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The Importance of Nutrition for Diabetic Patients during COVID-19

Updated: 4/28/2020

Undoubtedly, over the course of the past few weeks, COVID-19 has impacted each and every one of our lives in some way or another. Today, we are focusing on our diabetic community members. The Diabetes-Endocrinology Center of Western New York (WNY) on 705 Maple Road, Williamsville is still seeing patients throughout this pandemic and has taken all of the necessary safety precautions to continue to treat patients.

We spoke with Elizabeth Szudzik, clinical dietitian, at the Diabetes-Endocrinology Center of WNY and she advised, "I’d like to stress to the community that here at the Diabetes-Endocrinology Center of WNY, our doors are still open. We encourage all of our patients to continue to come to us for care as delaying care could have detrimental effects. Your safety is our priority."

Szudzik’s main focus is to help diabetic patients with their nutrition. The role of nutrition within the treatment of diabetes is incredibly important. Szudzik notes, "While managing your blood glucose levels, you must take into account what you eat and drink, along with how much you exercise. What you choose to eat, how much you eat and when you eat are all important in keeping your blood glucose level in a healthy range."

During these uncertain times, it’s common that stress levels are elevated. Elevated stress levels can lead to increased blood sugar levels, and, increased instances of depression, which, often times, people turn to food for comfort. Szudzik adds, "Unfortunately, many of these ‘comfort foods’ are not healthy for us. As many people are now finding themselves working from home, they often are mindlessly snacking throughout the entire day. I was a victim of it myself at first! I advise my diabetic patients to keep track of what they’re eating with a food diary. The more we can be aware of what we’re eating the better. Don’t buy the chips or cookies, because it’s just too much of a temptation to have them in your pantry." She concludes, "Ultimately, being overweight is definitely something we should all be avoiding, now more than ever, as being overweight impacts how our body fights off viruses like COVID-19."

We asked Szudzik what types of foods diabetic patients should be buying, her recommendation was, "I always tell my patients, keep it simple. You really can’t go wrong with frozen fruits and vegetables. They are healthy and last a long time, so definitely stock up on those items. Beans and legumes are also great options as they provide healthy carbohydrates, have a long shelf life and are very affordable. Other healthy and affordable options include whole wheat pasta and brown rice. Of course, I collaborate with patients to develop a healthy strategic meal plan that fits their needs, taste and lifestyle. Everyone is different, so these customized meal plans really help."

We asked what Szudzik for some final recommendations for diabetic patients, she advised, "Test that blood sugar! Test it often and make sure those numbers are not going too high. Again, high stress levels can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. Keeping stress levels down as best we can is key. Get outside! Get moving! Go for a walk or do some yard work. If the weather is poor, look to try and do yoga inside or a virtual workout. Moving our body not only help with weight, but they increase endorphins and lower stress. Lastly, keep a routine as best as you can. Wake up, fall asleep and eat meals at the same time every day. A poor night’s sleep can throw off your entire day and lead to mindless eating."