Counting her blessings and her crabs, former ‘sweets junkie’ shares tips for a healthier Thanksgiving

Healthier Thanksgiving
Healthier Thanksgiving

 

Special to The Dallas Examiner

 

“My family always said, ‘Stop eating like that,’” Tonami Jones, 57, recalled. But it wasn’t until she became seriously ill in April 2019 that the self-confessed ‘sweets junkie’ took their advice seriously.

“All of a sudden I got dizzy and my sister called the ambulance and I was taken to Parkland Hospital,” Jones said. “They told me my blood sugar had spiked and I had Type 2 diabetes.”

Two days later, she was discharged from the hospital with diabetes medications, information about enrolling in a diabetes education class and a new attitude about her health.

“I do want to live,” she said frankly, “And I knew if I didn’t do some things to make my health better, I wouldn’t be around much longer.”

Jones has a strong family history of diabetes. Her grandparents, sisters and brother all were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, but instead of heeding their warnings, for most of her life Jones had given in to her lifelong craving for cake, candy, sodas and other sweets.

She said the diabetes education class she attends at Parkland Health and Hospital System’s Bluitt-Flowers Health Center opened her eyes to a whole new way of eating.

“I always ate poorly but now I know how important vegetables are for good health. I hardly ever ate them before but now I love them,” Jones stated.

Now. she visits the DeSoto farmer’s market and shops for fresh cabbage, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and other greens once a week. She has learned to cut back on breads, starches and meat, putting extra helpings of veggies on her plate instead, and watch portion size.

Since her diabetes diagnosis, Jones has also started walking daily and has dropped nearly 20 pounds as well as lowering her A1c level – which measures blood sugar – from 11.2 percent to 5.9 percent.

“Now that I’m feeling better, I try to walk 15 to 20 minutes a day and next thing on my agenda is to increase my walking and lose more weight.”

With Thanksgiving approaching, Jones and her sister, who also has Type 2 diabetes, are planning a traditional family meal that is diabetes friendly.

“Lots of green vegetables, turkey, ham, maybe a small serving of dressing or macaroni and cheese. I’ll allow myself a little bit of dessert, but I’m not going to overdo it – instead of a big slice of cake, I’ll just have a nibble. I don’t want to go backwards,” she said.

Parkland registered dietitian Sharon Cox, who leads the diabetes nutrition class that Jones attends, said that family Thanksgiving meals for those with diabetes can still be delicious, but it does take some planning.

“You don’t have to deprive yourself, but you do need to be aware of your carbs and watch your blood sugar,” she said.

Whether you have diabetes or are hosting friends or families with the disease, Cox offered a few tips for a healthy Thanksgiving all can enjoy:

  • Start the day off with breakfast; avoid skipping a meal to save up for the holiday dinner.
  • Drink more water to stay hydrated. Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Snack on raw vegetables with hummus or low-fat dip before the meal instead of high-fat, high-calorie appetizers.
  • Look at all the food on the table before you start filling your plate.
  • Fill half your plate with green leafy vegetables, Brussels sprouts, broccoli or green beans. Start with the vegetables to help curb your appetite.
  • Avoid vegetables in creams, gravies and butter to avoid fat calories.
  • Choose the white meat over dark meat to consume less fat.
  • Make fat-free gravy; skim the fat off the top after the broth has cooled to reduce fat, but keep the flavor.
  • If you are planning to have dessert, skip the dinner rolls, cornbread and other starchy foods to control carbohydrate intake.
  • Make cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries to avoid the added sugar in canned sauce.
  • Limit alcohol to avoid drops in blood sugar levels and weight gain. Eat before drinking alcohol.
  • Eat slowly, talk to family and friends between bites of food, put the fork down, and take time to enjoy the meal and company.

This Thanksgiving, Jones said she will be counting calories and carbs, but most of all her blessings.

“I’m grateful I have learned how to take better care of myself and have a chance to lead a healthier life,” she said.

 

The Healthy Living with Diabetes Education Program at Parkland is recognized by the American Diabetes Association. To learn more about Parkland’s Global Diabetes Program, visit http://www.parklandhospital.com or call 214-590-7219. For more diabetes-friendly recipes and information about preventing and managing diabetes, visit http://www.parklandgiabetes.com.

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