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Talking To My Dad About Nutrition

Written for the River Current Publication; June 20, 2013

Many times during my nutrition coursework, we were told that our family members would be the last to listen to what we had to say about their health and nutrition. 
I am now experiencing this frustration with my father.  As I have shared before, my father struggles with his sugar.  He is a Type II diabetic, who monitors his sugar closely.  He has a couple “little white pills” that he uses if needed, according to his fluctuating sugar levels.  One he pulls out if his sugar levels are too low; another he uses if too high. 

In the last couple of weeks his sugar levels have been all over the place.  This is concerning to me because my father lives alone…well, along with his loyal feline companion, Suzy.  He has wisely learned to listen to his body, recognizing the symptoms (dizziness and/or weakness) and I admire him for his diligence in working with this difficulty.

Out of respect to my father, I have tried to quietly let him manage all of this himself.  My brother and I recently chatted and he said, “Dad just eats too many carbs”.  Yes…I know.  I sense his perception is the breads and starches that he eats are certainly better than having sugary treats.  What he doesn’t understand is that our bodies immediately convert carbs into glucose.  So in the morning when he starts his day with 3 or 4 pieces of toast with peanut butter and/or jam….his sugar levels spike.  He will then often have a sandwich for lunch and/or dinner with some sort of crackers or chips. (more carbs) In sadness, I recognize how hard it must be for older folks to maintain a somewhat normal diet while living alone. 

Recently I decided I could no longer turn a blind eye to this situation.  Yesterday I armed myself with some information that I had printed out for him and hoped that we could have a little informal nutrition chat.  (A sort of Father’s Day gift, so to say…much better than a tie!)  I also grabbed a nutrition assessment questionnaire for him to fill out…I presented it as something fun we could do together.

I strategically planned a lunch that we would enjoy together as my Father’s Day treat.  That morning I prepared a whole wheat pasta dish which had hamburger in it…the protein would help to slow his digestion and aid in slowing his glucose production.  (Proteins and fats slow the digestion of carbohydrates and the production of glucose; which in turn can help to stabilize blood sugar levels.)  I also put together a big salad full of colorful veggies.  I then cleverly left enough in the fridge; hoping that he would make a salad or two for himself in the days ahead.
While we were eating, I carefully started to chat about his carb consumption.  Maybe his hearing aids weren’t working, but he didn’t seem to ‘digest’ what I was saying.   Perhaps this was the “selective hearing” that my mother had always spoke about!  This is going to be a slow process. 

Dietary changes need to be slow.  If I tried too quickly to change what he has done for years, he would panic and resist.  Somehow I need to make it appear to be his idea (such a guy thing…lol) that this change is happening.  I shall continue to slowly work on his better understanding. 

Admittedly, for years I found carbohydrates to be quite confusing; so therefore I chose to ignore them!  Here are some basics for you:  Foods that contain carbohydrates raise blood glucose. By keeping track of how many carbs you eat, you can help to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range.  There are three main types of carbohydrate: starches, sugars and fiber.  You may also hear terms like naturally occurring sugar, added sugar, low-calorie sweeteners, sugar alcohols, reduced-calorie sweeteners, processed grains, enriched grains, complex carbohydrate, sweets, refined grains, and whole grains. 

No wonder knowing what kind (and how many) carbs to eat can be so confusing!  Watch my blog for more carb talk this week…it’s where I’m at right now.  Happy Father's Day Dad!



  1. When I was doing my research while pregnant with Jude and learning I had gestational diabetes there were so many things I had no idea packed so many carbs like corn or bananas.

    I mentioned I use to eat a single banana for breakfast and a glass of milk (I ate lots of protein too though) for all of my breakfast carbs (breakfast is usually the hardest number to control) and my father who's been diabetic for years had no idea bananas had around 30 carbs alone. I don't think he knows about the corn thing either considering he eats a lot of it and tried to push me to eat it while pregnant!

  2. Dad's are challenging to try to 'teach' aren't they??? They see themselves as our teachers; and us as the matter how old we are! My challenge will be in having him think it is something he figured out allll by himself.

    How are you Ms. Olivia...I miss you! :(


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