Diabetes: Making Healthy Choices

Healthy greens

“The best thing patients with diabetes can do for themselves is to change their dietary habits,” says Sue Cotey, RN, CDE, Program Coordinator of the Lennon Diabetes Center at Cleveland Clinic Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center. “Proper nutrition can often be more powerful than medication when it comes to treating diabetes. Some people will notice a difference in as little as a day.”

But any kind of change is difficult, particularly when it comes to food. “Food is so tied to emotions,” she says. “From traditional cultural dishes to grandmother’s recipes, food is a big part of many celebrations, and some people actually are offended when told they need to change their diets.”

Why is healthy eating so important for people with diabetes? Eating nutritionally balanced meals helps to control blood glucose (blood sugars), cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure levels, reducing the risk of diabetes-related health problems.

Getting started

A common misconception is that a healthy diet of unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits and lean meats is more expensive, is more difficult to find in urban neighborhoods and takes more time to prepare. Not necessarily so, says Ms. Cotey.

“Our diabetes educational team, along with a registered dietitian, explored the East Cleveland neighborhood around the center to see what types of food were available,” she says. “We visited chain grocery stores, family-owned grocery stores and even a farmers market and discovered many reasonably priced healthy food options.”

To make healthy options more accessible, Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center has started a farmers market on Tuesdays and offers free, hands-on classes teaching people how to cook differently. In addition, the center provides transportation at no charge to the center for appointments for those living within a five-mile radius.

Reaching out for support

When initially faced with a diagnosis of diabetes, many patients feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do, according to Ms. Cotey. The center, along with many other Cleveland Clinic locations, offers diabetes programs to help patients succeed in managing all aspects of diabetes care.

Class topics include eating better, being physically active, monitoring blood sugars and interpreting results, taking medications safely and reducing risks of complications, and setting personal goals for managing diabetes.

“Once patients join a diabetes education program, they learn that they’re not alone. Everyone in the group feels the same way and is facing the same challenges,” says Ms. Cotey. “And because family is so important — and may someday face the same challenges — we encourage our group members to bring their families to the classes and also share what they’ve learned with neighbors and friends.”

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  • Marry

    I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes and put on Metformin on June 26th, 2014. I started the ADA diet and followed it 100% for a few weeks and could not get my blood sugar to go below 140. Finally i began to panic and called my doctor, he told me to get used to it. He said I would be on metformin my whole life and eventually insulin. At that point i knew something wasn’t right and began to do a lot of research. On April 13th I found this book on
    w­j­e­5­9­2­.­com/Cure-Diabetes-Naturally.html . I read the book from end to end that night because everything the writer was saying made absolute sense. I started the diet that day and the next morning my blood sugar was down to 100, the next day was in the 90’s and now i have a fasting blood sugar between Mid 70’s and the 80’s. My doctor took me off the metformin after just one week of being on this lifestyle change. I have lost over 30 pounds in a month. I now work out twice a day and still have tons of energy. I have lost 6+ inches around my waist and I am off my high blood pressure medication too. I have about 20 more pounds to go till my body finds its ideal weight. The great news is, this is a lifestyle I can live with, it makes sense and it works. God Bless the writer. I wish the ADA would stop enabling consumers and tell them the truth. You can get off the drugs, you can help yourself, but you have to have a correct lifestyle and diet. No more processed foods.

    • Ez Acosta

      It pays to advocate for our own health. The standards of health in conventional medicine is atrocious. Im glad you found the path out of sickness. So much of this countries ills goes back to nutrition and clean living and food. The truth is out there.

  • Kimberly Ryan

    In 2007, I was diagnosed with severe fibromyalgia, placed on narcotic therapy, extremely active, petite, until three years ago. Cannot take Lyrica or gabapentin due to severe allergies and Cymbalta doesn’t help. I was taken off these medications because of all the studies contraindicated their effectiveness. Now I’m not on anything. I’ve gained almost 50 pounds, due to decreased activity, in severe pain, have increased neuropathy and muscle weakness, all of which are not being addressed. To add fuel to the fire, I had a brain aneurysm in 4/2000 which left me with traumatic brain injury, as well as, physical side effects. I’ve kept these to a minimum by staying physically fit and active. Because my health has deteriorated and by not being as physical, these side effects are becoming more apparent again. There is no one treating fibromyalgia in my area and I also live in NYS with the strict regulations of narcotics. I don’t fit the “normal” treatment for this diagnosis, nor do I have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, yet I cannot get help. It’s unfortunate that someone who goes from being highly active all their life, athletic, loves the outdoors, lives alone, owns their own house, used to be an RN, becomes someone who struggles to get through the day. It’s not right.