About 24 million Americans have diabetes. Ninety to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. If those numbers don’t give you pause, consider this one: An additional 40 percent of adults and growing numbers of children have prediabetes, putting them at high risk for type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes (when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to diagnose diabetes) also increases the risk for heart disease. Add in the fact that our population is steadily gaining weight — a major risk factor for developing diabetes — and we've got an epidemic on our hands.
The exciting news is that the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) — a major clinical study that looked at diet and exercise versus medication for diabetes prevention — clearly showed that by making a few lifestyle changes you can decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent! Increasing exercise (150 minutes per week, or 20 to 25 minutes of moderate activity every day), changing eating habits and losing 7 percent of your body weight are more effective than taking medication to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The DPP lasted six months, with follow-up for an additional six months. This means there is no quick fix, and that the changes you make need to be lifelong. Here's how following the Eat to Beat Diabetes Diet can help get you started:
- This meal plan will help you set goals for fat and calorie consumption — and help you stick to them. The DPP used these goals:
- If you weigh between 120 and 170 pounds: 33 grams of fat and 1,200 calories per day
- If you weigh between 175 and 215 pounds: 42 grams of fat and 1,500 calories per day
- If you weigh between 220 and 245 pounds: 50 grams of fat and 1,800 calories per day
- If you weigh 250 pounds or more: 55 grams fat and 2,000 calories per day.
- The Eat to Beat Diabetes plan provides approximately 1,300 calories a day (45 percent of calories from carbohydrate, 31 percent from protein and 23 percent from fat). You can modify as you wish to reach the goal that's right for you.
- Legumes are a good source of protein and are very high in fiber, plus they help lower cholesterol levels and keep hunger at bay. This diet will encourage you to enjoy legumes more often by adding black beans, garbanzo beans, split peas and other tasty choices to your meals.
- Because portion control really does make a difference, this diet will help you pay more attention to the amount you consume. Measure out the foods you eat every day at the beginning, and then once each week to keep in practice.
- This meal plan will teach you that it's okay to snack! In fact, choosing snacks wisely and bringing them with you instead of relying on vending machines can help you lose weight. Why? Eating every three to five hours helps stave off hunger, which can cause you to overeat.
Reviewed by Susan Janoff, MS RD LD/N