Lifestyle

Three steps to help prevent diabetes

Chances are you know someone with type 2 diabetes. That someone may even be you. Currently more than 3 million Canadians have type 2 diabetes. That number is expected to grow to just under 4 million by 2018. Genetics and lifestyle play a large role in the development of this serious health condition. Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, and even erectile dysfunction.

Making a few lifestyle changes can dramatically lower the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Take these three important steps to reduce your risk.

Get moving.  Aim for 30 minutes of activity a day. Getting active doesn’t have to mean starting an exercise class or joining a gym.  Choose activities that you enjoy or ones that you can do as a family - rake leaves, walk your kids to school, go for a bike ride after supper, or dance the night away!

Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight around the belly area is a risk factor for diabetes. Even a modest amount of weight loss can reduce your risk. Speak with your health care professional about a healthy weight loss goal and ways to achieve it.

Eat well. Have foods from at least three of the four food groups at each meal. Fill half your plate at supper with vegetables, a quarter with a protein (from the meat and alternatives group) and the other quarter with a starch (from the grain products group). Drink low-fat milk and choose low-fat yogurt or cheese. Keep your portions reasonable and go easy on high-fat spreads, dips, and sauces. Aim for two servings of fish each week and choose low fat meats like extra lean beef, turkey, and skinless chicken.

Try cooking with beans, lentils, and tofu. These meat alternatives are inexpensive and have many health benefits. Lastly, cut out sugary drinks like soda. Sugary drinks provide extra calories and do not fill you up. For more great tips check out Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php. It is a great resource and it’s available online or at your local health unit.

Eating healthy does require some basic cooking skills. If you would like to learn how to cook healthy, budget-friendly meals consider participating in a Food Skills for Families program. Food Skills for Families is a free hands-on program that makes healthy eating, shopping, and cooking easy, quick, and fun. To find out if there is a program near you, check with your local friendship centre,  community centre, or other organizations that offer programs for parents or seniors. For more information visit: www.foodskillsforfamilies.ca or call the Canadian Diabetes Association at 1 604 732-1331, extension 248.

Authors:  Linda Boyd, community nutritionist with Interior Health and Heather Morrow, dietetic intern

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