LINCOLN, Maine — When people hear they have diabetes, they think that the only thing they have to worry about is avoiding sugar.
The problem with that is basically, “everything you eat converts to glucose,” said Jaynie Higgins, a Type 1 diabetic and author of “The Ultimate Diabetes Meal Planner.”
That means hamburgers, potato chips and even sugar-free foods are converted to glucose, or sugar, by the body and used as energy.
That is why what people put in their mouths and how much they eat is so important, said Higgins, a certified personal trainer who works locally as a health and wellness consultant.
“The Ultimate Diabetes Meal Planner,” written in partnership with David Groetzinger, a residential care specialist, and published by the American Diabetes Association, provides 13 weeks of portioned meal plans that focus on well-rounded meals that include whole-grain breads, lean proteins and fruits and vegetables.
“I love food,” said Higgins, former Mrs. Maine America. “[The book] takes the guesswork out of how much to eat. It’s not complicated. If there is something you don’t like, trade out for something you like. It’s pretty cool and it works.”
The daily meal planner has more than 325 recipes that meet American Diabetes Association nutrition guidelines.
When people are first diagnosed with diabetes, they are bombarded with information from health care providers and nutritionists about what they can and cannot eat, Higgins said.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “When I was diagnosed with diabetes it was a real shock.”
The monumental amount of information combined with the fact that it typically takes years of uncontrolled diabetes before major health issues arise, allows those affected to live in denial, she said.
“They don’t really have a real grasp of the complications until they have a problem and by then it’s too late,” Higgins said.
The good news for diabetics is that by taking control of what they eat, the risk of future complications decreases drastically, and some Type 2 diabetics even can get off their medications.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin, which is needed by the body to get energy from foods. Type 2 diabetics either have an overworked pancreas or the insulin their bodies make is not working correctly.
Recent studies indicate that diabetes rates in Maine have doubled in the past decade. Most of that increase can be related directly to inactivity and overeating, which are pushing up the number of Type 2 diabetics.
It’s estimated that 72,053 adult Mainers have diabetes, and “for every two people diagnosed, experts estimate that there is one person who has diabetes but hasn’t been diagnosed,” the Maine Diabetes Prevention and Control Program website states.
When Higgins first became a diabetic she hit the library to find out all she could about her disease.
“Interestingly, my research showed me that most diabetes books told people how to eat, or how not to eat, but not exactly what or how much to eat,” she said in a statement.
The emphasis of “The Ultimate Diabetes Meal Planner” is getting good, healthful food on dinner plates and teaching diabetics about portion control, which is just as important as what people ingest, Higgins said. She suggests three meals, with two or three snacks a day, and avoiding anything with a high salt or fat content or simple carbohydrates, such as white enriched bread.
“Deprivation doesn’t work,” Higgins said. “If you starve the body, it’s going to hoard and hold onto the food” it gets.
Higgins, who is the owner of Fit-Rx Studio, said the real reason she decided to write a book is that women in her area were always asking her how she stays in shape.
“It’s all about meal planning,” she said. “It’s food, and it’s fun.”
The “The Ultimate Diabetes Meal Planner” was awarded the 2010 Silver Nautilus Book Award, and is up for the International Association of Culinary Professionals 2010 award.