Being diagnosed with any medical condition can feel overwhelming - diabetes is no different.
When you are first diagnosed it can feel like a huge shock. You probably feel afraid of what may happen in the future and confused about how to handle your new diagnosis.
Even if you were diagnosed years ago, you may still struggle to keep your blood sugar under control from time to time and feel those waves of emotions all over again.
We know diabetes is a lot to handle on your own, and that is why we, as dietitians, are here to help.
What Do Dietitians Do For Diabetes?
For starters, the key to managing your diabetes is managing your blood sugar, which is where your dietitian comes in.
Dietitians help individuals with diabetes choose the right foods in the right portion sizes to both fuel their bodies and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Dietitians provide guidance on:
- What to eat
- When to eat
- How much to eat
- Other lifestyle factors
To learn more, read: How Does A Dietitian Help Manage Diabetes Symptoms?
Your dietitian will help you specifically understand the best foods to eat for blood sugar management and help you plan meals and snacks to best manage your glucose level throughout each day.
Here at OnPoint Nutrition, we provide virtual, one-on-one personalized nutrition counseling for individuals with diabetes and other health concerns. To date, we have helped over 3,000 people, just like you successfully achieve their nutrition and health goals.
In this article, I’ll outline seven questions to ask a registered dietitian, like myself, about your diabetes so you can not only manage your diabetes but also optimize your overall health.
7 Questions To Ask Your Dietitian About Managing Your Diabetes
1. How do I prevent my blood sugar from spiking?
The key to managing your diabetes is managing your blood sugar.
If you are seeing big spikes and crashes in your blood sugar, your health is suffering. Your dietitian will help you change that.
Discussing how the foods you eat impact your blood sugar is something you and your dietitian will do early on. They can help you strike the best balance of different foods, food groups, and portion sizes.
Additionally,pairing certain foods and food groups together can affect how your body absorbs them, which can impact your blood sugar levels.Talking about what food combinations help to maintain a steady blood sugar is a key point to bring up with your dietitian.
2. How often should I eat throughout the day?
When you eat is almost as important as what you eat when it comes to controlling your blood sugar.
Eating too much can increase your blood sugar levels. Whereas going too long between meals and snacks can cause low blood sugar, which is also dangerous, and even life threatening.
You and your dietitian will work together to determine the optimal meal schedule for you. Now, dietitians aren’t totally unrealistic, and we know that you have certain things to plan around - work, school, and other daily activities.
Take some time to think about when you usually eat, what works in your daily schedule, and when you usually get hungry. Together, you and your dietitian can use this information to plan out a daily eating schedule that works for you and your diabetes.
3. Will losing weight help me control my diabetes?
Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight can help control your diabetes.
If you are currently overweight, you and your dietitian will develop a healthy, realistic weight goal for you and your body. Additionally, you will develop a plan to get to that weight in a healthy, sustainable way.
Research suggests that if you are overweight, losing 5-10 percent of your body weight can help to improve your blood sugar levels.
If you are already at a healthy weight for your body, you and your dietitian can instead focus on maintaining your weight in a place that feels good for you.
4. How does exercise fit into my healthy lifestyle plan?
Exercise helps to control blood sugar levels, helps manage diabetes.
When you exercise, your body uses the glucose circulating in your bloodstream. This brings down blood glucose levels, which is beneficial for your body.
Now, this doesn’t mean that your dietitian is going to tell you to start lifting super heavy weights daily or start training for a marathon. Instead, you and your dietitian will work together to set goals around exercise and develop an exercise plan that works for you.
This might mean going for a walk a few days each week, signing up to take a class at a local gym, or trying an at-home strength training workout. The best part is, it all depends on you and what is realistic for you.
5. What do I need to look for on nutrition labels?
Looking at a nutrition facts panel can be confusing. So many words and so many numbers, but you may not be sure what they all mean.
Your dietitian will help you decipher these labels so you know what is in the foods you are eating and how they will affect your blood sugar.
Additionally, your dietitian can help you set guidelines around what to look for, how to know if a food is a good choice, and how to compare multiple foods based on their nutrition facts.
6. Do I need to count my carbs? How do I know if I’m eating the correct amount?
Carbohydrate counting is one of the classic methods of diabetes management.
Discussing the best way for you to monitor and adjust your intake of carbohydrates, and all food groups, with your dietitian, is another key to successfully managing your diabetes.
While many people inherently think they should simply eat fewer carbs, the real key is to find the correct number of carbs and the best types of carbs for your blood sugar.
Carbs are necessary for blood sugar management and your dietitian will help you figure out how to incorporate them into your diet appropriately.
7. Can I enjoy my life and eat my favorite foods while managing my diabetes?
Dietitians don’t want you to give up everything you know and love to manage your diabetes. Your dietitian wants you to enjoy your life and eat the foods you love but do so with your diabetes in mind.
Eating cake on your birthday isn’t a thing of the past. Enjoying a glass of wine isn’t off-limits.
Instead of simply trying to cut these things out, you and your dietitian will work together to figure out how you can enjoy the things you love without causing crazy spikes in your blood sugar.
Be open and honest with your dietitian about the things that are important to you so they can help you build a lifestyle that works for you.
What To Do Next?
To take us back to where we started, diabetes can be overwhelming. Sometimes when we’re overwhelmed we don’t know where to start, which way to turn, or which questions to ask to start to get our bearings.
At this point, you are armed with seven questions to ask your dietitian about your diabetes to start moving in the right direction.
If you have a dietitian you are working with, great! Use these questions to guide your sessions.
If you are in need of a dietitian to be your guide to managing your diabetes, we are here to help. The OnPoint Nutrition team will help you address these seven points, and so much more, to help you manage your diabetes and optimize your health.
To get started with one of our dietitians today, schedule your free consultation where you can learn more about us and we will learn more about you!
Liz has been reading nutrition labels since she learned how to read. Growing up with severe peanut and tree nut allergies she learned that it’s important to know what you are putting into your body. She made her first big lifestyle change as a freshman in high school, when she decided to become a vegetarian. However, it wasn’t until she took a food class in Italy as part of a study abroad program in college that it clicked in her mind that she wanted to make food and nutrition her career. Liz graduated from Penn State University in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition, as well as a bachelor's degree in Marketing. She completed her dietetic internship with Aramark in Philadelphia, and her master's degree at Northeastern University shortly after.