Your aunt has a sweet tooth, and she can consume a box of cookies in one sitting. Your dad doesn't see why -- at his age -- he should bother watching what he eats. Sound familiar? But healthy eating is a key component to controlling blood sugar levels and weight, two major tools in managing type 2 diabetes and warding off diabetes-related complications like heart disease. Here are ways to help someone with diabetes make smart food choices.
Be sensitive when advising someone with diabetes about diet
Before you attempt to overhaul someone's diet all at once, take a deep breath and reconsider. Even though she has diabetes, you may find there isn't much that needs tweaking. Have her keep a three-day food diary to get a sense of what, how much, and when she eats.
Remember, too, that change is hard for everyone -- especially older adults, who've been doing what they do for a long time. So take small steps if you find you need to help her readjust her eating patterns.
Sometimes just minor changes in meal habits can make a big difference in controlling blood sugar levels. For instance, consistency plays a role in keeping blood sugar on track, so try getting your friend or relative to eat about the same amount of carbohydrates -- the nutrient that has the biggest effect on blood sugar levels -- at each meal.
Consider her preferences
Because food preferences are so individual, it's best to help someone with diabetes figure out a meal plan that takes into consideration her likes and dislikes, eating habits and schedule, and any health issues that may affect the way she eats. Keep a list of her favorite foods, recipes, and meals to help you and any health professionals you enlist in the process come up with a meal plan that's realistic -- and one she may actually stick with.
Keep it simple
Don't overwhelm the person you're caring for with too much diet information. If you bombard her with complex instructions about what, when, and how much to eat, you run the risk of losing her cooperation altogether.
Instead, look for clear, concise ways to convey your message. For example, moderation is key to controlling blood sugar levels -- regardless of how healthy the food is -- so paying attention to portion size is important.
An easy way to learn portion control is the plate method. If you think of a plate as a circle, divide it in half, and then divide one half in half again. On the full half of the plate goes vegetables and salads, a quarter of the plate is reserved for protein, and the remaining quarter is for carbohydrates or starches.