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Karen Chapman Novakofski

Professor of Nutrition

Marilyn Csernus

Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness


October/November 2015

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In This Issue

Diabetes - The Medical Perspective

Self-Care Behaviors for Better Control

In the United States today nearly 10% of the population has diabetes. Another 86 million have prediabetes which puts them at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Unless steps are taken to stop diabetes predictions are that 1 in 3 adults will have diabetes by 2050. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association someone is diagnosed with diabetes in the United States every 19 seconds.

The toll diabetes takes on health is serious. It doubles the risk of heart disease and death caused from heart disease. Diabetes is also the leading cause of kidney disease and among working aged adults the leading cause of blindness. Additionally, 60-70 percent of individuals with diabetes have nerve damage.

Although current diabetes statistics can be frightening there is reason for optimism. Through ongoing education and self-management diabetes can be well controlled, decreasing the risk of long-term complications. Managing diabetes is challenging, but the following self-care behaviors from the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) can help keep you focused to manage your diabetes.

  • Healthy Eating - You don't have to give up all your favorite foods when you have diabetes, but you do need to be aware of which foods raise blood sugar (glucose) levels.
  • Being Active - Physical activity has many health benefits and helps keep your glucose in control.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring your blood glucose levels provides important information for you and your diabetes care team. Monitoring allows ongoing adjustments in your medication and food choices.
  • Taking Medication - A variety of medications may be necessary to lower glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure. These medications work together to keep you healthy.
  • Problem Solving- Every one encounters unexpected situations and problem areas when managing diabetes. Good problem solving skills can help you deal with the unexpected and prevent future problems.
  • Reducing Risk - Understanding the health risk related to diabetes is the first step in controlling the risk.
  • Healthy Coping - It's common to have changing emotions and physical concerns when dealing with diabetes. Learning to cope with negative feelings and lessening their impact on overall health is essential.

Receiving regular individualized diabetes care and follow-up is crucial as diabetes is a progressive disease that requires adjustments to treatment plans. Visit a registered dietitian and/or certified diabetes educator for individualized meal planning and to learn diabetes self-management. To learn more about AADE's Self Care Behaviors ™ visit https://www.diabeteseducator.org/patient-resources/aade7-self-care-behaviors

Diabetes and Food

What is a Healthy Diabetes Meal Plan?

Although there is no one healthy way to eat when you have diabetes there are essential elements that every diabetes meal plan should include. Carbohydrates make up the largest percentage of calories and have the most effect on blood glucose. Choose whole grain breads, cereals, rice and pasta over highly processed grains. Whole grains provide more nutrients and dietary fiber. Dietary fiber slows the digestive process and the release of glucose into the blood stream. It also keeps you feeling full longer.

Knowing how much carbohydrate (carb) you can eat and still control blood glucose is part of a diabetes meal plan. Carb counting, whether counting grams or servings of carb, is one way to manage carb intake. Carb counting is important for anyone adjusting insulin dosages depending on their carb intake. Consistent carbohydrate intake helps control blood glucose. Another method of diabetes meal planning is the diabetes plate method. The plate method can be a little bit easier method of diabetes meal planning. This can be done by filling half your plate with low carb, non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth of your plate with lean protein, and one-fourth with a whole grain or another healthy carb. The meal can be rounded out with a serving of fruit and low-fat dairy. Four carb servings using the plate method and 60 grams of carb using the carb counting method is approximately the same amount of carb.

Counting grams of carbs is a more exact measurement of carb counting than counting servings of carbohydrates as counting servings usually involves some estimating.

Healthy fats like olive, canola and peanut oil, nuts and flax seeds round out a healthy diabetes meal. Depending on your previous eating habits, some of these healthy fats can replace the less healthy processed carbs and unhealthy saturated and/or trans fats.

Knowing how to read a food label can make meal planning and grocery shopping easier and a necessary skill to accurately count carbs. A nutrition facts label provides the grams of total carbohydrate per serving. Make sure your meals are heart healthy by checking out the amount and type of fat, and how much sodium and dietary fiber a product contains.

Experiment with different recipes, flavors and herbs to add variety and keep food tasting delicious. Remember, what works well today may not work as well in the future. A diabetes meal plan should be individualized and adjusted as appropriate to keep blood sugar well controlled.

Recipies to try

Whitefish Florentine

4 servings


  • 2 packages (10-ounces each) frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 pound whitefish fillets, about ½ inch thick
  • 4 teaspoons dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup roasted red bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons skim milk


  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Thaw spinach. Squeeze to drain.
  3. Spread spinach evenly in ungreased 11 x 7 inch pan.
  4. Blend in blender or food processor red pepper, basil, and milk. Spread half of pepper mixture over spinach.
  5. Arrange fillets next in pan. Top with remaining pepper mixture. Cover and bake at 400° for 25 to 30 minutes, until fish flakes easily with fork.
Nutrition Facts per serving
Calories 182
Fat 6 grams
Protein 25 grams
Calories from fat 60
Carbohydrate 7 grams
Cholesterol 66 mg
Fiber 3 grams
Sodium 269 mg

Four Bean Salad

8 servings

  • 1 can (8.4-ounce) cut green beans, drained
  • 1 can (8.5-ounce) cut wax beans, drained
  • 1 can (8.5-ounce) lima beans, drained
  • 1 can (8.5-ounce) kidney beans, drained
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red onion rings
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ¼ cup diced green pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sugar substitute
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
  • ¼ cup olive oil or canola oil
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the beans, onion, celery, and green pepper.
  2. In a smaller mixing bowl whisk together the mustard, vinegar, sugar substitute, thyme, pepper, and garlic. Whisking continually, add the oil in a slow, thin stream. Whisk until well blended.
  3. Pour the dressing over the bean mixture and toss to coat well.
  4. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 days before serving.
Nutrition facts per serving
Calories 126
Fat 7 grams
Protein 4 grams
Calories from fat 63
Carbohydrate 13 grams
Cholesterol 0 mg
Fiber 4 grams
Sodium 373 mg

Sample Menu


Scrambled egg1 egg
Oatmeal1 cup
Soft tub margarine2 teaspoons
Fresh blueberries½ cup
Skim milk1 cup
Nutrition Facts
Calories 480
Carbohydrates 57 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 4


Turkey Sandwich1 sandwich — 3 ounces turkey
Whole Wheat Bun1 small bun
Lettuce1 serving
Tomatoes1 slice
Mayonnaise2 teaspoons
Mustard1 teaspoon
Four Bean Salad1 serving
Sliced Peaches½ cup
Nutrition Facts
Calories 596
Carbohydrates 65 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 4 Choices


Whitefish Florentine 1 serving
Quinoa ½ cup
Dill carrots ½ cup
Mixed fresh fruit ½ cup
Butterscotch pudding, sugar free ½ cup
Skim milk 1 cup
Nutrition Facts
Calories 527
Carbohydrates 69 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 4.5 Choices


Calories 1603
Carbohydrates 191 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 12.5 Choices

*Recipies from Recipes for Diabetes at extension.illinois.edu/diabetesrecipes/ or this newsletter

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