March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Wrapping one's head around all the complexities surrounding diabetes can be a challenge. Whether the aim is short-term goals, long-term goals or both, it's important to establish a trusted health care team.
Research shows that medical nutrition therapy has its greatest impact when a person is first diagnosed with diabetes. MNT, the nutrition-based treatment provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist, includes a nutrition diagnosis as well as therapeutic and counseling services to help manage diabetes. It is never too late to get a medical team together — an RDN, medical doctor, diabetes nurse and other health care professionals can help manage and treat diabetes.
A variety of nutrition therapy interventions can help with diabetes management, including carbohydrate counting, simplified meal plans, healthy food choices, individualized meal planning strategies, exchange lists and behavior strategies. An RDN will determine which nutrition therapies are best and help develop both short- and long-term plans. Studies show that meeting regularly with an RDN is associated with improved cholesterol levels, weight management success, decreased need for medications and a reduced risk for other diseases.
Regularly checking blood glucose can help with understanding and improving overall HgA1c levels. While the evidence is inconclusive on how often one should check blood glucose, studies show that glucose self-monitoring — along with a structured diabetes education program — is a component of effective glycemic control. In addition, studies evaluating the effectiveness of diabetes MNT after three to six months reported reductions in HgA1c ranging from 0.25 to 2.9 percent.
For more information on monitoring blood glucose, ask a diabetes health care team — including an RDN.