Eat Right: Try These Tips to Lower your Risk of Diabetes

by Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN

November marks American Diabetes Awareness Month and is a chance to raise awareness about the disease, its risk factors and steps individuals can take to make healthy lifestyle changes. Diabetes impacts how the body utilizes sugar in the bloodstream and is a disease that affects more than 29 million people in the United States. While there are several types of diabetes, including type 1 (more commonly found in children), type 2 (more common in adults) and gestational diabetes (developed during pregnancy), type 2 diabetes accounts for 97 percent of all diagnosed diabetes cases.   

One’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes depends on a combination of risk factors, including genetics and lifestyle choices. Some risk factors cannot be altered, like age (those over 45 are at a higher risk), family history and ethnicity: African Americans, Asian Americans and people of Hispanic or Latino descent are several of the ethnicities at highest risk. Fortunately, other risk factors can be controlled. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), increasing physical activity and adopting a healthier diet are two lifestyle changes that can decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This month, try incorporating these healthy eating strategies into your daily routine. When it comes to your health, small changes can make a big difference!

· Rethink Your Drink: Americans are drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages than ever before. Drinks such as soda, fruit juice and sweet tea are concentrated sources of sugar that add extra calories to your diet without much, if any, nutritional benefit. Additionally, evidence indicates that the more of these beverages that you drink, the higher your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Tip: Invest in a reusable water bottle and stay well hydrated throughout the day. Jazz up your water glass by adding slices of fresh fruit such as limes, lemons or oranges. Enjoy seltzer water in place of sodas.  Enjoy a glass of low-fat milk with meals, and limit 100 percent juice to four ounces daily.

· Make Half your Grains Whole: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that half of the grain servings consumed in a day be whole grains. Whole grains, such as brown rice and whole wheat bread, are high in fiber, which help blood sugar rise more steadily than the simple carbohydrates found in white rice and sweets, which cause a sudden spike and drop in blood sugar. Whole grains also help keep you fuller longer and contain essential vitamins and minerals that can help reduce the risk of diabetes.

Tip: Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to learn how many servings of grains a day you should be eating. Replace white rice and pasta with whole grain varieties. Choose whole grain breads, cereals and oatmeal with at least five grams of fiber per serving.

· Don’t Ditch Dairy: The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that healthy eating patterns are associated with lower risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, are recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and contribute essential nutrients that most Americans are not getting enough of in their diet, including vitamin D, calcium and potassium. Additionally, research shows that dairy food consumption is associated with lower risk for type 2 diabetes.

Tip: Enjoy three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt daily. Try plain yogurt with fresh fruit for a healthy dessert. If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk, which is real milk without the lactose.

Implementing healthy habits daily can help manage and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. For more information on the prevention and treatment of diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association website at diabetes.org.

Greek Chicken Wraps with Tzatziki Herb Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients:

Sauce

· 2 cups fat-free plain yogurt

· 1 cup peeled, seeded and diced cucumber

· 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

· 1 tablespoon lemon juice

· 1 tablespoon white vinegar

· 2 teaspoons minced garlic

· 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

Wrap

· 1 (6-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breast

· 1 tablespoon light Italian dressing

· 4 (6-inch) whole-wheat pitas

· 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce

· 1 medium tomato chopped

· 1/2 cup sliced red onion

· 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

· 4 kalamata or black olives, pitted and sliced

Directions:

To prepare sauce, combine yogurt and next five ingredients, stirring to blend. Add salt if desired (sauce may be made up to two hours in advance). Cover and refrigerate until serving.

To prepare wraps, place chicken breast in a heavy-duty plastic bag and add Italian dressing. Marinate 15 minutes. Pound chicken (using a meat pounder, mallet or the bottom of a skillet) and flatten to about half-inch thickness. Remove chicken from bag.

Cook chicken breast in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat five minutes per side or until lightly browned and cooked through. Place chicken on a cutting board and slice thinly against the grain; set aside.

Heat pitas in microwave oven 30 seconds. Place one pita on a plate and top with one half cup lettuce and one-fourth of the chicken slices. Sprinkle one-fourth of tomato, onion, feta cheese and olives on top of chicken. Spoon some of the sauce over top and fold in edges of pita. Wrap sandwich in parchment or waxed paper for plating and serving. Repeat with remaining pitas. Serve immediately with additional sauce on the side.

Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN is the Assistant Director of Food and Nutrition Outreach for The Dairy Alliance. She received her Master of Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill and has been working in dietetics for over 15 years. She can be reached at lbuxenbaum@thedairyalliance.com.