For National Diabetes Awareness Month, we would like to introduce you to Whitney Gould-Cookson, MS,RD, LD As a dietitian, she knows her stuff when it comes to diabetes and nutrition. Let’s talk!
Q: So, Whitney, why is nutrition so important to diabetes?
A: That is a great question. Nutrition is important to diabetes because it can help control your blood sugar, which is a main goal for people with diabetes. What we’re putting into our bodies breaks down and it’s carbohydrates (carbs), it turns to sugar in your body, so what you are eating does have a key role in diabetes.
Q: Do you have any stats on the number of people in our area have diabetes?
A: I looked that up before I came here today, and I didn’t find any recent statistics but in 2011, there was approximately 11% of adults in Maine who had diabetes. That number includes people who have pre-diabetes or are undiagnosed.
Q: What is the first thing you tell your clients when they come to see you?
A: Someone who has Type 2 comes in and they think I’m going to tell them they can’t eat anything anymore but I try to stress that it’s about lifestyle change. I try to ease their minds. It’s all about behaviors and habits; it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as they might think it is. I just let them know it’s totally doable and to not be scared or get too overwhelmed.
Q: Do you have any tips for anyone who is at risk for developing diabetes?
A: For pre-diabetes, it’s really about rethinking your lifestyle. Physical activity helps reduce your risk for developing diabetes and could help if you would benefit from losing weight. A balanced diet eating plan is for anyone really.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone who might be food insecure but still needs to eat well to take care of themselves?
A: My biggest advice is that it’s totally doable, no matter what your food status is. Work with what you have. Break it down to see where the food you might get from the food cupboard fits in your meal plan. Portion control is beneficial for health. It can be challenging, but it’s doable!
Q: Do you have any closing comments?
A: Lots of times people think that eating a lot of sugar gives you diabetes, but it’s more genetics and lifestyle. Diabetics can eat anything other people eat, they just have to count the carbs and portion sizes. It’s not a limiting factor, even though it might seem that way.
Being active, losing 5 to 10% of your body weight helps delay the disease. Some people also think that they can “stockpile” their carbs for at the end of the day for example, but you can’t. It’s important to keep a balance. Choose fruits and vegetables over prepackaged food. Some people get overwhelmed and feel they can’t do what they need to do to be healthy. Keep it simple!