Diabetes Self Management Education - Blog

Beware of Hidden Sugar

  • In case you haven’t already noticed, the Nutrition Facts label is in the process of being updated to include a new category, “Added Sugar”!
  • The amount of sugar in each serving is listed on the label in grams (g).
  • Eating or drinking more than 28 grams of added sugar each day increases your risk for tooth decay, plus may contribute to added calories...the “empty kind”!
nutrition label

Be a detective…learn to Spot Secret Sugars!

  • Sugars are often called by many different names.
  • Read the label – if a sugar is listed in the first 3 ingredients or is the only ingredient, then the product probably contains too much sugar!
  • Tip: words ending is “ose” or labeled “syrup” or “sweetener” are usually sugars!

Examples of Secret Sugars:

  • Agave
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane
  • Caramel
  • Corn syrup
  • Fruit juice
  • Honey
  • Malt syrup
  • Natural sweetener
  • Sorghum
  • and finally…the “oses”:
    • Dextrose
    • Fructose
    • Galactose
    • Glucose
    • Maltose
    • Sucrose
examples of sugar

For more information on added sugars in foods and beverages, visit: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/what-are-added-sugars

Sue Cunningham, PhD, RD/LD, CDE, FAND
Dietetic Consultant
UT Health Services
2012 Texas Outstanding Dietetic Educator
2015 Texas Outstanding Dietitian
Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Fellow, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Food Safety at the Family Picnic

As plans for summer gatherings are made, picnics are often the preferred way to feed the crowd!

How can you keep everyone having fun instead of falling prey to food-borne illness?

The most important guidelines to remember to keep perishables fresh-tasting and safe to eat are that they need to be stored at refrigerator temperature (40 degrees or below) and they also shouldn’t be left out of refrigeration for more than two hours. If it’s over 90 degrees outside, the maximum time out should be one hour. Harmful bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees…they double in number every 20 minutes! 

So make sure your perishable foods “chill out” and enjoy eating outside safely!

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Don’t forget those fruits & veggies!

There are several picnic-friendly foods that don’t need to be chilled.

Most produce is fine unrefrigerated before it is cut or peeled, and it adds beautiful color and nutrition to the picnic; so bring plenty! Cherries, grapes, peaches, plums, figs, berries, whole melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and avocado — are all summer favorites you can bring along whole and easily cut or peel before eating, if needed. Be sure, however, that you rinse and dry them well before they are packed up. It’s a good idea to even rinse fruit with rinds or skin you don’t eat so that you don’t drag bacteria into the flesh as you slice them.

Keep things in balance!

Other healthful nonperishables to bring along include whole-grain crackers, nuts and nut butters, and dried fruit. Cheese aged two years or longer, such as Parmesan, Romano, aged Gouda and cheddar may also be left out, as well as many dried and cured meats, such as dried sausages and jerky. But to keep your picnic healthfully balanced, don’t rely too heavily on cheeses and processed meats because they are very high in salt and saturated fat. Also keep in mind that many of today’s dried and cured products are made with a short-cut method and do require refrigeration. Be sure to check the package to see if refrigeration is necessary!

dsme picnic 03dsme picnic 04

Make sure there’s no “bugs” in those burgers!

Raw meat and poultry should always be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature, for instance, beef and pork should be 145oF and poultry should be 165oF as registered by a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the food. When roasting these items in the kitchen oven, make sure to use an oven temperature that is no lower than 325°F, and cook the food until these recommended internal temperatures are reached.

When you’re cooking meat and poultry out-of-doors, it’s more difficult to judge the temperature of the coals on the “barbie”! Then, it is even more important to use that meat thermometer and insert it into the thickest part of the meat or poultry to make sure that beef and pork is at these recommended internal temperatures. By the way, ham that is fully cooked only needs to be heated to 140oF.

If you aren't going to serve hot foods right away, it's important to keep them at 140°F or above, so move them off from the center of the grill so that they keep warm!

Being mindful of these simple precautions will ensure that you and your family enjoy eating outdoors safely, no matter the weather or time of year!

Sue Cunningham, PhD, RD/LD, CDE, FAND

Call 713-500-3267 for an appointment at UTHS. 

Managing Your Routine

Don’t Let the Weekends Set You Back

Many people find their healthy groove during the weekday, but come Friday night through Sunday, even the best intentions go out the window. Parties, dinners out, drinking, sports events, spending hours on the couch, and traveling can all  interfere with a healthy routine.  Enjoy the weekend to the fullest with these simple tips and feel good come Monday morning.

Start the Day off Right

Begin your weekend days with some physical activity. Go for a (short or long) walk or hike, join a gym class or simply do some light stretching shortly after you wake up. Make plans with a buddy or family member to stay accountable. Movement at the start of the day helps regulate blood sugar levels, boosts energy and mood and sets the tone for making healthy choices the rest of the day.

Eating Out and Eating In

Plan ahead. If you make plans for breakfast, lunch or dinner, be sure that the other two meals are especially healthy. Check out the menu online ahead of time and choose three of your top choices. This way when you get to the restaurant you already know what you want to order without the social distractions. Save calories by skipping on the bread or chip basket. If alcohol is involved, limit your- self to two drinks (for men) and one drink (for women) and be sure to drink plenty of water or club soda so you stay hydrated.

If you are staying around the house more during the weekend, try to eat relatively similar to your weekday schedule. Eat three meals and one snack, spaced about 4-5 hours apart, to avoid consistent snacking all day. If snacking during the day is a weakness, eliminate tempting foods and replace with healthy foods. Try to eat without distractions. Studies show that if we eat while we are distracted we eat more because our body doesn’t register that we are full. Turn off the television, put away the books, cell phones, laptops and magazines and just focus on the food. Although weekends are time to get multiple things accomplished at once, try eating meals without any distraction and see if you feel more satisfied with less.


Whether you are hosting or being hosted, make or bring a healthy dish that you know you can eat. Good options include a vegetable platter with light dip, cucumber slices with chicken or tuna salad (see recipe below), a large Greek salad or a fruit salad. If you are unable to bring a dish-make sure to have a light snack (apple and string cheese or almonds) prior so that you do not show up ravenous. Fill half of your plate with the main vegetable dish and fill the other half with food of choice.

Plan for the Week Ahead

Make time for grocery shopping, make a shopping list (and stick to it) and plan meals for the upcoming week. Prep or batch cook food ahead of time so that weekday evening meals and lunches can be assembled in no time at all.

Got 10 Minutes?

In our fast paced world it feels like there is not enough time in the day to get everything done— and having diabetes lengthens that to-do list. Here are 10 easy ideas that may lead to better diabetes control and health. Each takes just 10 minutes or less so pick one or two and get started!

  1. Prep Snacks. Keep healthy snacks around so that you do not fall at the mercy of the vending machine or office snack drawer of sweets between meals. At the beginning of the week or on the weekend, organize one serving of some almonds or mixed nuts, popcorn, or trail-mix into a dozen snack baggies. Take one with you each day or keep them in your desk drawer for convenience.
  2. Make a carb-counting cheat sheet. Write down the carbohydrate counts of some of the most commonly consumed meals you eat during the week. Use an online database or carb counter to find the grams of carbs per serving and add it up. This is a great exercise that will give you an accurate look at your carbohydrate intake per meal and insurance that you are staying within your recommended carbohydrate range per meal.
  3. Eat Breakfast.  Eating breakfast supports weight control and overall health. If you have limited time in the morning, prep some easy and nutritious options that you can grab-and go. For example, hard boiled eggs and fruit, Greek yogurt and mixed nuts (or ground flax seed), a piece of high fiber toast and peanut butter or prep a smoothie at night, keep in the refrigerator and blend in the morning. Even a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with veggies and low-fat cheese would do the trick. If you can, take 10 minutes and eat at home.
  4. Chop some veggies. Have chopped vegetables on hand to toss into salads, lunches, or enjoy as snacks or side dishes. Some good examples include; carrots, cucumbers, celery and grape tomatoes. Roast a butternut squash in the oven for weekly meals and marinate zucchini and yellow squash in Ziploc® baggies to throw in the oven or on the grill.
  5. Move your body. Just 10 minutes of walking has noteworthy health benefits including; burning fat, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels and increasing mood and energy. Walk for 10 minutes before work, at lunch time or after dinner. Marching in place while watching your favorite television show would work, too.
  6. Stay hydrated. Keep a large refillable water bottle at your desk with you during the day to encourage hydration. If you need some flavor add lemon, orange slices, cucumber and mint or frozen berries and refill throughout the day.
  7. Take 10 extra minutes to enjoy your meal. It takes about 20 minutes for our stomach to send a signal to our brain that we are full. Studies show that people who take time to eat, eat less because they feel full with less food. Slow down and savor your meal to avoid overeating.
  8. Mix a bean salad . Whip up a bean salad to enjoy with lunch or dinner. Double the portion for future meals. Drain and rinse a variety of canned beans and add diced tomato, onion, corn and avocado. Beans are high in protein and fiber which promote blood sugar control and insulin function.
  9. Breathe. Take time during the day to take a deep breath….hold it….and breathe out. Do this at least 10 times during the day. This simple exercise can be done anywhere and helps alleviate stress, and anxiety and increases blood flow.
  10. Browse online for healthy recipes and research menus. In a food rut? Search online for some healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack ideas and recipes. Also, check out the menus at some of the most common fast food and sit-down restaurants you attend. Some of the menus include nutrition facts. Pay attention to calories, fat, carbohydrates and sodium and make sure the nutrition facts meet your goals. Most menus have a healthy option, so take note and order that more often.