surprise - these condiments can add a lot of flavor to a dish, without a lot of sugar. Mustard, relish, sauerkraut and even some brands of ketchup can be great low sugar flavor enhancers for your meal. Mustard also makes a great marinade for meats, with almost no carbohydrates per tablespoon serving! Of course, you should be sure to check the labels to be sure that no extra sugar has been added.

Healthy Home-Delivered Meals

Perhaps the easiest way of all to enjoy healthy, diabetic-friendly meals without added sugar is to order home-delivered meals that are tailored to diabetics. These meals are not only full of flavor, but are balanced to meet diabetics’ nutritional needs. Home-delivered meals take the stress out of planning and cooking low carbohydrate and low sugar meals, and can save quite a bit of time in preparation and shopping, allowing you to manage your diabetes with ease.

Looking for more information on diabetes and nutrition?  Read this article.

GA Foods’ meals are all DRI-compliant and low in sodium, fat, cholesterol, and sugar, making them suitable for individuals needing modified diets for diabetes and cardiac disease. For more information, click here.

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Topics: Diabetes, Healthy Home Delivered Meals

The Facts about Diabetes

Posted by Levinia Clark, RD, LDN on May 19, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Levinia Clark is the Manager of Nutrition Services at GA Foods.  This is the second of a series of articles about managing chronic diseases with medical nutrition therapy. 

What is diabetes?

Diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Our bodies convert the food we eat into glucose while the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which helps glucose to get into the cells of our bodies where it can be used to make energy. With diabetes, the body may not make enough insulin, use the insulin in the right way, or both, causing blood sugar levels to be too high.

Over time, diabetes can cause additional health issues such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and circulation problems that could lead to amputation. 

What are the different types of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes develops most often in children and young adults. This type of diabetes accounts for approximately 5% of all diagnosed cases. With type 2 diabetes, commonly referred to as adult-onset diabetes, the body produces insulin, but doesn't use it the right way. This is the most common type of diabetes, as it accounts for approximately 90-95% of all diagnosed cases.  The third type of diabetes is gestational diabetes, which only pregnant women get. 



What are the risk factors for diabetes?

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at a particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes. 

Risk factors are not as well defined for type 1 diabetes. However, autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are involved in developing the less common type 1 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes occurs more frequently in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and people with a family history of diabetes than in other groups. Obesity is also associated with higher risk. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35 - 60% chance of developing diabetes in the next 10 - 20 years.

What is the treatment for diabetes?

Healthy eating, physical activity, and insulin injections are the basic therapies for type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin taken must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose testing to ensure that they do not go too low or too high.

Similarly to type 1 diabetes, the basic therapies for type 2 diabetes are healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing. In addition, many people with type 2 diabetes require oral medication, insulin, or both to control their blood glucose levels from being too low or too high. 

Can diabetes be prevented?

Researchers are making progress in identifying the exact genetics and "triggers" that predispose some individuals to develop type 1 diabetes, but prevention remains key.

A number of studies have shown that regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity.

Building on this research, the Center for Disease Control's National Diabetes Prevention Program supports establishing a network of community-based, group lifestyle intervention programs for overweight or obese people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. As of early 2011, it was anticipated that 33 U.S. sites will offer group lifestyle interventions, with plans to expand to other communities.

Is there a cure for diabetes?

While there is no cure for diabetes at this time, the US Department of Health and Human Services is actively researching how to prevent diabetes, cure diabetes, and improve the quality of care for people with diabetes to prevent devastating complications, in response to the growing health burden on Americans with this disease. 

GA Foods’ meals are all DRI-compliant and low in sodium, fat, cholesterol, and sugar, making them suitable for individuals needing modified diets for diabetes and cardiac disease. For more information, click here.

Download White Paper - Reducing Healthcare Costs and Improve Patient Outcomes

The above information is intended for an education aid only. It is not intended as medical/nutritional advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor before following any regimen to see if it safe and effective for you.

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Topics: Chronic Disease Management, Diabetes

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