LiveWell with Traditions Diabetes Management Healthier Eating

The ABCs of Diabetes Management: 3 Fundamentals of Healthier Eating

Erin Dixon

Registered Dietitian

Living with a diabetes diagnosis makes it important to monitor your eating habits to help manage your condition. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to keep track of the different adjustments you need to consider as you make healthy food choices. A simple trick to help you with three of the most important factors is to remember the “ABCs” of diabetes management:

A = A1C test
B = blood pressure
C = cholesterol

A: What is an A1C test?

The A1C test is a blood test that shows your average blood sugar level over the last three months and therefore, your risk of developing other health problems due to diabetes. The results of an A1C test are the best way to determine whether your blood sugar is under control over time.

You can get an A1C test at your doctor’s office or health clinic. If your blood sugar is high, your physician may recommend getting an A1C test every three months. If it is under control, you may be advised to get one every six months.

What is a healthy A1C level for diabetic patients?

For people with diabetes, a good A1C result is generally 7% or lower. Based on a variety of factors, you and your doctor or diabetes educator can determine the A1C level that’s best for you. 

How can I lower my A1C level and manage my blood sugar?

There are many ways to keep your blood sugar in check, including getting enough exercise and sleep and reducing stress. One of the most important factors in managing your blood sugar is watching your carbohydrate intake and consuming the kinds of carbs that raise your blood sugar slowly or only a little. Here are just a few examples:

  • Beans and legumes such as black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, lentils, and peas
  • Fresh fruits such as apples, grapes, strawberries, oranges, and peaches
  • Vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes
  • Dairy such as milk (all types) and plain or light yogurt
  • Breads such as pumpernickel, wheat or rye sourdough
  • Pasta made from semolina or durum wheat and brown rice

Maintaining a diabetic-friendly diet is not only about managing your blood sugar. People with diabetes need to be aware of their blood pressure as well, as it can affect other aspects of their health.

B: Why is blood pressure control important for people with diabetes?

Diabetes increases your risk of having high blood pressure, and both diabetes and high blood pressure increase your risk for heart attack or stroke. Therefore, blood pressure control is an important part of diabetes management.

For people with diabetes, a normal blood pressure should be 130 over 80 or lower. You should have your blood pressure checked every three months and can often have it checked for free at your doctor’s office, pharmacy, or health clinic. You can also purchase a blood pressure monitoring device at a pharmacy to check your blood pressure at home any time.

What foods can I eat to lower my blood pressure?

A good way to lower blood pressure is to follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. This flexible plan recommends the following basic guidelines:

  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Include fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
  • Limit foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets
  • Limit foods that are high in sodium. (For tips, read our blog post about cutting down on salty foods.)

In addition to lowering blood pressure, following these nutritional guidelines also helps to keep blood sugar in a healthy range, making the DASH eating plan a smart choice for diabetic patients overall.

C: What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs to stay healthy—but only in the right amounts.

The particles that carry cholesterol in your blood and throughout your body are called lipoproteins, which are made of lipids (fats) and proteins. There are two types of lipoproteins:

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol)

Also known as “bad” cholesterol, a high level of LDL cholesterol (100 or above) may create a buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) in your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or other health problems.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol)

Also known as “good” cholesterol, HDL cholesterol carries cholesterol and plaque to the liver to be flushed out of the body. A high level of HDL cholesterol (above 40 for men, and above 50 for women) may lower your risk for health problems. 

How can I lower my LDL cholesterol level?

To keep your LDL or “bad” cholesterol level in a healthy range, cut down on foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. These foods include:

  • fatty meats
  • butter & shortening
  • cheese & sour cream
  • desserts & baked goods
  • whole milk
  • half & half
  • whipping cream
  • coffee creamer

Instead, eat foods high in whole grains and fiber, and unsaturated fats such as vegetable oils (olive oil), avocados, nuts, and fish.

For more tips on keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level, read our blog post on lowering bad LDL cholesterol

LiveWell with Traditions helps make diabetic-friendly meals simple

The “ABC” approach to diabetes management can help you make smart-for-you food choices that will affect your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in healthy ways. LiveWell with Traditions makes it even easier to live a healthy lifestyle with dietitian-designed meal plans for people with diabetes and other chronic conditions. Contact your insurance provider to see if you qualify for this convenient service; or share this article with your provider and urge them to add LiveWell with Traditions’ medically tailored meals to their supplemental benefits.  
In the meantime, learn more about reaching your nutritional goals by reading our blog post about how you can swap out foods for more heart-healthy choices.


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