Diabetes in the elderly is a serious issue, as seniors are one of the most at-risk group for the disease. Elderly care should encompass all aspects of physical and mental health, and dietary needs are an important factor to a senior’s well-being.
According to the PHAC, 48% of the diabetic population is aged 65+. This number is also only expected to grow as the Canadian population ages.
If you or a senior member of your family lives with diabetes, it can seem difficult to maintain an enjoyable, full diet with the restrictions it creates. As professionals in Montreal home care for the elderly, Complete Care can offer many resources for older people with diabetes. We’ve gathered some helpful information on making a diabetic diet simpler and more enjoyable: Just follow these steps!
Diabetic Diet Outline
Simply put, the goal of a diabetic diet is to control blood sugar levels. Preventing spikes in glucose levels will help manage the level of insulin your body produces. The diet is also intended to promote weight loss, as this is a large component of diabetic health, especially for seniors with limited mobility.
The Simple Rules
A diabetic diet can be broken up into a few simple rules: Namely, these are portion control, having regularly set mealtimes, limiting sugar, and eating fibrous, varied foods.
Portion control is mostly in regards to carbohydrates. This is the macronutrient that affects blood glucose levels, but that doesn’t mean diabetics need to avoid all carbs. The type of carbohydrate is what’s important; rather than eating processed, refined carbs from foods like sweets and desserts, choose fruits, legumes, and vegetables instead. These are known as complex carbs, which are digested much slower and thus don’t cause a spike in blood sugar. This is one of the most important points for managing diabetes in the elderly.
Having regularly set mealtimes and not skipping meals will help regulate glucose levels. The time at which you eat is just as important as the food that you eat. To avoid sugar level fluctuations, eat at consistent times each day. If you, or an elderly loved one affected by diabetes, take mealtime insulin, eating every 4-5 hours is recommended in order to prevent hypoglycemia. Senior caregivers can help by ensuring the diabetic person eats at regular intervals, and takes their medication as needed.
Limiting sugar intake is another essential. Sweets and desserts, soft drinks, honey, and other foods with a high glycemic index should be avoided entirely, or only eaten as an occasional treat in tiny amounts. For proper control over diabetes in the elderly, sugar cravings should be assuaged with fresh or frozen fruit. Cut out fruit juices from your diet, as these are high in sugar. Low-fat foods, such as yogurt and other dairy products, should also be avoided, as they often have added sugar to compensate for the reduced fat content.
Fiber is an important element of an enjoyable diabetic diet. Dietary fiber has many health benefits for the body, including a slowed digestion of sugars and improvement of blood glucose levels. Seniors with diabetes should consume more high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts.
A diet high in whole foods and low in processed foods is best. Highly processed foods often contain excessive sodium, sugar, and unhealthy saturated fats. Preparing your own meals or having a caregiver prepare them for you is a good way to avoid unnecessary salt and sugar.
Finally, avoid excess salt, as diabetics are more at-risk for heart disease than non-diabetics. Excessive sodium can lead to many complications, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.
How Can I Make a Diabetic Diet More Enjoyable?
Replace, don’t remove! Some seniors may find it difficult to adapt to a low-glucose lifestyle, as oftentimes, they complain that the diabetic diet is unpleasant. However, by simply replacing sugary foods with healthier options rather than removing them altogether, the diet can be more enjoyable and easier to stick to. For older people with diabetes, here are some examples of easy replacements that can be made:
- Instead of soft drinks, have a glass of water or sparkling water with strawberries;
- Have brown rice as opposed to white rice;
- Similarly, replace white bread with whole-grain bread;
- Replace chips with homemade popcorn, which has little sugar, is low-calorie, and packed with fiber;
- Use an artificial sweeter instead of sugar in tea or coffee;
- For breakfast, choose plain yogurt with fruit instead of sugary cereal;
- When baking, use half the sugar the recipe calls for, or substitute it with mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla extract. Some spices, such as cinnamon, are actually believed to help lower blood sugar levels.
There are plenty of changes that can be made to a diabetic diet, making it easier to follow for seniors who may otherwise find it unpleasant. Diabetes in the elderly is an increasingly common problem, so if you or a senior loved one is living with this disease, consider hiring a professional caregiver. Complete Care Coordination’s elderly caregiving services include monitoring of medicine and meal preparation services, with restrictions carefully observed.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation with a nurse.