Today, Monday 14 November, marks World Diabetes Day - a timely reminder of this chronic condition.
Only last month, new figures were published which showed the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK had increased to 2.9 million, with one person diagnosed every three minutes - that's a 50% increase within five years.
According to statistics from Diabetes UK, a further 850,000 people are unaware they have type 2 diabetes and by 2025, the number of people with diabetes is expected to reach five million. The condition already causes more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined, and it is estimated to cost the NHS £1 million an hour.
It's not all doom and gloom however; 90% of known diabetes cases are type 2, which, for the most part, is preventable and controllable through diet and lifestyle changes.
It should come as no surprise that as our waistbands have expanded and as a nation we get fatter, that diabetes rates have increased also.
As obesity is a major risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes, if we don't tackle our waistlines and diet diabetes diagnoses will continue to rise.
We all know that in general we should eat healthier, but for many, making these changes can be daunting. Others believe the term 'healthy eating' is code for denial, expense, and boring meals.
But enjoying a balanced diet is as easy or difficult as you make it, and if it's difficult, you're doing it wrong. So, how do you make healthy eating easy and enjoyable?
The best place to start is to know what a healthy diet is.
A balanced diet, one which is recommended to prevent and control diabetes, is low in fat and saturated fats, high in wholegrain carbohydrates and low in sugars and salt. It will include lean protein and at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. You should also include three low fat dairy servings per day; if you can't tolerate dairy, calcium-enriched soya products make an excellent alternative.
That's a lot of nutrition information, so how does that translate into a diet?
Using these rules I've created a few healthy eating suggestions:
Breakfast: Muesli or a high fibre cereal with low fat yoghurt and a piece of fruit.
Lunch: Chicken salad sandwich made with wholegrain bread.
Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese made with a tin of tomatoes, onions, peppers, lean mince, wholegrain pasta and a little grated cheese.
Snacks: Oatcakes or crisp bread with hummus or low fat cheese.
None of these contain particularly unusual ingredients. None require advanced cooking skills and none are particularly expensive. All however are tasty, satisfying, and healthy.
A healthy lifestyle also includes tackling our sedentary behaviour. If you like the gym and the discipline it can bring then it is a great choice. But for many of us, family and work commitments mean getting the time to devote to the gym is not always a viable option.
Small changes in behaviour can yield positive results. For instance, if you commute, getting off the tube or bus one stop earlier and walking can add an extra 10 to 15 minutes activity into your daily routine. As we should all aim to achieve at least 20 minutes exercise a day, this one change is a meaningful difference in your daily routine.
Find a small change that is manageable, maintainable and works for you. Over time, it will become a habit - it will become what you do, not what you have to do.
I think one of the greatest problems we face in addressing and tackling type 2 diabetes is that, as a serious life-long condition, the damage it causes to your health is not immediately apparent.
This means we put off taking action until those risks or consequences are staring us in the face.
But because many of us are overweight and have grown accustomed to it, we simply don't realise that we are unwell.
If the long term benefits of healthy eating don't convince you, focus on the shorter term benefits - feeling more comfortable in your clothes and having improved energy levels. Once you feel the benefits, you will not turn back and will continue to maintain a healthy diet and keep your risk of developing type 2 diabetes low.
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