As days are getting warmer and daylight hours are longer, many of us are motivated to improve our daily health habits. This is especially true for people living with chronic health conditions such as diabetes.

According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 34 million people in the United States have diabetes (10.5% of the population). Another 88 million adults have prediabetes, placing them at increased risk for developing diabetes. Physical activity and healthy eating are important for managing diabetes and preventing prediabetes from becoming diabetes.

Spring is a great time to renew our efforts to move our bodies to increase our physical fitness. After a long winter of icy sidewalks and low temperatures, aiming for 20 to 30 minutes of walking outside several times per week is a great physical activity goal.

If 20 minutes seems overwhelming, start with 10 to 15 minutes and gradually increase a few minutes each week. And raking the lawn and preparing gardens for seeds and new plants counts as exercise! Any body movement is good for us. The American Diabetes Association urges all people with diabetes to increase their physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

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Along with physical activity, healthier food choices can have a big impact on blood glucose (sugar) levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Some of us may feel we’ve gotten into a rut of eating our usual meals during the winter months. Maybe it’s time to try some new recipes with new flavors for a change.

A goal for many people with diabetes is to eat more vegetables. Vegetables provide lots of vitamins and minerals, and most are low in calories and carbohydrates.

When you have diabetes, limiting the amount of carbohydrate eaten at a meal or snack will usually help to minimize how much your blood glucose level increases after eating. So, filling up with more vegetables might help us to eat less bread and starch during a meal, helping us to decrease our carbohydrate intake.

Vegetables can be a great source of fiber, which helps us to feel fuller after eating. Including a large salad or serving of cooked vegetables with most meals will often help us to feel satisfied with less or smaller servings of breads and starches.

We also see a wider variety of less expensive fruits in grocery stores during warmer months. Melons and berries are great low carbohydrate fruits that can be incorporated into salads or eaten as dessert or snacks. A bowl of fresh strawberries with a spoonful of whipped cream can be a delicious dessert during strawberry season. Melon chunks and fresh blueberries with some low-fat Greek yogurt could be a refreshing snack. You may find the sweetness of fresh fruits almost as satisfying as a chocolate chip cookie.

Adding fresh vegetables and fruits to your eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Look for produce that is on sale and appeals to you. Buy it, wash it and have it ready to eat in your refrigerator. Look for recipes that include fruits and vegetables you enjoy eating. Online sources, including the Diabetes Food Hub of the American Diabetes Association (diabetesfoodhub.org) are great resources for new recipes and ways to include more vegetables and fruits in our eating. Try these recipes for Italian Salsa Salad and Avocado-Strawberry Salad to see if they might be good additions to your eating plan. Happy Spring!

Avocado Strawberry Salad

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut in chunks

1½ cups hulled, sliced strawberries

1 lemon, juiced

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons toasted, sliced almonds

Combine avocado and lemon juice in a large non-reactive bowl. Add berries. Combine vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper. Add to fruit and combine well. Serve over a bed of lettuce leaves. Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 160 calories, 17 g carbohydrate

Zesty Salsa Salad

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

½ green pepper, chopped

10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

½ cup chopped red onion

½ stalk celery, chopped

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon salt

Crushed red pepper, if desired

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Gently toss together ingredients. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 40 calories, 5 g carbohydrate

Patti Urbanski is a registered dietitian at St. Luke's.
Patti Urbanski is a registered dietitian at St. Luke's.

Patti Urbanski, MEd, RD, LD, CDCES, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist at St. Luke’s. She served on the American Diabetes Association Nutrition Scientific Review and Writing Committees that developed the 2013 and 2019 ADA Diabetes Nutrition Guidelines.