Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists

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Food First: Eating Healthy is a Macro, rather than a Micro Strategy for People with Diabetes

Aug 14, 2016

SAN DIEGO – People with diabetes can and should consider their entire approach to eating, rather than just counting carbs or measuring specific portions, an expert told an audience of diabetes educators, at the American Association of Diabetes Educators national conference in San Diego this week. 

This approach is called a “food first” or “culinary medicine” approach to managing the disease, said Leah Sarris, Program Director and Executive Chef at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University.

“People don't go to the grocery store to buy carbs as an item, they don’t go to buy unsaturated fat,” Sarris said.

Sarris’ program encourages a more comprehensive look at how a person is eating. Instead of a fast food breakfast sandwich, for example, she said teachers encourage people to make their own breakfast sandwich, with better ingredients, including vegetables and whole grains.

“There’s no ‘diabetes diet,’ specifically,” she said. “There is just a healthy diet. You shouldn’t have to count carbs if you are not eating highly processed foods, such as white bread. We teach carb counting, but we place a greater emphasis on the quality of food one is consuming, rather than just looking at the numbers.”

People with diabetes should have the full conversation regarding the ingredients to keep at home, meal planning, organization and structure.

Diabetes educators can teach people how to prepare meals, investigate local grocers, provide cooking tips, explain how to store meals, set goals and live within a budget, in addition to many other strategies.

“We want people to take a food-first, rather than a nutrient-based approach to eating,” Sarris said. “This is a wider view of shopping, planning, cooking and all things related to food, rather than pulling one or two items off of the plate, and the results are a much healthier lifestyle and stable blood sugar levels.” 

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