- Why You Should Add a Nutritionist to Your Diabetes Team
- Finding the Right Registered Dietitian for You
- Budgeting for Nutrition Support
- Meeting Your Nutrition Partner for the First Time
- Talking About Your Type 2 Diabetes with a Dietitian
- What a dietitian can do for you
- Help with reading food labels
- Why you shouldn’t fall for fad diets
- What to expect when meeting with a dietitian
- The takeaway
- Diabetes – the basics
- I’m a Dietitian with Diabetes. Here Are My 9 Favorite Foods — and What I Make with Them!
- 7 Questions to Ask Your Dietitian After a Diabetes Diagnosis
- 1. Which foods contain carbohydrates?
- 2. How many carbs per meal is right for me?
- 3. How do I count carbs?
- 4. What should my blood sugar levels be when I test them?
- 5. If I’m overweight, how much weight should I lose to get my health back on track?
- 6. Does exercise help or hurt diabetes?
- 7. If I’m feeling fine, can I eat whatever I want again?
Why You Should Add a Nutritionist to Your Diabetes Team
What, when, and how much you eat can make a huge difference in your ability to control your blood sugar when you’re managing type 2 diabetes.
Your doctor may recommend working with a registered dietitian (RD) to develop a personalized food plan that takes into account your eating preferences, schedule, and nutrition requirements. Many dietitians have also completed training to become certified diabetes educators (CDEs), indicating that they are experts in diabetes management as well as planning healthy diets based on individuals’ health needs.
“Being certified in diabetes, we know the ins and outs of the disease, which gives us experience in helping you manage your diabetes,” says Angela Ginn-Meadow, RD, a certified diabetes educator at the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Finding the Right Registered Dietitian for You
In the ideal world, you’ll be referred to a registered dietitian as soon as you’re diagnosed with diabetes so that you can get guidance right away about what to eat — and when — for better blood sugar control. A registered dietitian can help you set goals and then plan meals to meet them. Your diabetes and nutrition goals might include losing weight as well as lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure.
If you don’t have a specific referral, you can find a registered dietitian at the . Your insurance company may be able to provide a list of registered dietitians who are also certified diabetes educators.
Be sure you and your dietitian are compatible. “This is a journey for the long haul,” says Ginn-Meadow. “This isn’t likely a person you see once and never see them again. They’re here to help you along on your journey and to be a partner on your health care team.”
Budgeting for Nutrition Support
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your insurance is likely to cover your visits with a nutritionist, says Ginn-Meadow. However, if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes because your blood sugar levels are somewhat higher than normal, your visits may not be covered. Because working with an RD/CDE may prevent you from going from prediabetes to full-blown type 2 diabetes, it’s worth paying for the visit yourself, says Ginn-Meadow.
The cost for a visit with a dietitian will vary depending on where you live and what type of facility you go to — a private practice, a hospital, or a diabetes center.
You can expect to pay between $100 and $200 for the initial visit and about $50 to $150 for shorter follow-up visits. If your visits are covered by insurance, your co pays could be as little as $10 or as much as 20 percent of the cost. Check with your insurance plan ahead of time to be sure.
Meeting Your Nutrition Partner for the First Time
Expect your first meeting with your registered dietitian to last for up to an hour. You and your nutritionist will talk about your desired weight, how active you are, your medications, and your overall health goals.
“It will be general, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming,” says Ginn-Meadow. “What I like to do is get to know you and understand what your goals are. We can set small goals and discuss where to go from here.” Come prepared. “The more information you bring, the better I can help you,” says Ginn-Meadow.
To get the most out of this important first visit, bring with you:
- A food diary. Record everything you eat and when you eat it for at least two or three days in a notebook or using one of the many smartphone apps. At least one of those days should be a weekend because people tend to eat differently on weekends and to have different activity schedules than during the workweek. Be sure to thoroughly log everything you consume, including snacks, beverages, and between-meal nibbles. In order to help you make improvements, your dietitian will need to get an accurate picture of what you’re currently eating. One study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in August 2008 found that keeping a food diary kept people on track to lose more weight than they would have lost without one. According to the American Diabetes Association being overweight is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
- A list of your activities. Exercise is an important part of living well with diabetes. Knowing how often you exercise and what you like to do, whether it’s walking, swimming, biking, or dancing, can help with your diabetes treatment and eating plan.
- A list of your medications. Write down the names of your medications, the dosages, and the times you take each one. If it’s easier, just bring your pill bottles with you.
- Your blood sugar levels record. If you have started using a blood glucose meter, bring your meter and logbook to your appointment. “If you haven’t been testing your blood sugar levels, your CDE can teach you how to check your blood sugar and how often you should test. We will go through all the ins and outs and make sure your diabetes testing is not as painful as you expect it to be,” she added.
- Your questions. If you write down your questions in advance, you won’t forget to ask them. “List all questions you may have, whether it’s about something you heard on TV or from your church member or a cousin, so I can address them and make sure you know the facts about managing your diabetes,” suggests Ginn-Meadow.
At your first visit, your CDE will also ask you a series of questions to help you customize your eating plan. She’ll need your height, and weight to calculate your body mass index, or BMI. This information is important to determine whether you need to lose weight. If you do, your dietitian can help you plan menus for dining at home and at restaurants. He or she may also suggest good sources for recipes and healthy substitutions to lower fat and calories in meals.
She’ll want the details on all other health conditions you have, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, arthritis, or allergies, that will affect your nutrition needs, as well as any cultural influences on what you eat. “Knowing your ethnic background and the foods you eat can help us tailor a healthy eating plan for you and take your preferences into account,” says Ginn-Meadow.
Your dietitian will cover a lot of information during your first session, so it may help to take notes. You and your registered dietitian can work together to revise the food plan after you have tried the meals and snacks she or he suggested. If you find that the meal suggestions are too complicated or leave you feeling hungry, you will want to address these issues with your nutritionist at your next meeting.
In the beginning you may see your dietitian once a month. Once meal planning and healthy substitutions become a habit and your blood sugar is under control, you may not need to come as often. “I usually see most people who are newly diagnosed once a month for three months, then every three months and then every six months,” says Ginn-Meadow. “I have one person who I see just once a year because they’re doing so well.”
Talking About Your Type 2 Diabetes with a Dietitian
If you have type 2 diabetes, losing weight and eating healthy are important steps in managing your condition. If weight loss has been on your radar for a while — yet you’ve made little progress on your own — it may be time to consult a registered dietitian nutritionist or registered dietitian. They’ll work with you to create an eating plan that helps you lose weight and manage your blood sugar levels.
What a dietitian can do for you
Many people with type 2 diabetes are referred to a dietitian after receiving their diagnosis. They are a key player in your diabetes management team.
Contrary to what some might think, there’s no so-called diabetes diet. Although there are general dietary guidelines, diabetes eating plans are individualized and vary from person to person. A dietitian can be instrumental in tailoring the right eating plan for you.
When developing a plan, they’ll consider:
- your diabetes treatment plan
- other health conditions you have
- your lifestyle
- your weight loss goals
- your fitness level
Managing carbohydrates, or carbs, is important in successful diabetes eating plans whether your goal is weight loss or not. All carbs increase blood sugar to some degree, but your body still needs them. Eating too many refined carbs may spike your blood sugar levels and lead to weight gain.
The American Diabetes Association estimates carb intake needs to be about 45 to 60 grams per meal. But your ideal carb intake may be higher or lower depending on your fitness level, medications, and overall health. A dietitian can advise you on which carbs to eat and how much.
Sugar, a simple and quickly digesting carb, is a confusing ingredient for many people with diabetes. You can enjoy sugar in moderation as part of your diabetes eating plan if you substitute it for other carbs to stay within your total carb count. A dietitian can help you identify common high-sugar foods and hidden sugars in foods. They can also suggest ways to substitute healthier ingredients such as monk fruit for sugar in your recipes.
A high cholesterol level is also a concern for people with diabetes. Diabetes may lower your HDL (good) cholesterol, as well as increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. This increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. A dietitian will advise you on which foods help manage blood lipid levels and which foods may be harmful. They can also recommend ways to use herbs and seasonings to flavor foods instead of unhealthy fats.
Help with reading food labels
Food labels are a great tool to help you eat healthier, lose weight, and manage blood sugar. They list the per serving total of:
- select vitamins
- select minerals
Food labels have come a long way since their inception. Still, they can be confusing. A dietitian can help you make sense of food labels and teach you how to use them to make nutritious choices.
Why you shouldn’t fall for fad diets
For many people, losing weight on their own is hard, so they turn to quick-fix fad diets. Yet it’s overwhelming to evaluate the claims of fad diets: One diet tells you to eat carbs, but another tells you to avoid them. One plan claims fat is your friend, but another says to shun fat at all costs. The bottom line is fad diets may help you drop weight in the short term, but they’re almost impossible maintain.
If you have type 2 diabetes, fad diets can wreak havoc on your health. They don’t teach you how to eat healthy with managing blood sugar in mind. Severely limiting calories and eating or eliminating certain foods may negatively impact your blood sugar levels and put stress on your kidneys. You may lose a few unwanted pounds, but you may also end up less healthy than when you started.
If you’re thinking about trying a fad diet to lose weight, consider this: If these diets are so effective, why are two out of three adults in the United States still overweight or obese? The answer is that fad diets aren’t a healthy, sustainable weight loss solution.
What to expect when meeting with a dietitian
At your first visit with a dietitian, you’ll discuss your past and present medical history, medications, eating habits, and fitness level. You’ll also review:
- your weight history
- food allergies
- favorite foods
- health goals
- previous weight loss obstacles
- concerns you have
It’s helpful to keep a food journal for a couple weeks before your visit to share your typical diet.
Your dietitian will work with you to identify the best eating plan for your situation. They’ll tell you how many calories, fat, and carbs you should eat each day and help you set measurable goals. Some questions to consider asking are:
- How does food impact my blood sugar?
- What types of carbs are better choices than others?
- Should I eat more protein?
- Can I eat fruits since they’re high in carbs?
- Which foods help lower blood sugar?
- What should I eat before and after exercise to keep blood sugar levels stable?
- How do I manage my cholesterol?
- How does alcohol affect my blood sugar? Should I avoid it?
- Can I eat starchy foods such as potatoes or rice?
- Which fats are healthy?
- What are the best food options when dining out?
A diabetes eating plan is generally the same as many other healthy eating plans. It generally includes:
- lean proteins
- whole grains
- low-fat dairy
- fruits and vegetables
- healthy fats
- meal balance and timing
But because many healthy foods have carbs and impact your blood sugar levels, a diabetes eating plan is more than just eating healthy. It goes much deeper and helps you identify how specific foods impact blood sugar. Having a dietitian on hand to personalize an eating plan and help you stay accountable helps make your weight loss journey easier and healthier.
A dietitian isn’t there to deprive you of your favorite comfort foods. Rather, they’re available to help you learn how food affects your blood sugar and how you can enjoy all foods now and then as part of a healthy, well-rounded eating plan.
Diabetes – the basics
A healthy diet is an essential part of diabetes management as it can help to control blood glucose (sugar) levels and achieve a healthy weight.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes, correctly called diabetes mellitus, is a condition in which the body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Our body produces a hormone called insulin that converts glucose (from food) into energy. In type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce any insulin naturally. So, people with type 1 rely on insulin each day to replace what their body isn’t producing. They also need to be diligent each day in testing their blood glucose levels, to make sure they are within a healthy range.
In people with type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin, or it gradually stops producing enough to control blood glucose levels. Either way, without enough effective insulin, the blood glucose levels will rise above normal levels. High levels of glucose in the blood can eventually cause damage to blood vessels and nerves. Small blood vessels like those that deliver blood to the kidneys and eyes are particularly susceptible to damage in people with poorly managed diabetes.
Blood glucose levels normally vary between 4 and 6 mmol/L (fasting). People with diabetes should aim to achieve blood glucose levels as near as possible to the normal range in order to avoid short and long term diabetes complications.
Individual blood glucose targets should be discussed with your diabetes health professional team.
Good diabetes management can help reduce the risk of complications such as:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Eye problems
- Foot problems
- Circulation problems.
Diabetes and Diet
It is important that any dietary advice is tailored to your individual needs. An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) will consider personal health and lifestyle influences and help to separate the facts from the myths surrounding diet and diabetes.
Some common dietary myths that are not correct include:
- People with diabetes should eliminate all food containing carbohydrate
- People with diabetes need to avoid all sugar completely
- People with diabetes need to eat mostly foods high in protein and fat.
However, evidence shows that people living with diabetes may need to modify the following:
Both the type, and amount of fat that we eat is important. Foods containing unsaturated fats are a healthier choice than foods high in saturated fats. It may be important to reduce the amount of foods containing saturated fats in your diet and replace with sources of unsaturated fats.
It may be helpful to increase the amount of fibre eaten each day. Fibre can make meals more filling and evidence suggests that soluble fibre (found in foods such as beans, fruit and oats) may help to control blood glucose levels. Try to choose high fibre breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables each day.
Foods containing carbohydrate include bread, rice, pasta, noodles, breakfast cereal, potato, corn, legumes, fruit, milk and yoghurt. Carbohydrate foods can be eaten with each meal but the quality and amount need to be individualised for you. Some people with diabetes use ‘carbohydrate exchanges’ to work out how much carbohydrate to eat and when to eat it. The carbohydrate-containing foods that provide the best blood glucose level control are those that are slowly digested and absorbed into the blood stream. These are foods with a low glycaemic index (GI).
It is important to include regular meals each day particularly if you are taking medications. Skipping meals can affect blood glucose levels and leave you feeling unwell. For more information on low carbohydrate diets and diabetes, see our hot topic.
Regular physical activity is also important in managing diabetes. Try to be active each day as this can assist with blood glucose control by helping to make muscle more sensitive to taking up glucose.
An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) can provide you with professional dietary advice to help manage diabetes and stay healthy.
I’m a Dietitian with Diabetes. Here Are My 9 Favorite Foods — and What I Make with Them!
Raise your hand if you like grocery shopping… anyone? I’m one of those rare people who loves roaming the aisles of the grocery store. This goes back to my childhood when I became very aware of food at an early age.
As a child with type 1 diabetes, I grew up trained by dietitians and educators, so I knew better than others the foods that helped stabilize my blood sugars. That knowledge carried me into adulthood and became my passion.
I entered graduate school to become a dietitian and could carb count blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back (okay, not really, but you get the idea).
But maybe you’re not like me. Maybe your diabetes diagnosis is new, or maybe food and/or the mere thought of the grocery store stresses you out. Don’t worry — if that’s you, you’re definitely not alone.
I hear this from friends and clients all the time. And it’s usually followed by some sort of request to have me grocery shop with them.
So, this is the next best thing! I’m sharing the nine foods I always have on my grocery list, and why they’re my go-tos.
1. Avocados. As a diabetic, I learned a long time ago that fat was my friend. Not only does it help stabilize blood sugars after meals, but it also adds flavor and great texture to dishes. Avocados are great sliced up on rice crackers or chopped in salads — or try this Avocado Cacao Mousse or these Avocado Banana Cookies for healthier versions of desserts.
Share on PinterestImage by: Mary Ellen Phipps
2. Organic pasture-raised eggs. I try as best I can (and as our budget allows) to buy animal products that are organic. Organic eggs are at less risk for salmonella due to better living conditions, and one study found that eggs from pasture-raised hens were higher in vitamins A and E as well as omega-3 fatty acids! Try adding a fried egg to high-fiber toast in the morning. A classic “breakfast for dinner” with scrambled eggs is always a hit too.
Share on PinterestImage by: Heather Schwartz and Mary Ellen Phipps
3. Grass-fed ground beef. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines grass-fed animals as those that have been fed only “grass and forage, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning.” To be certified, the animals “cannot be fed grain or grain by-products and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.”
The diet that a cow eats has a direct impact on the nutrients and fat found in its meat. Grass-fed beef typically has less fat overall and a higher percentage of that fat is anti-inflammatory fat. It also has more antioxidants and greater amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (which may reduce your risk for heart disease and cancer). My absolute favorite way to use ground beef is this Cheesy Beef & Kale Pasta Bake!
4. Cucumbers. When you look at vitamin and mineral content, cucumbers don’t offer much. But they do have a decent amount of fiber and a lot of water, which make them a great way to stay full and satisfied as part of a larger meal. And if you remember your first-ever diabetes education appointment, they probably talked to you about “free foods” (foods that don’t require insulin and don’t contain any significant amount of carbohydrates). Well, cucumbers are pretty much the poster child for free foods. They’re great for adding crunch to a salad or sandwich and for dipping into hummus, which leads me to…
5. Hummus. I always tell my clients that to avoid a blood sugar spike or drop, there are three things you need your meal or snack should have: fiber, fat, and protein. And hummus has all three! I like to use it in place of dressing on a salad and as a spread on sandwiches, or just to eat on its own with a spoon for an afternoon energy boost.
6. Fresh or frozen berries. I love all berries, but raspberries and blueberries are my two favorites. In the late spring and summer, I buy them fresh every week, but as fall and winter roll along, I’m always so thankful that frozen berries are so easy to find (and affordable). Berries are a great way to add sweetness without using added sugar. They’re loaded with fiber and antioxidants too. Raspberries have one of the lowest percentage of sugar of any berry. And blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese (which plays a role in bone development and helps our bodies use the nutrients in the foods we eat). Use berries to make your own no-added-sugar jam or homemade “frozen” yogurt.
Share on PinterestImage by: Mary Ellen Phipps
7. Plain whole-milk yogurt. Both milk and yogurt contain a naturally occurring sugar called lactose. But most dairy products on the market also contain added sugar (and usually quite a lot). Most people are so surprised by just how delicious plain yogurt and fruit can be if paired correctly. As a type 1 diabetic, I am super in tune with how things raise my blood sugars. If I were to eat a container of fat-free yogurt, the carbohydrate (lactose) would get absorbed very quickly, potentially resulting in a blood sugar spike. But if I have whole-milk yogurt, the fat acts as a potential buffer to the blood sugar spike. It also delays the absorption of the carbohydrate, resulting in sustained energy. So, fat not only adds flavor but also keeps you fuller longer and gives you prolonged energy without blood sugar spikes. Try it on toast or in a yogurt bowl!
8. Whole-grain bread. Hopefully, by now, you’ve caught on that whole-grain bread is better than the refined white bread a lot of us grew up with. Whole-grain bread is made with just that — the whole grain. This means we get to reap the benefits of the antioxidants, fat, and fiber found in the outer layers of the grain that are discarded when making white bread. Whole grains also offer B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and ﬁber. Try loading up your whole-grain bread with all the goods, like this peaches ‘n’ cream toast.
Share on PinterestImage by: Jasmin Schreiber and Mary Ellen Phipps
9. Unsweetened all-natural nut butter. I have a serious obsession with all kinds of nut butter… and that seems to have been passed on to my kids as well. You’ll often find them taking any spoon they can find to the peanut butter jar, and I don’t have a problem with it at all. I always buy nut butters with no added sugar and no added oils, so I know they’re getting a quality source of plant-based protein and fat. And believe it or not, you don’t have to spend a fortune on fancy all-natural nut butter. You can make your own (like this homemade cashew butter) or buy some affordable store-bought brands. One of my favorite brands is Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter (they also sell almond and cashew butter).
There are so many other foods I could list too, but these nine are an amazing way to revamp your grocery list. Focus on minimizing added sugars and on not being afraid to add some quality sources of fat to your diet!
Mary Ellen Phipps is the registered dietitian nutritionist behind Milk & Honey Nutrition. She’s also a wife, mom, type 1 diabetic, and recipe developer. Browse her website for yummy diabetes-friendly recipes and helpful nutrition tips. She strives to make healthy eating easy, realistic, and most importantly… fun! She has expertise in family meal planning, corporate wellness, adult weight management, adult diabetes management, and metabolic syndrome. Reach out to her onInstagram.
7 Questions to Ask Your Dietitian After a Diabetes Diagnosis
A diabetes diagnosis can feel scary and overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to have a great healthcare team to support and help you start managing your condition right away. If you haven’t received one, ask your doctor for a referral for an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD or RDN) or a certified diabetes educator (CDE). Either of these professionals can help you to navigate the road to healthy eating and exercising habits, two key components to any type 2 diabetes treatment regimen. If you’ve had type 2 diabetes for a while, but haven’t met with an RD or CDE (or even if you have and could use a refresher), it’s never too late to get started with a diabetes-friendly diet plan! Here are seven questions to ask your dietitian on your first visit:
1. Which foods contain carbohydrates?
Since carbohydrates are the nutrients in food that affect blood sugar, you’ll want to know which foods contain them and about how much. This will take some practice, but a registered dietitian can be an invaluable resource to have as you learn to navigate the grocery store aisles with new eyes. Many foods contain at least a small amount of carbohydrates. There’s no need to avoid these foods completely, but it is a good idea to know about how many carbohydrates you’re getting from your food at each meal and snack. Ask your dietitian for a list of these foods to help you get started!
2. How many carbs per meal is right for me?
The number of carbs you should eat for each meal and snack is based on your height, weight, activity level, and the types of medication you’re taking. That is why this is a particularly good question to ask your dietitian or CDE. Until you’re able to meet with your dietitian, a good place to start is with 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates at each meal (3 to 4 carb servings) and about 15 grams (1 carb serving) at snacks.
3. How do I count carbs?
Counting carbs takes a little practice, but before you know it, you’ll be a pro! To become a carb counting expert, you’ll need to know how many carbs to shoot for at each meal and snack and how many carbs are in the foods you’re eating. There are a number of food trackers and carb counting apps that can help you overcome the learning curve. Or, if you prefer, your dietitian can provide a detailed list of foods and their associated carb counts. Just be sure to be mindful of portion sizes too — the more of a given food you eat, the more carbs you’ll be eating. Measuring your food out and paying attention to portion sizes on packages for a few days or weeks can be very helpful.
4. What should my blood sugar levels be when I test them?
It’s important for people who have diabetes to check their blood sugar levels regularly. Having target ranges to aim for can give you an idea of how you’re doing. Of course, blood sugar level goals vary based on their timing. For people who have diabetes, Joslin Diabetes Center recommends 70 to 130 mg/dL fasting/before breakfast, but always check with your physician for your individual blood sugar goals.
5. If I’m overweight, how much weight should I lose to get my health back on track?
If you’re overweight, dropping even a few extra pounds by eating well and exercising can really put your health on the right track. A recent study in the journal Diabetes Care found that even modest weight reduction of 5 to 10% of body weight can have significant benefits to heart health and blood sugar levels. Losing even more weight have even more dramatic effects on your health.
6. Does exercise help or hurt diabetes?
Regular exercise can help to improve blood sugar levels and is an important part of any diabetes plan. Keep in mind that intense activity will affect blood sugar levels and you may have to include an additional healthy snack during or right after strenuous activity. Ask your dietitian or CDE what’s right for you. Daily, simple exercises such as walking can be a wonderful addition to a diabetes management plan. And you don’t have to break a sweat for it to count as exercise! In fact, studies have shown that small amounts of walking throughout the day can be just as effective for weight loss and blood sugar management as walking for a longer stretch of time.
7. If I’m feeling fine, can I eat whatever I want again?
Feeling well and having normalized blood sugar levels are two positive effects of living a healthy lifestyle. However, these should be motivators to “keep up the great work,” not go back to your old unhealthy habits. Eating foods that are good for you most of the time and counting carbs will allow you some freedom to eat old favorites in moderation. Think of eating well for diabetes as a lifestyle, not a temporary diet plan. Be sure to ask your dietitian or CDE any and all questions that come to mind. There are no silly questions, and you’ll want to make sure that you have all of the answers for your particular situation. He or she will be happy to help you personalize your journey to better health!
Diabetes affects the body’s ability to make or properly use insulin. This leads to high blood glucose (sugar) in the blood. Maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is key to managing diabetes. Choosing nutritious foods and watching portion sizes can help you control blood sugar levels. And, a registered dietitian nutritionist, or RDN, can help you learn how to get the nutrients you need.
What Is Medical Nutrition Therapy?
RDNs treat diabetes with medical nutrition therapy, called MNT. MNT includes a nutrition diagnosis as well as therapeutic and counseling services to help you manage diabetes. Many insurance plans cover these services. Medicare Part B covers MNT for diabetes and kidney disease. If you have private insurance, check with your individual plan for specific coverage details. An RDN who meets certain requirements can provide these services.
An RDN can discuss a variety of nutrition approaches to help you manage diabetes. For example, carbohydrate counting, simplified meal plans, healthy food choices, exchange lists and behavior strategies. One study found that three to six months after MNT, HgA1c was reduced. Plus, research shows that meeting regularly with an RDN helps manage weight, improves cholesterol levels, decreases the need for medicines and reduces risk for other diseases.
Why a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?
RDNs are the food and nutrition experts. They have completed multiple levels of training established by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. Some RDNs are generalists — they have knowledge about a variety of nutrition subjects. Others have a specialty interest or an advanced credential. An RDN who is a Certified Diabetes Educator, or CDE, educates people with diabetes on how to manage their condition and improve their health outcomes.
How Do RDNs Help?
An RDN figures out what therapy is best for you and works with you on short- and long-term plans. People with diabetes need to understand how foods and nutrition affect their bodies to successfully manage the disease. RDNs provide detailed information about how to eat and practical tips for addressing daily challenges. A dietitian can put together a daily meal plan that considers your individual food preferences, level of physical activity and lifestyle choices.
What Should I Expect?
The length of a visit with an RDN may vary. Learning to manage diabetes is complicated so you may need four to five visits across three to six months. Also, yearly follow-ups are recommended. At these visits you learn new information about diabetes and nutrition.