Type 2 Diabetes – Can You Prevent It?

global diabetesLiving here in Cuenca, Ecuador, I’m both encouraged that there are more opportunities to eat healthfully – and discouraged that so many people are choosing to eat the SAD diet…the Standard American Diet. It’s not just North Americans who are eating fast food, greasy burgers, french fries and quaffing gallons of sugary soda – it’s Ecuadorians too – and they’re grappling with the unwanted side-effects of poor diet and less exercise – as most of the Western world is as well.

When it comes to our risk for diabetes – many people under-appreciate how lucky we are to have choice when it comes to what we eat. Food is one of the few things about our health and our future that we have control over.

Some things we have absolutely no control over. Our age, our height, our gender is set when we’re born.  Who our parents are, and the risk that they may pass down to us in terms of susceptibility to disease is written in stone – we can’t change our genes.

In North America, health experts predict dire straights ahead. One in three Americans born today will develop type 2 diabetes – with complications of heart disease, blindness, amputation, kidney failure and early death assured if the disease is not controlled.

More than 80% of newly diagnosed type 2’s are overweight or obese…type 2 is a “lifestyle” disease, one that’s closely linked to your weight and how much activity you get daily.
obese kids
In Ecuador, my new home, obesity and diabetes are growing epidemics – similar factors to what’s happening in the USA.

For many the lack of physical activity and the ongoing transition from reliance on home-grown and home-cooked foods to highly processed foods, sugar-laden beverages – leads to higher rates of obesity, which critically increases risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

What used to be seen only in adults is now known as type 2 diabetes – children as young as five are being diagnosed with this disease.

Because symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may be subtle at the start (blurred vision, poor healing, and neuropathy, excessive thirst and urination), on average, someone has type 2 for 6 years before they’re diagnosed – and by then, the damage is done…and it’s not reversible. Untreated and uncontrolled type 2 causes irreversible damage to eyes, peripheral nerves, then kidneys, and heart: it is the leading cause blindness, renal failure, and non-traumatic amputation.

The younger a child is when he or she becomes obese, the more likely they are to be obese as adults – and the higher the risk for type 2 diabetes.

How successful you are at controlling blood glucose meantype 2 dm kids either living with diabetes or getting very sick from diabetes. A diagnosis can be a lifesaver – why? Because from diagnosis you can take steps to prevent complications – you can control your future – day by day.

The Diabetes Prevention Program study conclusively showed that people with pre-diabetes can prevent and reverse the symptoms and improve insulin sensitivity. Subjects lost five to ten percent of their current weight, and incorporated just thirty minutes of moderate activity daily—and reduced incidence of progression to diabetes by 58 percent.

You can do this too. But, it’s got to be permanent. It’s not “lose weight and then go back to what you did before”. It’s losing weight by making permanent changes to your lifestyle with smart food and activity strategies. Weight loss has additional benefits, including lower blood pressure, less stress on joints and tendons, improving sleep and making you feel more energized. Keep up the activity, keep smart food choices permanent, and maintain your weight and your health indefinitely.

Get Screened
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is defined as fasting blood glucose of 126 mg/dL or greater.  A diagnosis of prediabetes means blood glucose levels are higher than normal (a fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl) but not yet diabetic. If this is your diagnosis, you can take steps to avoid advancing to type 2 diabetes.

Forestall Your Fate
Experts predict that children born today will be the first to have a lifespan shorter than their parents. Type 2 diabetes is called an “epidemic” and like any other disease transmitted by personal contact people are more likely to “catch” obesity if their family members—and especially if their friends—are overweight or obese. However, the reverse is true as well, and if your best friends and family take steps to gain control—getting healthier and losing weight—that’s contagious, too. Choose your friends wisely, and be a role model to your family.
woman exercise
How you choose to live your life may increase—or lower your chances of getting type 2 diabetes.

Write down personal goals for losing weight and increasing activity: Some include staying healthy to avoid complications; feeling more energetic; fitting into good-looking clothes better.

Post your goals on your bathroom mirror, and greet them every morning – check in with them in the evening – how are you staying healthy? One day at a time.

Choose to Lose:  This week – what will you choose? Create one Food Goal and one Activity Goal:
I’ll switch to nonfat milk

I’ll cut one unhealthy food choice (fast food, anyone?)
I’ll eliminate soda and juice, and switch to water and a piece of fruit
If I choose a high calorie meal my other meals will be high in fiber and low in fat and calories.

This week I will walk for 10 minutes three mornings

This week I will use half of my lunch break to walk (either outside or using the stairs).
This week I will take an extra 20 minute walk on the weekend
I’ll get a pedometer and start logging my steps and increase my steps by 500 weekly.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease often passed down through generations. Take steps to make the changes to your lifestyle permanent, and defy your fate.

Speak with your physician if you’ve not exercised recently.


American Diabetes Association www.diabetes.org

American Heart Association www.AmericanHeart.org

National Diabetes Prevention Program http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/


Trying to Eat Better? Think Positive, Not Negative

Out of the Cornell Food & Brand Lab comes a new study that shows when it comes to helping you and your loved ones eat better – focus on the positive.

Instead of dealing with frustration and feelings of deprivation that results from thinking “no, no, no”…think yes!  Yes, I can eat this delicious fruit, and Yes, it will make me healthy, and Yes, I’m doing something good for myself that will make me feel good about me!

The study showed that it’s not useful to tell someone that “you’ll get fat if you eat that cookie”.  It’s far more effective to focus on the positive – “Here’s the good news!  Eating more vegetables will make you healthier!”

The study showed that public health campaigns that focus on fear – bad  consequences like getting fat from eating candy or drinking chocolate milk – aren’t effective.  Staying positive, pointing out benefits and affirming healthy behaviors is far more valuable than negative messages.

As reported, it’s better to focus on Do rather than focusing on Don’t.

good food bad food

Collating the data from 43 published international studies showed that for nutrition professionals like registered dietitians and doctors, negative messaging reaffirmed their knowledge and toughed their beliefs.  But for the average consumer, learning why it is a good idea to eat that apple – what were the health benefits – was better than hearing why eating that cookie was a bad idea.

So the take-away is for healthy weight management campaigns should focus on the positive – that’s what people respond to.  As Brian Wansink, PhD director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, and author of Slim by Design said, “If you’re a parent, it’s better to focus on the benefits of broccoli and not the harms of hamburgers.”
For people who are thinking about losing weight, first set a goal – a realistic one.  How do you lose weight?  One pound at a time.  Each day that you make healthy choices, and get some deliberate activity  – walking fast, taking the stairs, dancing, swimming, hiking – is a day that builds on itself.  The more consistent you are at saying “yes” to healthy, whole foods the more your body will respond to your choices.
These findings compliment a recent 2015 publication in Nutrition Reviews, and it will be presented at the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior’s Annual Conference 2015 in Pittsburgh by Brian Wansink, PhD and Lizzy Pope, Ph.D. University of Vermont (previously with the Cornell Food and Brand Lab).

The Food and Brand Lab was founded at the University of Illinois in 1997 by Professor Brian Wansink and moved to Cornell University in 2005. The Lab is an interdisciplinary group of graduate and undergraduate students from psychology, food science, marketing, agricultural economics, human nutrition, education, history, library science, and journalism along with a number of affiliated faculty.

Their research is independently funded by grants and consumer groups. It focuses on better understanding consumers and how they relate to foods and packaged foods. Their research has driven the creation of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement and the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (BEN)—two programs devoted to the funding, conduction, and dissemination of research concerning children’s health. Research from the lab has been reported in dozens of magazines along with coverage on CNN, 20/20, ABC News, NBC News, and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

Nutrition Myths: Focus on Fat

How much do you know about nutrition? It’s often hard toquestion separate the truths from the myths when it comes to nutrition, but my mission is to research the latest credible findings and recommendations from educated and credentialed experts. So, let’s see how much you know about nutrition myths and truths. Take this week’s quiz – no peeking! The answers are below – I’m looking forward to your comments – Tell me what you know – and if you have a favorite myth, please post it below – along with the truth.

Questions: Myths & Truths

  1. Fat-free diets are linked to the increase in obesity.
  2. Polyunsaturated fat has fewer calories than other fats.fat free myth
  3. If the label says “fat free” you can be assured it’s lower in calories.
  4. Eating eggs leads to high cholesterol.

 Answers: Myths & Truths

  1. Fat-free diets are linked to the increase in obesity.

Truth. Yes, the advent of fat-free diets are linked to the increase in obesity. High in take of refined carbohydrates – juices, white flour – are not only linked to obesity, but also inflammation and may increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes. Since fat contains more than twice the calories per gram compared to protein and carbohydrates ( 9 vs. 4), it’s important to choose your fats wisely, but not eliminate them. Foods such as nuts, avocado, seeds and fatty fish contain immune-promoting monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids – and are linked to better health.

  1. Polyunsaturated fats have fewer calories than other fats.

Myth. All fat has 9 calories per gram – and although some fats are healthy, because fat is highly concentrated in calories, be prudent – especially with added fats like deep friend foods and mayonnaise and butter.

  1. If the label says “fat-free” you can be assured it’s lower in calories.

NutMyth_FatFreeCookieMyth. Experts link the “fat-free” craze to the increase in obesity. One of my favorite examples are cookies – “fat-free” can have the same calories per serving compared to the original. When manufacturers eliminate fat, they’ll often add more sugar to make up for the texture and taste changes. Yes, for sure – some reduced and fat-free dairy and dressings are lower in calories compared to the original, but read the label to compare ingredients and calories per serving – and choose wisely.


  1. Eating eggs leads to high cholesterol.

reading labelsMyth. The Dietary Guidelines For Americans are about to reflect new research that confirms that the data does not prove that eating more eggs leads to high blood cholesterol. Your overall diet, including the amount of refined carbohydrates and trans fat, is very important, however. Eggs are low in saturated fat and rich in important nutrients including protein, B vitamins and vitamins A, D and E.




Healthy Cooking – Top Kitchen Essentials

Buying the right equipment makes it easier to cook healthfully.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on new equipment – I’ve gotten some of my favorite pots, pans, and even electronic equipment at garage sales and Goodwill.

I’ve underlined the basic essentials – the other equipment can be accumulated as you go along.

Plates and Bowls: Bigger is not better

which plate has more food

Studies show that the larger the portion, the more you eat, so it stands to reason that smaller dishes makes eating healthfully easier. Avoid buying plates that look like platters – research shows that smaller bowls, plates and cups help people manage their portions – a simple strategy, but it works!


Nonstick pans and pots: A smart strategy for weight management is to add less fat to your food. Invest in some good quality (heavy weight) non-stick – they’re great for sautéing, soups, stews and more. A favorite alternative to nonstick is anodized aluminum – conducts heat beautifully but behaves like nonstick…a bit pricy, though.

Don’t pre-heat a nonstick pot or pan without some broth or a little oil in it – read here for more about purchasing. Read more here about recommendations for cookware.

Saucepans – 1 quart and 4 quart

Stock pot – regular or nonstick

9” skillet – great for quick-sautéing onions and garlic, on the way to a tasty sauce.

Baking pans – for fresh bread and loaf cakes.

Pyrex (or glass) mixing bowls with lids – for microwaving, re-heating and cooking; can double as mixing bowls.

Baking sheets

cookwareShallow-sloped sauté pan, or wok – nonstick or anodized aluminum works great here too.

Pizza pan – nonstick is great – but be sure to not use a metal pizza cutter on nonstick.

Tea kettle

Mixing bowls with lids

Electronic Kitchen

Blender: great for smoothies, blending soup, and whipping up eggs.

Optional: Mini-blender (portable, for quick smoothies on-the-go); electric hand blender (great for soups and sauces).

Coffee pot – electric –or a non-electric French press uses boiling water poured over ground coffee.

Microwave oven – for quick-cooking vegetables and re-heating leftovers. A convenience, but not essential.

Slow cooker – can use as a rice cooker too.

Hot air popcorn maker – not essential but an inexpensive way to pop corn healthfully.

Food scale – if it’s in your budget, electronic scales are great especially if you’re a baker.

Standing mixer with attachments, including dough hook – again, not essential but convenient.


Utensils for nonstick or anodized aluminum cookware – plastic and/or wooden: read more here about how to safely use nonstick cookware.

Good chef’s knife – you can spend as little as $20 or as much as $200 – a good knife will save you a lot of time and make cooking more fun. Read more here.

Paring knife

Serrated knife

Kitchen shears

Skewers for kabobs

Garlic press

Lemon/lime press



Measuring cups and spoons

Plastic containers – Serving-size (small and medium) plastic containers with lids that go from freezer to microwave: great for storing made-ahead healthy soups and stews – your own healthy “fast food”.

Plastic storage bags – Gallon, quart, and sandwich-sized plastic re-sealable bags.

Marking pens and painter’s tape – write the date on the containers and plastic storage bags

Flexible cutting boards – These inexpensive plastic boards prevent cross-contamination: designate on especially for raw chicken – disinfect with hot water and soap, or in the dishwasher after use.

Ice cube trays (for frozen fruit treats).

Salad spinner – the insert can double as a colander.


Vegetable steamer – if you have a microwave, you can steam veggies quickly in glass bowls in the microwave.

Easy Top 5 Ways to Cut 100 Calories

“Going on a diet” is code for changing what you typically eat and drink, and adopting someone else’s diet. For example, going on a “low carb” diet means ditching bread and pasta, and restricting to only carb-free protein plus fat, usually sourced from animal foods.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum are “low fat” diets – just as stringently staying away from cheese and nuts and other foods that are oh, so satisfying that after a while you’re likely to fall off the bandwagon. Which leads to abandoning “the diet” or “cheating”…all these negative words lead up to diet failure!

So my philosophy is…don’t diet, live it! Make modifications to your usual way of eating, and never go “on a diet” again!

Top 5 Calorie-Cutters

kid cooking healthy

  1. Preparation: Instead of making your food fat-sponges, use cooking techniques that minimize fat but keep the flavor. Instead of deep-frying, broil, bake, grill, sauté – in a little oil, but not too much. Cut the Fat: For each tablespoon of fat you don’t add to your food, you save 100 calories.
  2. Choose Lean: From hamburger to steak, lamb to pork, red meat can be a dieter’s friend – as long as it’s lean. Lean meats are satiating and provide lots of iron and other important nutrients. Don’t forget poultry – some of the leanest meat is only lean if eaten without the skin – remove the skin from poultry and save hundreds of calories – automatically! Cut the fat: By buying 95% lean hamburger, reduce 100 calories compared to 80% lean.
  3. Hold The Sauce – My mantra for keeping the calories in control is “on the side” – each tablespoon of gravy, salad dressing, or oil adds about 100 calories – certain sauces are full of fat and calories – and just making a substitute can cut calories significantly – for example, substitute a tomato-based marinara sauce for creamy Alfredo and reduce at least 100 calories without sacrificing flavor.
  4. Keep it Whole – fruit juice can ruin a weight loss diet – a glass a juice shoots your blood sugar up and then down just as fast, leaving you hungry for more. But whole fruit has fiber, and fills you up. Ditch the fruit juice, and eat your fruit whole. Cut hundreds of calories, and feel fuller.
  5. Sweet ‘n Smart: There’s no reason that diets should mean deprivation. The quickest way to fail on a “diet” is to make it so Spartan that you quit. Make a sweet treat part of your day – choose a sugar-free hot chocolate instead of regular. When you dine out, share a small dessert, or savor two bites. Cut the portion size and save 100 calories.