Good food equals good diabetes management

Tuna, if cooked correctly, is part of a healthy meal. Having a healthy diet is one way people can fight getting diabetes. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Who knew a colorful plate of food could also be good for you?

That doesn’t mean you have to pile Skittles on your strawberry salad. However, eating colorful — but healthy — foods can help people combat diabetes.

Talking about diet and diabetes at Wednesday’s Senior Expo at the Holiday Inn, sponsored by The Mining Journal, were Ashley Roberts and Carlee Wasik, clinical coordinators with the Upper Peninsula Health Plan.

“A lot of you are very familiar with diabetes,” Roberts told the crowd.

However, she pointed out it’s helpful to review the condition and see how a person can better manage his or her diabetes, the diabetes of a loved one or to prevent diabetes.”

Diabetes, she said, is a long-lasting disease that affects how the body turns food into energy. Type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed in childhood, while type 2 diabetes can be diagnosed in childhood or adulthood. Pregnant women also can acquire gestational diabetes.

“There isn’t a cure for diabetes, but there are great ways to help you manage your diabetes or to prevent diabetes,” Roberts said. “And to reduce your risk, you want to live a healthy lifestyle: taking medicine as needed, going to see a regular dietitian or diabetes educator for self-management education and then keeping appointments with your healthcare team or primary provider, because we know it takes more than just one provider to help you manage your diabetes.”

About 7.2 million Americans don’t know they have type 2 diabetes, so it’s important to notice risk factors, she said. Those factors include being over age 45, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, a family history of diabetes, being obese or having a sedentary lifestyle and being of a certain ancestry like Hispanic, Latino, African-American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian.

“Are you feeling tired, hungry or thirsty?” Roberts asked. “Did you recently lose a lot of weight without doing anything?”

Frequent urination, blurred vision and cuts and bruises taking a long time to heal are other warning signs.

Testing to diagnose diabetes will be performed in an outpatient setting, she said. Attention should be paid to cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure, which should be kept below 140/90.

“You’ll work with your doctor to know what’s right for you,” said Roberts, who noted smoking cessation and increasing physical activity are other means to control or avoid diabetes.

Diet, of course, plays a part in keeping good cholesterol levels. She recommended eating things like seeds, avocado and healthy fats, with fried foods and red meat adding to “bad” cholesterol levels.

Wasik then provided healthy eating tips.

“Choosing healthy meals is one of the most important things when it comes to healthy eating, making sure that at each meal you’re drinking plenty of liquids,” Wasik said. “When you age, you might be losing your sense of thirst, so you might not feel like you’re thirsty, but also make sure

that you have that constant flow of liquids, and that can be water, of course, along with low-fat or fat-free milk as well as 100 percent fruit juice.”

Daily and weekly meal planning is important, she said. What am I going to eat? How will I stretch my food dollar?

What also comes with aging is a change in appetite, so Wasik suggested focusing on portion control.

Vegetables are a dietitian’s main choice of what should be on a plate. However, eating vegetables doesn’t have to mean focusing only on green, or only one type.

“I love having a colorful plate of vegetables at each meal,” Wasik said. “It keeps things fresh and fun.”

That means trying out a new vegetable you might be putting off for a while, she said.

Diabetes and dentistry? Food-wise, they’re related.

“As you age too your teeth and gums may be changing, so it’s important to change your meals to care for them,” Wasik said.

So, not only is brushing teeth and gums necessary, so may be eating softer foods.

Herbs and spices also have a place in healthy eating since they bring out the favor in food.

Even experimenting with them can be fun, she said.

“I love trying new herbs, and fresh herbs too, to really change things up in the kitchen,” Wasik said.

Planning can even take place in a grocery store, looking at labels before food is purchased.

“Take a look at your sodium and added sugars and calories per serving,” Wasik said.

Eating healthy also doesn’t have to be expensive.

To stick to a budget, Wasik suggested using discounts or coupons, buying in bulk and taking advantage of programs like Double UP Food Bucks at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market and the Marquette Food Co-op. Community supported agriculture is another option; for details, visit

For more ideas about healthy eating, Wasik suggested visiting

The website contains a variety of information, such as why beans and peas are unique foods — they belong to both the protein and vegetable food groups — as well as healthy lifestyle tips.

A big takeaway from the presentation was: Prevention is possible — and tasty.

“It’s important to remember you can prevent type 2 diabetes through healthy lifestyle changes,” Roberts said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is