November is National Diabetes Month, and St. Joe’s endocrinologist Sima Saberi, MD, shares some useful knowledge for those with diabetes – what to eat, which habits to curb and how much exercise to aim for each day. Dr. Saberi shared these health tips with Sharecare’s Behind the Scrubs blog on Nov. 14.
What healthy habits do you practice to keep diabetes at bay?
I try to walk 30 minutes a day, three days a week, and 45 to 60 minutes a day, two days a week. I also watch my diet and try to be careful with portion sizes.
What are your favorite diabetes-friendly snacks? Desserts?
Walnuts or low-fat cheeses are great snack options. One small scoop of ice cream (sugar-free and low-fat options are best) is a yummy dessert option.
What do you wish your people with diabetes did to take better care of their feet?
I wish that my patients wouldn’t walk barefoot. And I also recommend that they check their feet each day. If they can’t see the bottom of their feet, I tell them to use a mirror or ask a friend or family member to check their feet.
What’s the ideal breakfast for a person with diabetes? Lunch? Dinner?
The ideal meal for someone with diabetes is a balanced one with whole grain and high-fiber foods. Depending on the person’s other health conditions, they may need different amounts of nutrients, and a dietitian can help determine what is best. In general, we typically recommend 45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal but, if your blood sugar is high, you’ll want to be more careful with how many carbs you are eating and what types of carbs you are eating. Protein and high-fiber foods can help you feel full and can help maintain your blood sugar at a more even range. But if you have kidney dysfunction, your kidney doctor may limit the amount of protein in your diet.
What’s one unexpected habit you wish your patients would drop?
Drinking soda pop. Regular soda can cause your blood sugar to spike. Data also show that people who drink diet soda end up not feeling quite as full, so they may overeat.
What’s the most common question your patients ask you?
What should my blood sugar be? In general, we aim for a fasting blood sugar less than 130 and for blood sugar levels to be less than 180 later in the day.
What’s the most common myth or misconception that you regularly have to debunk among your patients?
“I am on insulin so I can eat anything I want. The insulin will cover me.”
What do you do to stay healthy?
I watch my diet (and in turn my weight) and I walk for exercise.
How do fit in time for exercise every day?
I try to walk before or after dinner on weekdays and in the mornings on weekends. I don’t have time to exercise every weekday, but I do things throughout the day to get in more steps. I park in the back of the parking lot so that I have to walk farther and I take the five flights of stairs to and from my office floor. If there is a longer way to get from point A to point B, I will always take the longer way.
What’s the biggest mistake you see your patients make?
Not checking their blood sugar levels. If you are not checking your blood sugar, you don’t really know what it is. If you know what your blood sugar is, you may be more inclined to make healthier food choices or to call your doctor when you see your levels are too high.