Same Rules Apply: 7 Tips to Manage Metabolic Disorders

Couple preparing a healthy meal

As an outpatient registered dietitian, I see people with many different health concerns. But if I had to pick the biggest group, it would be those with the trinity of metabolic disorders: high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high blood sugar. These three conditions, along with abdominal obesity, are called Metabolic Syndrome.

According to the American Heart Association, 47 million Americans have 3 or more of these conditions. Interestingly enough, my first recommendations for each of these three health issues hold true for all of them. So, I thought I share these foundational principles with you.

One note: each person and condition may have specific, detailed recommendations that aren’t covered here. For example, people with diabetes may count carbohydrates; those with hypertension will likely limit sodium. The following recommendations focus on the foundational issues and can make a profound impact on all of these metabolic disorders.

Stop skipping meals

Work on taking time to feed yourself something in the morning, something midday, and something in the evening.

Balance your plate

Work on filling ¼ of your plate with protein like chicken, fish, pork, beef, eggs, greek yogurt, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds. Fill no more than ¼ of your plate with grains (rice, pasta, quinoa) or starchy vegetables (corn, peas, white potato, sweet potatoes, winter squash); and fill 1/2 of your plate with non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, lettuce, salad greens, onions, carrots, cucumbers- any of the vegetables not listed in the starchy list.)

Fiber, fiber, fiber

Increase total fiber by switching from white to whole wheat bread, and from white rice to brown. Increase non-starchy vegetables - cauliflower, broccoli, kale, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, and asparagus. Add beans to soups and chilis and try hummus.  If you struggle with lipid issues, increase soluble fiber in particular, from oats and oatmeal, beans, apples, and flax.

Increase water and decrease sugary and artificially-sweetened drinks

Work on cutting out soda, Gatorade, energy drinks, and artificial sweeteners. These assault our taste buds, making it impossible for us to taste the flavors and sweetness in unprocessed foods. Work on increasing water, seltzer, or herbal tea to 64 ounces daily.

Get good quality sleep

Work on getting to bed and waking at a consistent time and sleeping 7 to 8 hours each night. This will also help you develop consistent eating patterns because studies show people eat more after a poor night of sleep. If you struggle to get good quality sleep regularly, talk to your primary care provider and the behavioral health specialist supporting their team.

Cook at home and explore new foods

Be open to trying some new things—you never know when you will find your next favorite go-to meal. Try Build a Bowl Cookbook by Nikki Sizemore. This cookbook is a great way to explore new flavors, whole grains, and different vegetables using yummy, approachable recipes.

Stress management

Really. This is important. Dietary changes are fabulous–but if you are living in a stew of stress, your body will pay the price. Chronically high stress results in chronically high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Research shows a connection between high levels of cortisol in the body and metabolic syndrome.

Belly breathing is a great way to work on managing stress. So is yoga, qigong, walking, singing, dancing, taking breaks at work, getting outside, and turning off the news. It is my personal belief that stress is the ultimate underlying cause of all of these issues. So, I encourage you to take a look at the role stress is playing in your life, and pick one thing to help reduce it.

My hope is that everyone can find something in this list to work on. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t know where to start? Pick one, ANY one, that resonates or seems doable. Remember, something is always better than nothing!

Ruth Goldstein, MS, RD, outpatient dietitian
Ruth Goldstein, MS, RD, outpatient dietitian

Ruth Goldstein MS, RD is an outpatient registered dietitian with Cheshire Medical Center. She is part of a team of three outpatient registered dietitians who hold nutrition counseling appointments in person and via zoom at 149 Emerald Street Unit J in downtown Keene. To book an appointment, call our Nutrition Services department at 603-354-5476.