FRIDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The difficulty June Stewart had working vegetables into her day-to-day meals didn't stem from any aversion to them.
"I love salad and I love broccoli and stuff like that," said Stewart, 67, a Baltimore resident who said her love of vegetables stemmed from her childhood. "We've always eaten a three-course meal -- we were brought up that way -- so we always ate vegetables."
But over the past 23 years, Stewart said, she found it very difficult to work veggies into her daily diet. She worked as a bus driver for the Maryland Transit Administration, and the on-the-run hours of her job required her to eat whatever was handy, rather than whatever was good for her.
"When I was working, I couldn't work it in that good," said Stewart, who retired in February. "When you're a bus driver, you just eat a lot of snacks because you're running from one bus to the next. I only got vegetables at dinnertime, very seldom any other time, because I'd grab a sandwich or a hot dog or a donut or something."
Vegetables took on a new importance in Stewart's life earlier this year, however, when her doctor diagnosed her as diabetic.
"I was told if I don't keep right on point, I'll end up taking pills or insulin or whatever," she said. "Once you learn about it, you have to be careful."
Stewart said she discovered a happy coincidence while taking a class on proper nutrition for diabetics: The vegetables she loved so much as a child were exactly the type of food she needed to eat to help keep her blood sugar in check.
Now she regularly hits the supermarket and farmer's market to buy collard greens, kale, string beans, broccoli, beets and salad fixings. "I don't like canned vegetables," she said. "I always cook fresh."
In addition, Stewart walks every day because exercise also helps regulate blood sugar. "I like diet and exercise, and it's a good thing," she said. "I really have to do everything, or I'll end up in bad shape."
Nonetheless, Stewart considers herself fortunate, in a way. She didn't have to overcome any big aversion to fruits and vegetables to get herself eating better. She just had to make the time to buy and cook them.
"A lot of people just don't like vegetables," she said. "What saved me was we had vegetables in all our meals growing up."
A companion article details the varied health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
SOURCE: June Stewart, Baltimore
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