OGDENSBURG — According to Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center’s Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist Shannon VanHouse, summer is the best time of year to start new healthier eating and activity habits.
The weather is nice enough to get outside and get some activity and healthy; whole foods are plentiful and more affordable. Not only are vegetables delicious, they are nutrition powerhouses — rich in vitamins, fiber, and water, Ms. VanHouse said.
“As a diabetes educator, the most common questions I get asked are, ‘what do I have to eat now that I have Type 2 diabetes?’ and ‘what am I not allowed to have any more?’ My response is generally, ‘the same things you would eat to stay healthy and prevent or manage any chronic condition. There is no special diet for someone with Type 2 diabetes. It’s the diet we all should eat to stay healthy.’”
That includes more whole foods (foods that look like they did in their natural state) and limiting processed foods (foods that are refined with lots of additives, often shelf-stable in a box, bag, or can).
“Instead of getting too deep into the weeds of counting carbs, calories, and fats, I like to keep it simple and tell folks to ask themselves, ‘Does this food look like it did when it came out of the ground, off the plant, or tree or from the animal?’ Also, ‘Would my great, great, great grandparents recognize it as food if they saw it?’ If you can answer yes to both of these questions, then it’s likely a whole food and good for you- enjoy it! On the other hand, if it looks like it came from a factory and you can’t recognize it as a plant or animal anymore, and your great, great, great grandparents would look at it sideways- it might be wise to avoid it or limit the amount you eat. Identifying healthy foods doesn’t have to be complicated.’” Ms. VanHouse said.
There is a misconception that eating healthy is more costly. It certainly can be, but many strategies can be employed to make grocery dollars stretch and get the most out of the food items. Convenience is the most significant cost. It takes a little more time to cook with whole ingredients, but the benefits are worth it. The long-term cost of eating a diet heavy in processed foods and its consequences far exceed the added cost of extra time spent to prepare more nutritive foods.
Consuming primarily whole, plant-based foods has many essential benefits. It can help control blood sugar by naturally limiting the amount of added sugars and refined carbohydrates you take in. It can help prevent overeating and promote satiety because of the high fiber, water, and nutrient content. It can help with weight management due to the higher fiber and lower calorie content of whole foods compared with processed foods and the satiety that they bring. Studies also show that over time, consuming more whole foods may decrease cravings for sweets while increasing your preference for natural foods increases. This means that over time it gets easier and easier to make healthy food choices.
Beware of marketing, Miss VanHouse said. Food manufacturers want you to buy their products. To do this, they will often use crafty language and graphics to trick you into thinking their product is healthier than it is. A great piece of advice that I’ve heard and often pass on to my patients is: Skip the labeling on the front of the box entirely. Instead, read the ingredients list to find out what is actually in the food you’re eating. Be an informed consumer. You control what goes into your body.
So the next time you pass by a farmer’s market or the produce section that’s brimming with nature’s bounty, stock up on some colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables and give your body a treat, Ms. VanHouse said.
To learn more about healthy eating, or for more information about the many wellness and prevention programs Claxton-Hepburn offers, contact Ms. VanHouse at 315-713-5116. This is one of the many ways we work to keep you north country strong.