Newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes
If you have recently been diagnosed, these tips may help you get used to living with diabetes. Hopefully type 2 diabetes (T2) has been explained clearly by your Doctor. I’m sure you have questions and wonder how you will manage to keep your blood glucose (BG) level in range and manage your diet in order to prevent you getting complications.
You will have been told one of the following:
- Improve your diet and exercise. You may have been given a blood glucose (BG) test meter.
- Improve diet, exercise more and given a prescription for diabetic medication. You may have been given a blood glucose test meter.
- Give yourself time to adjust to T2. Learn about it and decide to manage it as best you can so that live a healthy life. Diabetes is all about self-management. If you follow a healthy diet and increase your exercise you can expect that it will have little impact on your general health.
- Find out what are the best and worst food types for blood glucose levels.
- Keep your medication where you will remember to take it. Set an alarm on your phone or clock if you think you will forget to take your medication.
- Take your medication at the same time every day.
- In Ireland all diabetics are entitled to get their T2 medication free of charge. Ask your Doctor or pharmacist about this if you haven’t been told about it.
- You may have been given a diet to follow and it’s important to keep to this in order to prevent unpleasant diabetes complications later on. Your diet does not have to be rigid and most foods can be swapped for something healthy that you will like. You will find lots of healthy recipes on this site, and new recipes will be added regularly.
- The best meals for good blood glucose control consist of the following (1 portion from each group):
- Lean protein (eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, fish, lean meat, nuts)
- Non-starchy vegetables or salad (mushrooms, tomato, onion, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, lettuce, cucumber, courgette)
- Good fats (avocado, egg yolk, salmon, trout, mackerel, a few nuts and seeds – high calorie so not too many)
- Slow release carbohydrates (oats, butternut squash or a small amount of wholemeal/multigrain and of course Irish soda bread)
- The best way to manage your T2 diet is to keep track of foods containing carbohydrates (carbs). If you need to lose weight you will need to reduce your portion size of foods containing carbohydrates (e.g. processed foods, bread etc.). You may need to drastically reduce or eliminate sweets and cakes. Processed savoury foods should be reduced or eliminated because most of them contain a lot of calories and fat.
- Go through your fridge and food cupboards and look at the carbohydrate values of the food you normally eat. See my article on carb counting. You will need to know what foods have no carbs, some carbs and very high carbs (eat in very small amounts or eliminate).
You could write the carb count for your normal sized portion on the front of the packet to help you get used to what is good and what is not so good. I know from experience how hard it is to remember the carb count in foods, especially ones that I only eat occasionally.
If you have been given a booklet on carb counting that contains food lists, leave it in your kitchen. If not, write a list of the food’s you eat and how many carbs they contain for your usual portion size. Put your carb booklet or list in your kitchen where you can refer to it when you are preparing meals.
You could also download a ‘carb’ app on your phone. You can check what carbs are in any foods by typing in the food name. An app is especially useful if you cook and bake.
- Don’t buy food labelled ‘low sugar, suitable for diabetic’s’. These labels are very misleading. They usually are lower in sugar, but contain other nasty ingredients. They are usually more expensive and give no extra ‘food value’. The best foods for diabetics and non-diabetics are fresh unprocessed foods. I hope my articles and recipes will give you plenty of inspiration.
- Try to eat about the same number of carbs each day. Vary your diet so that you don’t get bored and give up.
- Foods that are particularly bad for T2 are: fizzy sweet drinks, fruit juices (whole fruit eaten in moderation is fine), sweets and cakes. Consider eliminating them or just having as an occasional treat.
- Diabetics are more at risk of getting heart disease and strokes so it’s very important to eliminate unhealthy foods and eat a diet containing fresh unprocessed foods and lean protein.
- Ask your friends and family not to bring you sweets and biscuits. If you explain its for health reasons they should understand. If you know they are going to bring something when they visit, suggest something else you would like, maybe a magazine, a plant for the house or garden or healthy food that you like. You are in charge of your health, so you decide and make the suggestion.
- If you have been given a blood glucose meter, familiarize yourself with it straight away.
- You may have been given a diary to record your blood glucose readings. Find out what your target levels are (usually 4.5 to 7 mmol/80 to 126 mg/dl). The best way to get to know what affects your blood glucose is to write down your blood glucose check results and also what you eat each day.
Record the following in your diary for a few weeks at least:
- Record the time you did BG checks and the reading.
- What time you took your medication. Record if you forgot to take it or took it later than usual.
- What you ate, the portion size and at what time.
- Exercise type, length of time and at what time.
Some carbs behave differently to others (30g of carbs in a chocolate bar will have a very different affect than 30g carbs in wholemeal bread) and affect some people’s BG levels differently, so writing down what you actually ate is good until you get used to it.
Take the time to look over your day’s BG levels at different times of the day, what you ate, exercise etc. and see if you see a pattern. Compare it to the day before. Some reasons for high levels of blood glucose are:
- You ate a bigger portion of carbohydrate than usual.
- You didn’t take your medication or took it later than usual.
- You didn’t exercise as much as usual.
- You are sick.
It is well worth doing this because it will help you to find out which foods affect your blood glucose the most. It will also show you if exercise helps to keep down your blood glucose level.
- BG levels: Don’t feel bad when your blood glucose is too high. Always ask yourself why its high. You will usually figure it out, but sometimes there is no reason for unexpected readings.
- Diabetes control isn’t just dependent on food intake. Exercise, stress and sleep make a difference too.
- If you later move on to taking insulin, see my hints for T1 diabetics. These will be similar for T2 diabetics who take insulin.
- Don’t listen to other people’s opinions about T2. Unless they have it themselves they have no idea what they are talking about. This is about you and you are in charge of managing your diabetes, getting the best advice and support available and living a full and healthy life.
T2 = type 2 diabetes
BG = blood glucose or blood sugar
Carb = carbohydrate