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If you have diabetes, the choices you make at every meal could mean the difference between good health and serious health problems.

Diabetes affects 25.8 million U.S. children and adults, and about three times that number are at risk of developing diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Diabetes is a condition where there is too much sugar (glucose) in your blood because your body does not produce enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to change sugar, starches, and other food into energy needed for daily life.

To make sure that your body gets the energy it needs to function, you need to know how to be smart about your diet. Food choices have a major impact on your quality of life when you are living with diabetes.

Eating smart, dropping a few pounds, and getting more active has many health benefits. You can lower your blood sugar, decrease your chances of getting diabetes or high blood pressure, and reduce your need for medications. You can even lower the chances of heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease.

Small changes can have a significant impact on your overall health. It’s never easy, but it begins with eating smart:

  • Cut out the high calorie low nutrition foods like sugary soft drinks, or replace them with a diet drink
  • Reduce starchy, fatty, salty snack foods, and ask a partner or family member to serve you so you both keep track of what you are eating
  • If you aren’t willing to cut out both the cheeseburger and French fries, keep the burger, and quit the fries, or cut the portions in half

As you adjust to some of these initial changes, you can take bigger steps. To keep your meals healthy, you need to control the amount you eat and the types of foods you eat. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Try using the “rule of three” and a 9-inch plate. Fill half the plate with non-starchy vegetables like broccoli or spinach, one quarter of the plate with starchy food like whole grain bread or pasta, and the last quarter of the plate with meat or some other protein. Add an eight-ounce glass of low-fat milk and a half cup of fruit and you have a very filling, healthy meal.

Using the “rule of three” every day along with some moderate exercise will help you to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Keeping your weight down will also help you control your blood pressure.

Paying attention to your diet will, over time, help maintain the health of blood vessels, and can help you avoid the problems many people with diabetes face when the blood vessels and circulation are damaged – the risk of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, chronic pain, and infections.

Live well with diabetes by keeping your body healthy. To work towards good health, exercise moderately, keep your blood pressure under control, take your medications, don’t smoke, and be smart about
your diet!

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