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Eating Right When You Have More Than One Health Problem - Topic Overview

You know that eating right is good for you. But if you have more than one health problem, eating right may seem hard to do.

Here's an example:

If you have heart disease and diabetes, you may be given guidelines for each. One focuses on keeping your heart healthy and the other on keeping your blood sugar in your target range. One may focus on salt, another on fats, and another on carbohydrate. Different doctors may tell you different things about what you should eat.

It may seem hard to follow different eating plans at the same time. But it's important for your health, and many special diets are very similar or can be combined. Eating right may not be as hard as you think. And you don't have to give up all the foods you love.

Make one change at a time

Consider the example above. How can you eat right if you get diet advice for your heart and for diabetes?

It's best to focus on one diet change at a time, starting with the change that's most important. You might start by keeping track of carbohydrate for diabetes. After that change becomes a habit, you might focus on reducing saturated fat for your heart. Get comfortable with each change before you add a new one.

In a few cases, a diet for one health condition may be more important than a diet for another condition. If you have kidney disease and diabetes, for example, you might focus only on diet guidelines for kidney disease. Your doctor or dietitian can help you decide what's most important for your health.

Use these healthy eating tips

Even with special diet guidelines, it's important to remember basic nutrition. Nearly everyone should:

  • Eat a variety of foods.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose whole grains.
  • Limit salt, fat, and added sugar.
  • Avoid alcohol, or drink only in moderation.

Ask for help

If your diet guidelines are confusing or hard to follow, talk to your family doctor. He or she may be able to help you. Or you may work with a registered dietitian. A registered dietitian is a food and nutrition expert. He or she will consider:

  • Your health concerns.
  • Medicines and supplements you take.
  • Your age.
  • How physically active you are.
  • Your food habits and your ability to get nutritious foods.
  • Your health goals.

A registered dietitian can design an eating plan just for you and can teach you how to follow it. Your doctor can help you find a registered dietitian.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: January 24, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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