Sunday, December 16, 2018

DIY Holiday Gift - Maple Glazed Pecans

My last post was on The Alternative Gift-Giving Guide - ideas if you will for a gift that isn't an actual gift, but rather an experience.  Minimalism at the Holidays.  As I wrote, I'm not opposed to giving actual gifts, because I do.  But I'm more intentional with the gifts when I give them and they're not as frequent.  I'm not cheap, I just think people buy items when they need them and sometimes buying more things isn't the most thoughtful.  Again, that may just be me, but take a read if you're interested here.

However, I do gift in the form of baked goods.  That I have been known to do.  Baking for me is a hobby and it is also therapeutic.  I get it's not for everyone, but I have in the last few years really come to love it.  There's science behind the measurements and getting something to turn out just perfectly gives you a sense of accomplishment when it's all said and done.  Again, I know not everyone will agree, so this post may not be for you.  But keep in mind I'm talking about DIY gifts today.  So use your imagination and if it's not food that you're making, maybe it will be something else you can DIY.  You know what you're good at!

A recent birthday gift I made for someone - Vegan Chocolate Mousse
Last year I made a DIY coconut oil sugar scrub (for your feet).  And while this wasn't edible, it was a fun gift to make.  I used this scrub to help exfoliate my feet when I was training for a marathon and let me tell you, it's so simple and easy to make - all you need is a container to store it in.  It smells good, it works great and it's not that expensive (when compared with what's sold in the stores!)  Make you some today - or gift this today!  There are even DIY chalkboard labels you can print out.  I mean, how cute is that??  Almost want to make this again this year, but I did already gift it.  And there are guys on our team at work, so maybe not the best gift this year.

This year I decided to bring my love of baking together with what I eat most.  Nuts.  As a vegetarian, sometimes pescatarian (again, one day hoping we can get rid of titles telling you what I eat) but nuts are a main source of plant-based protein for me that I eat daily.  I eat them in their whole form, as a nut "butter" and also in the form of "cheese".  Nuts are versatile, healthy, and nutrient dense.  I can't say enough good things about nuts.  I tend to rotate the nut I am eating each day so that I don't get bored.  This helps with variety within the nuts that I'm eating which leads to variety within the nutrients - vitamins and minerals - I'm getting as well.  No overthinking necessary.

Since I tend to eat the nuts plain - in their whole form - I decided to take them up a notch for the holidays and make them glazed.  Ooh la la.  As a dietitian I try to use as little added sugar as possible, but when making these glazed pecans I can tell you I added as little as possible (compared to other recipes I researched) and let me tell you - they are DELISH, in my humble opinion.  I hope you love them as much as I do.

And the thing about this recipe, is that it is so basic.  You can switch out the nut - walnuts, cashews, or mix them all together!.  You can even add whatever spices you'd like - a chai spiced pecan would be right up my alley - I think the sky is the limit.  But for now, let's start with the basics.

Since I am gifting this I made more than I normally do - so that's how I'll write the recipe at the end - but while nuts can be expensive, find the place in your city, hello Trader Joe's,  where they're the cheapest and stock up when you make this recipe.  If you stock up at other times, store the nuts in the freezer as they can go rancid if not used in a short amount of time - and since they're expensive, no one wants to have to throw away expensive food.

This recipe is literally so simple, dump everything in a bowl, mix together, roast on a sheet pan.  Check halfway through, rotate the pan for even cooking and to avoid any possible burning (aka too much caramelization of that maple syrup).  And then let them cool so you can break them apart.  I mean it doesn't get any simpler than that.  Now I will say this - if you are adding spices, 9 times out of 10 recipes use a little beaten egg white to help the spices stick.  I'm not the biggest fan of adding the egg white only because they come out looking not as pretty.  My trick is simply to sprinkle the spices on after you've spread the nuts on the sheet pan.  They'll only be on the top of the nuts, but they do stick (since my recipe has olive oil and maple syrup).  Kind of a personal choice, but the way I do it they look prettier.  Trust me.

So there you have it.  A simple homemade gift from the heart.  Nutritious and delicious to boot.  Happy Holidays my internet friends!

Maple Glazed Pecans

  • 2 cups pecan pieces
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 8 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used as little salt as possible - season to your liking)

Start by preheating the oven to 350˚F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (makes for easier clean-up).  Combine all of the ingredients for the pecans in a small bowl and mix so that they are well-coated.  Spread them onto the baking sheet and bake for about five minutes.  Rotate the pan in the oven and continue baking for about 5 more minutes, until they appear toasted.

Best served with an amazing salad such as this!  OR just as delicious served at a holiday party as an horderve.  You decide.  Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Alternative Gift-Giving Guide

The Christmas decorations are up.  We had our first cool/cold front last week and are expecting our next one this coming week, fingers crossed. I’m talking in the 50s ya’'ll, that’s “cool” for us Floridians and I will take it! As I sit here sipping my coffee and starting to organize my thoughts for the blog, I realized I haven’t bought a single gift this holiday season. Per the commercials and the sales I should already be well on my way through my list. I mean time’s a ticking. Am I right? Not sure about you, but the insinuation that I should be further along in my shopping just makes me anxious. And who’s to say that they even know how many gifts/items I need to get for people. It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year - since when did that equate to having to give a gift. That’s definitely too much pressure for me.
Last "Wellness Wednesday" I shared a post about alternative gifting during this time of year.  Here are my thoughts on gifting - no judgement if you're giving actual gifts to people, this is just a simple blog post to maybe get you to start thinking outside the box.  If this only makes you more stressed out, then make your list and start checking it off for those you need to give a gift to. There are plenty of bloggers out there making up their list of things to buy, which that could be of help - or maybe not if they’re all expensive gifts. Anyway, keep in mind I'm not opposed to giving an actual tangible gift, but most times when I do it has a meaning behind it or it allows for experiencing a moment with that person.  I’m actually doing that today. I’m writing out a few recipes that will go with this tangible gift that I bought someone. It will be my way to get them started in the kitchen. And hopefully each time they use the appliance and/or the recipes I send they’ll think of me. That’s when tangible goes with experiential - oh and if you're looking for the typical holiday post around this time of year, Holiday EATS  - here's the link for last week.

The most epic cheese board I’ve ever created - it’s only my 2nd one, but there’s more to come when they look this good!

Avoiding the Sales - Black Friday and Cyber Monday may have already passed this year, but keep in mind it really is best to steer clear.  These days are geared towards the sale items and making the consumer think they're getting a good deal - retailers and advertisers know this. The sales are designed to take advantage of our desire to consume more, so much so some stores are even opening up earlier and earlier, some even on Thanksgiving.   Use this time instead of shopping and perusing online to start making your list of alternative gifts.  Creativity will be a must. This Cyber Monday I bought a few items. And in all honesty, while they were good deals - an air fryer for $40 vs $80 - it wasn’t an appliance that I really needed. Want vs need is a tricky thing.

Your Time is a Gift - It's hard to put a price on your time.  But if I were asked "what one gift would I want to receive for Christmas?  My answer would simply be, "your time".  It sounds cliché but it's the simple truth.  The people I care about mean much more to me than having the latest gadget.  So the next time someone asks you to make a list, let them know that the best present is their presence.  And time is something hard to come by at times. In all of the hustle and bustle and stress of the holidays, I tend to stay close to home and decline offers at times - I need to remember that spending time with others might be the best thing for me sometimes.

Give the Gift of an Experience - In this past year this is what I have done with a few friends for either their birthday and/or a celebration of some sort. While sometimes an actual gift is involved as well, most times it’s just the actual experience itself - yes, I know money is involved, but there have been memories made that will last a lifetime. If you have to find a few free things to do and/or set limitations with your friends/family, do so. Overall I’ve had a good balance of free things mixed in with a few Groupon purchases as well.

Umbrella Sky Project - a display in Coral Gables for a few months by an artist - look at those shadows!

Yoga on South Beach - by donation, every day at 7 am and 5 pm (switches when the time changes)

A little free photo session at the pumpkin patch, aka Trader Joe’s. There weren’t any other pumpkin patches open the day we went, so we went to the next best thing. The pictures we took are priceless and well, looks like we’re at a pumpkin patch.
Groupon Deal - 1/2 off the original price, full fledged fun with these two at Board and Brush
Goat Yoga - let’s just say this is an experience that I will never forget. Naaamaste.
And if you’re in need of a few more ideas for giving experiences instead of gifts, the possibilities really are endless:  
-Tickets to a special event
-Home Cooked Meal
-Sunrise/Sunset Seeking
-Pass to a Museum/Zoo
-Magazine Subscription

Pass Your Gift On - 'Tis true, it is better to give than receive.  If people ask what you'd like to receive as a gift, (and they are insistent and won't take NO for an answer) have a list ready of charities or non-profit organizations.  They can donate what money they'd use in giving you a gift and give to that organization instead.   Giving to others and truly making a difference to those that might not have as much as we do.  One of my family members gives a gift in my name every year to an organization. I think one day I might just need to take a trip and really experience that gift in person and see how we're paying it forward.

Make A Gift - DIY - most years when it comes to my co-workers I give a homemade gift.  Last year I made a homemade peppermint sugar scrub - coconut oil put to good use!  I come from a family that food really is a sign of affection.  So what better way to give food but as a gift?  I haven’t thought about what I’ll make this year, but I’m sure food will be involved.

                          DIY Peppermint Sugar Scrub - coconut oil, sugar, and peppermint essential oil

It might be a difficult transition weaving minimalism into the holidays, from what people normally expect this time of year.  The truth is your experiences build and strengthen the bond between you and the people you care about.   They'll understand, even if it takes a little bit of time.  Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Holiday EATS

It’s that time of year again when we gather with friends and family to celebrate the holidays.  Last week there was Friendsgiving, your work Thanksgiving and of course this coming week is the BIG event.  And then from here it only continues until Valentine’s Day with the festivities – am I right?  It’s a marathon of food celebrations in these next few months.  And while research shows that people typically only gain a pound, the problem isn’t the pound that they will gain, it’s the slow and steady weight gain over the years that culminates in an excessive amount of weight gain years later.  Needless to say, that leads to trendy nutrition topics like “Maintain, don’t gain” or “Holiday Survival Plan” – don’t worry, I won’t call my blog any trendy title.  But what I will do is focus on overall healthy strategies that are important any time of the year – because guess what?  We’re all human, we all eat, and food is more than just fuel, it is social.   Let’s put less weight on weight and cultivate healthy eating habits that are sustainable for life, holidays or no holidays. 
Salmon, Roasted Asparagus, Carrots, Green Beans, Cottage Potatoes, Brussels, & Homemade Bread - maybe not typical with all those non-starchy veggies, but definitely healthy and balanced.
1st things 1st.  Have a PLAN.  A plan?  Yes, a PLAN!  Sorry for the all caps, but I really do think that planning is KEY – when it comes to regular meal planning for the week to planning what holiday parties/events you’ll be going to.  The frequency of the celebrations is sometimes underestimated and herein lies the problem.  But guess what?  It’s okay to say no.  You really don’t have to go to every party or you can go to every party.  You do YOU.  But definitely have a plan.  If that means only having 1 work celebration, 1 friend celebration and 1 family celebration (instead of 2-3 friend celebrations and dividing your day for 2 family celebrations), that again is okay.  I think it’s helpful to know how many celebrations that you’re expecting to attend.  It also helps for you to know how to ultimately plan your day – meaning it’s just like any other day and there shouldn’t be any skipping meals and/or skipping your exercise routine.  Keeping your routine, the same. 

Breakfast the morning of - rolled oats with almond butter, berry compote, & hemp seeds.

I just said it, but it bears having its own separate note – no skipping meals!  This is true any time of the year.  How many times do you hear people saying that they’re going to skip a meal, so they can “save” up for the bigger meal later.  Yeah, no it doesn’t work that way.  If only it were that easy.  And think about it, how many times have you done that only to feel miserable afterwards because you ended up stuffing yourself?  You know I’m right.  Smaller portions spaced out is the best to help you avoid overeating and enjoying the meal that much more.  Promise.   So have breakfast before the big event.  Enjoy a few appetizers if you know you’ll be at the gathering early and the meal isn’t served until later.  Scope it out and have that plan that I mentioned before.  Just don’t situate yourself next to the food table and munch the whole time.  Strategy my friends, strategy.
Goat Cheese Bites
Portion control and moderation are the keys to success.  See?  It’s not just important for the holidays, this is key for overall health at any time.  We have this portion distortion thing going on in America and our plate size (& food) have grown over the years.  If you have a bigger plate you tend to fill your plate up.  It’s just normal human behavior.  Obviously if you are using a smaller plate and pile the food mountain high you too have defeated the purpose.  But in all seriousness, we do need to watch our portions.  Sometimes just taking a spoonful sample is all you need.  That way you can have a little sampling of all that is at the spread and decide what you like best.  Because we’ve all been there where we served too much of one thing and end up not liking it.  No one needs their Aunt Jane staring at them because they didn’t finish what she made.  Awkward.  At my house we typically had our meal at 1 or 2 pm.  And then would eat again by 6 or 7 pm.  That 2nd meal was always the best because the plate was served with only the best of the best.  And dessert.  The key with desserts (as always) is moderation.  They can be (and should be) included every now and then…otherwise people tend to go overboard.  I usually take a small sample of all the desserts that are homemade.  Sorry store-bought.  No room for you.  Only the best of the best and that my friends are the homemade desserts.  Desserts should be enjoyed in moderation.  Just check the frequency of how often they are occurring.  It is easy to creep in around the holidays and start to be an everyday thing.  And while everyday might not be the issue, the portion size may be.  So just keep a heads up around desserts.  It’s all about being mindful around food – because food is not only used for a physical purpose, but it is also social, and at times emotional.  Is your mind full?  Or are you being mindful?

Crinkle Cookies aka almost everyone's favorite but mine.
A few key tricks for any time of year.  Do not situate yourself close to the food table.  Just don’t do it (because we all have done it).  You start talking to a friend and then find yourself going hand to mouth with all the appetizers and before you know it you’ve eaten a whole plate of food.  So yes, remove yourself from the proximity of the food.  Socialize elsewhere.  

Vegan Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms - they look as good as they taste!
Eat slowly and enjoy every bite.  May sound hokey, but it’s true.  How many times do we scarf down our food instead of taking each bite and really savoring it?  Smell your food.  Try to guess what spices were used in each dish.  It does take forever to cook the meal – seriously, it can take ½ a day to prepare the Thanksgiving meal.  Might as well spend a little more time around the table enjoying it.  We rank our dishes as to what was best and what we shouldn’t repeat for the next year.   The funny thing is they’re all tasty, we’re just a family of tough critics.
This kale salad is a keeper.  Every year.
Watch your alcohol calories.  Not only do they add up fast, but 9 times out of 10, when you drink alcohol the tendency in people is that they overeat later.  May not be a side effect for all, but it is common.  I’m also not the Grinch when it comes to drinking, but what I would recommend is paying attention to the frequency and amount of alcohol consumed.  You might not be one to have a drink during the week, but come the weekend, now you’ve had as many drinks in one night as some have during the whole week.  Remember, they do add up and alcohol does let our guard down.  Moderation in all things, alcohol included.  And if you're anything like me, you like to be social but don't love alcohol.  Enter kombucha.  See picture below.  Looks like alcohol, but it's really kombucha.  Works every time.

Kombucha disguised to look as alcohol
Eat your (non-starchy) veggies.  You’ve heard me say it before and you’ll hear me say it many more times.  Bring a non-starchy vegetable to your party/festivities.  If you bring it people WILL eat it.  Make it your new norm.  Maybe my family eats more non-starchy vegetables than yours does, but that’s not the point.  The point is to include as many non-starchy vegetables as we can.  And I don’t mean to slather them in cream and butter and call it a day.  Get creative and see how you can flavor it but still be a healthy option at the table.  And just to be clear, non-starchy vegetables include:  all the green leafy vegetables:  kale, collards, spinach; mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, carrots, green beans, Brussels, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes…and more.
All the non-starchy veggies:  kale, green beans, Brussels.  And that made way for room for the carbs:  roll, potato, and dessert (not pictured).
Movement.  See what I did there, I called it movement instead of exercise.  The minute we call it exercise people have a set idea of something they may not want to do.  But call it movement and people are okay with that.  Or at least I think they are.  My point is, move more.  If it’s your normal day for exercise, make sure to include it.  If it’s Thanksgiving and there’s a local Turkey Trot in town, make that a new tradition that your family is involved in (and if that’s too much stress because it does take all day to cook, maybe you need to get a pre-cooked turkey so you're not in the kitchen all day…maybe?  Just a thought).  In between football games (or basketball, depending on the holiday) go out and play a real game of football.  Go for an afternoon stroll with the famliy and/or head to the nearby playground so the kids can run around and get all their energy out.  New exercise guidelines came out just last week and the only thing that’s really new is that they want us to move more.  Meaning if you can’t get 30 minutes in all at once, divide it out and make it three sets of 10-minute increments.  Move more.  That is all.
And if you're like my family, challenge each other to a corn-hole match.
Remember that social gatherings during the holidays are a time to embrace and give thanks for our family and friends.  Spend less time focused on food and more time enjoying the camaraderie of your loved ones.  Holiday time does not need to be synonymous with weight gain (or you being obsessed with thinking about your weight).  Make this your year not to gain those few extra pounds that you adamantly proclaim to lose on New Year’s Day by maintaining healthy habits that you’ve established throughout the year.  Happy Holidays!

The Christmas Cake to end all Christmas cakes.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

November is Diabetes Awareness Month®

Diabetes Awareness Month®

November is American Diabetes Month®.  The vision of the American Diabetes Association is a “life free of diabetes and all of its burdens.  Raising awareness of this ever-growing disease is one of the main efforts behind the mission of the Association.”  

Here are a few of the most recent statistics:

  • Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.  
  • Another 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in United States is $245 billion.
Nearly one in 10 Americans has diabetes.  There are many myths that still remain.  I hear them when I do presentations ALL the time!  I was just at a health fair for seniors a couple weeks back and that was the premise to my tabling.  I had “Fact vs Fiction” to draw the seniors to my table and help right the wrong information that circulates among people.  Because let’s face it, if your Aunt Sally told your mom and your mom told you, well then it must be true.  Am I right??  Unfortunately, this is how we get a lot of our information and/or from searching the internet.   Just remember not everything you read is true and/or reliable online (use a reliable source when it comes to your health - that's why you're here reading my blog).  So here we go, let’s set a few common myths to rest and get the facts. And p.s. - all the pictures featured will be foods that people with diabetes can eat.  It's food everyone should be eating - healthy, balanced, and in moderation, because all foods fit.  I hope you find them inspiring.  They're all my creations.  Now on to the myths!

Tomato Salad w/Homemade Ricotta

Myth:  Everyone who is overweight develops diabetes.

Fact:  Type 2 diabetes (which accounts for 90-95% of the cases) is much more common in people who are overweight.  Excess weight IS the strongest known risk factor.   Being overweight increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes seven-fold.  Losing 7 to 10 percent of your current weight can cut your chances of developing type 2 diabetes in half.  Losing any excess weight – and keeping it off – is the best defense against diabetes.  However, keep in mind that other factors play a role as well: genetics, inactivity, age, and ethnicity.  The key is to know your numbers and know your risk – prevention is key! (With type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks part of its own pancreas. Scientists are not sure why – more on Type 1 in a separate blog post).  So while people who are overweight DO have an increased risk for developing diabetes, not ALL people who are overweight develop diabetes. 

Overnight Oats w/no added sugar.  Fruit compote - frozen berries & beets, just natural sugar
Myth:  If your fasting blood sugar is 100 to 125 (called pre-diabetes), you will develop type 2 diabetes.

Fact:  Having pre-diabetes does not mean that you will develop diabetes immediately.  The risk is there, and the key is to make lifestyle changes in order to prevent and delay it from progressing to diabetes.  The scary fact is that many people (when I used to counsel patients 1:1) would come into my office with pre-diabetes and not even know they had pre-diabetes. There are three reasons this could be the case.  The first I call the “Charlie Brown” syndrome – it’s possible their doctor did tell them and all they heard was, “wah waaah wah wah”.  The second reason is that their doctor told them they have pre-diabetes and they’re in denial and last but not least is the patient was never told by their doctor.  86 million people have pre-diabetes.  This CAN be prevented and/or delayed from progressing to diabetes.  Know your numbers.

Turning "fried" rice into vegetable "fried" rice, just look at all that kale.  It was more like sauteed rice vs fried rice btw.

Myth:  People with diabetes need to eat special food.

Fact:  The irony is that everyone should eat healthy food.  It’s no different than what I recommend to anyone, a person with diabetes or not.  As people are faced with a diagnosis of diabetes they’re simply more pressed to make immediate changes.    Healthy eating means having variety, balance, and moderation.  I teach people to limit their intake of sodium, saturated (and trans) fat, added sugars and refined grains.  I also teach people to place an emphasis on nutrient-dense foods, to increase their fiber intake, and begin to look at more whole foods and less processed (chemical enhanced) foods.  The key is to implement ONE change at a time and then move on to the next.  Healthy eating is a way of life, it’s not just a quick fix for a short period of time.

Lentils are a carbohydrate, so they do effect blood sugar.  But they have TONS of fiber which is super beneficial for blood sugar control.  Definitely a food to include.

Myth:  Eating sweets is off-limits for people with diabetes.

Fact:  Variety, balance, and moderation.  EVERYONE should limit their intake of sweets, not just people with diabetes.  Indulging in too many sweets makes it more difficult for anyone to keep off unwanted pounds and leaves less room for the nutrient-rich foods the body needs.  This is what I used to tell my patients:  you know yourself, are you the kind of person who can have a piece of chocolate or are you the type of person that will have the whole chocolate bar?  Having sweets lying around the house can only set you up to overeat if you’re the type to eat the whole chocolate bar.  The key is to allow for some of those moments with sweets and desserts, otherwise you’ll go overboard when you do see the desserts.  In people with diabetes I always try and explain that it’s important to have good blood sugar control.  Including these sugar-containing treats is possible with portion control and knowing their blood sugar levels – it’s called managing your diabetes.  I teach them that desserts are a part of life (especially as the holidays are approaching), however, desserts are not the fuel source your body needs to operate at full-strength capacity.  Always aim for the best fuel and keep the desserts in check.

Dessert - high in sugar & fat typically DO effect blood sugar.  There are ways to include desserts and still maintain good blood sugar control.  All foods can fit.  The key is definitely moderation AND frequency - and that's not just for people with diabetes.

Myth:  Fruit is a healthy food.  Therefore, it is okay to eat as much of it as you wish.

Fact:  Yes, fruit is a healthy food, but NO you cannot each as much of it as you wish (you can eat as much as you want, just keep in mind when it comes to blood sugar levels it does play a role).  Fruit does contain fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals.  However, fruit contains carbohydrates and therefore needs to be included as part of your meal plan, in a controlled amount.  After working at the Diabetes Research Institute, this is one change I’ve made – I’ve decreased the amount of total fruit I eat and started to increase the amount of non-starchy vegetables I’m consuming.  Tough?  Yes.  Healthier for me? Absolutely!  (p.s. Juicing, smoothie, and smoothie bowls as a trend needs to stop – the fiber is there but not functional and it tends to be a load of carbohydrates – EAT and CHEW your food.)  This is and has always been my motto – if you’re overeating fruit odds are you should try to pair it with another food group to help satiate you.  AND keep in mind that food is functional, so in the summer when you’re working outside and parched, watermelon is easy to overeat if you’re thirsty.  It is watermelon after all and helps hydrate – simply make sure to drink water and be able to identify that it is thirst that your body is trying to quench.  

Every food effects people differently.  Mango tends to be a fruit that raises blood sugar more than others.  Test, know the effect.  And of course pay attention to portion size, because mango is easy to overeat.  For everyone.

I’m always telling my patients to “know their numbers” Here’s a chart to help explain your numbers:

If you have your fasting blood sugar checked routinely for your doctor visits, the fasting blood sugar should be less than 100 mg/dL.  If it is above 100 mg/dL this will be an indicator to have your A1c checked.  The A1c is a blood test that runs an average over the last three months of your blood sugar level – so while your fasting blood sugar could’ve been high it doesn’t necessarily indicate your overall control.  The A1c is the best test for verification.  An A1c between 5.7-6.4% indicates pre-diabetes and an A1c at 6.5% and over is diabetes.  This November, have your A1c tested so you can know your numbers.  Knowing is the first part of prevention.  Here are a few other tips to help reduce your risk:

Sheet-pan dinners - easy to prepare & easy clean-up
Exercise moderately.  Aim for 150 minutes of exercise/week.  Inactivity promotes type 2 diabetes. Working your muscles more often and making them work harder improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose.  This puts less stress on your insulin-making cells.  Long hours of hot, sweaty exercise aren’t necessary to reap this benefit.  Walking briskly for a half hour every day reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent.  Limit the time you spend sitting at work, at home, or in between – that’s why my tracker is always buzzing trying to remind to get up and get moving every hour.

Make veggies fun & tasty so you'll want to eat them.  And please, whatever you do, do not call this a cauliflower "steak".

Tune Up Your Diet:  Making a few dietary changes can have a BIG impact on the risk of type 2 diabetes.       

  • Choose whole grains and whole grain products over highly refined carbohydrates.   
  • Whole grains don’t have a magical nutrient that fights diabetes and improves health.  It’s the entire package – elements intact and working together – that’s important.  The bran and fiber in whole grains make it more difficult for digestive enzymes to break down the starches into glucose.  This leads to lower, slower increases in blood sugar and insulin, and a lower glycemic index.  As a result, they stress the body’s insulin-making machinery less, and may help prevent type 2 diabetes.  Whole grains are also rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that may help reduce the risk of diabetes.  And don’t forget that whole grains have FIBER!  Fiber may be best known to help regulate bowel movements, but keep in mind within blood sugar control you don’t digest fiber.  The overall effect is that the fiber too helps slow down the blood sugar response – win win!
  • Skip the sugary drinks and choose water.                                                                      
  • When it comes to diabetes, sweet beverages seem to be a double-whammy.  Their high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars increase the demand for insulin and have a high glycemic load.  The sugar you sip may add flab more than the sugar you chew.  Liquid calories don’t seem to lead to satiety and the reduction in subsequent food intake that you might have with solid calories.  It’s easy to take in a large amount so easily.  Think your drink – even if a certain coffee company is coming out with their gingerbread lattes.
  • Include heart-healthy plant-based fats.                                                                            
  • The types of fats in your diet can also affect the development of diabetes.  Healthy fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds can help ward off type 2 diabetes.  Trans fats do just the opposite.  These unhealthy fats are found in many margarines, packaged baked goods, fried foods in fast-food restaurants, and any product that lists “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on the label.  Luckily as of June 18th, 2018 companies are no longer able to create a product that includes trans fat (and those already established with trans fat have until January 2020 to remove it completely!)  This is why so much emphasis has recently been placed on plant-based diets – the key message here is to eat more foods that come from a plant and less animal based protein (it is how the plate is distributed…we just tend to eat disproportionately, whether it’s too many carbs or too much protein)
Vary your grains and try NEW ones.  Black rice aka forbidden rice.

If You Smoke, Try to Quit                                                                                                        Smokers are roughly 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, and heavy smokers have an even higher risk.

Another whole grain, farro, to try and include in your repertoire.

Alcohol Now and Then May Help.                                                                                          A growing body of evidence links moderate alcohol consumption with reduced risk of heart disease. The same may be true for type 2 diabetes.  Moderate amounts of alcohol – up to a drink a day for women, up to two drinks a day for men – increases the efficiency of insulin at getting glucose inside cells.  If you already drink alcohol, the key is to keep your consumption in the moderate range, as higher amounts of alcohol could increase diabetes risk.  If you don’t drink alcohol, there’s no need to start – you can get the same benefits by losing weight, exercising, and changing your eating patterns.

Tofu, Zucchini, Tomato Salad - all foods that don't effect blood sugar.  It's important to include foods that are filling yet don't effect blood sugar.  You'll want to eat this salad.  Promise.
The bottom line to prevent type 2 diabetes:  Keep your weight – and especially your waist – under control and spend more time on your feet than on your seat.  I’m not trying to make this sound simplistic, because it’s not.  I’ve always said that I’ll keep things real here on this blog.  And true life shows that this is tough for many people.  These are lifestyle changes that we need to make.  Whether you grew up in a family that didn’t eat vegetables – hello all my Cuban families out there – or whether you just don’t like/enjoy exercise like people say you should, diabetes is a real health concern when you look at the numbers.  Keep in mind Rome wasn’t built in a day and this so-called journey towards health IS going to take time.  That’s why I always say, change ONE thing at a time and keep moving towards improvement.  You’ll be more successful long-term with your changes, which is what we’re aiming for.  If you’re looking to join a lifestyle program to help prevent pre-diabetes, leave me a message and I’ll get back to you with the information – we have two groups, one in Dade and one in Broward starting in January 2019 -and believe me, it will be life-changing. 

More veggie inspo - cucumber & avocado salad.  Eat more veggies!