More Adventures in Low-Carb Snacking

Snacks are one of the great joys in my life.

I refer to myself as a “grazer” – I’m constantly nibbling on food in between meals and I’m definitely no stranger to nighttime snacking while relaxing/watching television. If there are snacks in a room, I won’t ever be too far away from them.

I’m shameless when it comes to my love for snacks, but I can also admit that it’s not the healthiest habit. That’s because most snacks, at least the ones that appeal to me, contain carbohydrates that require me to take a bolus. Sounds like no big deal, right? It’s not, but for some reason, I usually neglect bolusing for snacks. I know better, but I can justify it to myself by saying, “Oh, it’s just a small handful,” or “Take a 15-minute walk when you’re done to burn off the carbs.” Most of the time, my blood sugar doesn’t go up too alarmingly high, but I’ve definitely experienced a few 250+ readings that shouldn’t have happened or could have been avoided if I had just bolused.

So I’ve made it a mission to track down the yummiest low-carb snacks out there (that aren’t cheese, deli meats, nuts, or celery, to name a few staples of mine that have become boring).

I’m happy to report it’s been a (mostly) tasty experiment.

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These snacks are so good and low-carb. Now if only they could make delicious, zero-carb cheesecake. And chocolate. And pizza. And…

I wrote about my success with pork rinds – the name still makes me cringe, but dammit, they’re good – over the summer. And I’m here today to share three more snacks that I’ve discovered are total wins.

Let’s start with the roasted edamame. These are fantastic. One serving has 9 grams of carbs, but 6 grams of fiber. Since I always subtract fiber count from carb count, this means there are 3 net carbs in one serving of edamame – such a win! I also love that they’re high in protein. Besides boasting enviable nutrition facts, they’re salty and satisfy in the same way as a handful of peanuts – just with significantly less fat and more protein.

Next, there’s the parmesan crisps. I know what you’re thinking: cheese! I just said above that cheese was getting boring for me as a snack, so what are these doing here? Well, they’re different from the old cheese stick or standard slice of American. These crisps are just like chips. But instead of tasting like potatoes, they taste like crunchy discs of cheese. What’s not to like about that? Oh yeah, they also have 0 carbs in an entire bag. Yaaaaaas!

Lastly, there are the seaweed crisps. I hope you didn’t just cringe when you saw “seaweed”. I was skeptic at first, too. How could anything containing that stringy algae that always gets wrapped around your legs when you venture into the ocean possibly be considered tasty? These might be an acquired taste for some, but I was surprised when I discovered right away that I liked these. The seaweed is somehow both salty and sweet at the same time, and combined with the sesame seeds, they’re lightly crispy and quickly become addicting the more you eat. These have 3.5 carbs in a serving of 12 crisps, but there’s fiber in these, too, so the overall carbohydrate content is minimal.

While higher-carb snacks like crackers, trail mix, and the occasional piece of bite-sized candy won’t be leaving my lineup any time soon, it is nice to know that there are some low-to-no-carb options out there that are actually delicious.

 

The Peanut Butter and Chocolate Punishment

loooooove peanut butter (frequent visitors of this blog are very aware of this fact) and chocolate. It’s the perfect combination of salty and sweet. And Reese’s cups of all shapes and sizes are definitely the most delicious snack in the entire world – though I have a special affinity for Reese’s pumpkins for having the ideal chocolate-to-peanut butter ratio.

Despite my unwavering adoration for peanut butter and chocolate, the dynamic duo doesn’t always love me – or my blood sugars – back…especially when I neglect to bolus accordingly.

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. I’d just woken up from a brief cat nap on the sofa and felt hunger pangs. I checked my CGM and noticed that my blood sugar was going a little low, so I yawned, stretched, and ambled into the kitchen for a snack.

That’s when I remembered I had a tasty treat in the fridge – crunchy peanut butter chocolate squares I’d whipped up the night before to bring to a friend’s apartment. They were made from, obviously, crunchy peanut butter, but also crushed graham crackers, butter, confectioner’s sugar, and a silky, smooth layer of melted dark chocolate. The squares were chock-full of carbs, but cut small enough and on the thin side…so I naively assumed I could eat a couple without doing any real damage to my blood sugar levels.

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The crime? The existence of these peanut butter and chocolate squares. The punishment? High blood sugar for unknown length of time. Cruel.

So I dove in, helping myself to some additional crumbs at the bottom of the bag that had broken off from roughly cut squares. After a couple of minutes of totally pigging out, I made myself stop because I could practically feel my blood sugar begin to rise. I even took a couple of units of insulin (not at all calculated, just two off-the-cuff units) to offset any high blood sugar.

Unfortunately, two units wasn’t exactly enough. Within an hour, I saw my blood sugar go from the 80s to somewhere in the 280s. Not at all what I wanted! I began bolusing and stacking my doses like crazy while I fixed dinner and fretted over how long it might take for my blood sugar levels to come back down so I could eat a real meal. By the time dinner was ready, though, I was still high but confident that the insulin on board would do its job. But it took nearly five hours for everything to stabilize, from when I first gave into the peanut butter and chocolate squares to a couple hours after dinner.

Not my finest moment in life with diabetes since everything could’ve been prevented from the beginning. But maybe it goes to show one of the reasons why people start out each new year with the hopes of eating clean and cutting out sweets – junk food tastes so wonderful when it’s being consumed, but the long-term effects are too much of a punishment to make it worth it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, time to evacuate the apartment of all carb-y confections…

My New Low-Carb Obsession

The whole freakin’ Internet knows how much I love carbs (as documented in a previous blog post). But that doesn’t mean that I don’t try to eat low or lower carb from time to time, especially when I find a recipe that sounds appealing.

So when I heard about “chaffles” a few months ago, I was intrigued.

The word “chaffle” is actually a portmanteau: It combines “cheese” with “waffle”. I love both of those things, but I was kind of confused as to how they could come together to create something that tasted good. After all, waffles are usually sweet, and cheese is savory…but then again, I’ve tried stranger combinations, so why not give chaffles a chance?

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Who would’ve thought that cheese and egg smooshed together by a waffle iron could taste so dang good?

Not too long ago, I broke out my mini waffle maker (best ten bucks I ever spent) to whip up my first batch of chaffles. The recipe was laughably easy. All I had to do was combine half a cup of shredded cheese (I went with mozzarella) with one large egg. And that was it! These are two ingredients that I have on hand almost always, so I was very pleased that the recipe didn’t require anything special. But then again, it’s the kind of recipe that’s just begging to be tweaked, added to, and played with according to taste and craving – more on that later.

I mixed my ingredients and added a spoonful of coconut flour (a little research online taught me that adding it in would yield in a more waffle-like texture, and I happened to have some on hand). Within a few minutes, I’d made two chaffles and was eager to try them. I’d also read online that people eat these with syrup, just like normal waffles, but I decided to try them plain.

I was wowed from my first bite – somehow, the cheese-egg-coconut flour mixture really did taste like waffles. I didn’t really care about the how or why behind it: All I knew was that I was a big, big fan of chaffles.

I’ve made them several times since, and I see no end in sight to my love for chaffles. How could I not enjoy something that’s actually satisfying (I couldn’t believe how full I felt after eating two), doesn’t annihilate my blood sugar, and is so stupidly simple to make? It’s also the perfect recipe to play around with – I can add a splash of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon to make them sweeter, a bit of garlic powder, marinara sauce, and pepperoni to make personal chaffle pizzas, or I can use chaffles to replace bread for a sandwich. The possibilities are endless, and I’m a sucker for versatility.

The funny thing is that chaffles have apparently been lauded by the keto community for many months now…they’ve basically been the biggest food trend since staples like impossible burgers and celery juice. While I’m far from a “keto person”, I do appreciate the different experiments with food that stem from that diet choice and will happily incorporate any winning recipes into my regular lineup. As for chaffles, they get a giant thumbs-up from me and will be appearing on my plate for a long time to come.

The Best Meal for My Diabetes

It’s November 11th which means that it’s Day 11 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt is about go-to meals. What’s the best meal for my diabetes? The answer might surprise you…

I don’t have a go-to meal for my diabetes. Does that surprise you?

I know plenty of people from the DOC who eat virtually the same things each day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That seems to work well for those people, so more power to ’em!

On the other hand, I do my diabetes best when I eat a wide variety of foods. My ideal day of food will consist of a medium amount of carbohydrates, a good mix of fruits, veggies, and proteins, and probably a little something “naughty” – a square of dark chocolate or a cookie for dessert. I eat around 20-40 carbs at breakfast and lunch, and anywhere between 30-60 carbs for dinner. It really just depends on what I have on hand in the kitchen and how well-behaved my blood sugars are on a given day.

I suppose that, if I had to describe my go-to diabetes meals, it would look a little something like this:

  • Breakfast – Either a smoothie with protein powder, almond milk, and frozen fruit; eggs with toast/an English muffin and veggies; or plain oatmeal made with water, cinnamon, and sugar-free syrup
  • Lunch – Either a salad with tofu/deli meat and a piece of fruit (sometimes with peanut butter spread on it) or a sandwich with cut-up veggies and hummus with a piece of fruit
  • Dinner – This one varies the most, but my usual is a protein like chicken or turkey with a large serving of veggies and maybe a scoop of brown rice, quinoa, or a bread on the side, with a little something sweet to end the meal
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Want to know what dish is pictured? See below for details, including the recipe!

I’ll share my current dinner obsession with you: roasted vegetables with sweet Italian sausage. I cut up a carnival squash (the yummiest variety out there – you can find it at local produce stands), bell peppers, a yellow onion, and a few baby potatoes, toss it all in olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme, and spread it on a sheet pan. I add whole sweet Italian sausages on top and roast it all for 30 minutes at 425. Then I tear up some kale, toss it with olive oil and just a dash of salt, and throw that on top of the veggies and sausage and cook everything for an additional 15 minutes, turning over the sausages before sliding the pan back into the oven. And that’s it. It’s so tasty and easy to make, and very gentle on my blood sugars – which usually allows me to indulge a bit more on a sweet at the end of the meal.

What’s the go-to meal that works best for you and your diabetes?

Favorite Things Friday: Zeno Bars

In this edition of Favorite Things Friday, I share a new snack find of mine that I really enjoy: Zeno Bars.

I received this 3 bar sampler pack at no cost to me, shipped out by the Zeno Bar team. This is an unpaid review of a free product. This is my honest review of the product. My words were not influenced.

Now that we’ve got the full disclosure stuff out of the way, let’s dive into my review of…Zeno bars! I saw these bars in a post published by Beyond Type 1 and was instantly curious about them. They claimed to be not only delicious, but also low-carb, low GI (glycemic index), gluten-free, and vegan. In my experience, it’s rare for a bar to actually taste good but also be a healthful treat. So I decided to contact the company to see if I could get my hands on some bars. A major thank you to Sue Papuga, one of the co-founders, for making this possible and for her warm correspondence via email.

Without further ado, here’s my thoughts on each of the three flavors I tried:

Strawberry Nut – This was the first Zeno bar that I tried. As I unwrapped it, I was instantly reminded of another kind of snack bar: Lara bars. The texture and appearance of the Zeno bar was practically identical to a standard Lara bar, which made me excited because I love Lara bars. I don’t buy them often, though, because they have a high carb content that can make them tricky to bolus for.

But this wasn’t the case with the Zeno bar. I ate the strawberry nut flavor one afternoon as I was out and about running errands. I didn’t take insulin for it and, sure enough, my blood sugar didn’t budge for hours (until I ate some ice cream for a late lunch, that is). The bar was the perfect midday snack – soft, chewy, slightly sweet and zippy from the strawberry flavor. It almost tasted a bit like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, minus the bread. So far, I was off to a good start with the Zeno bars.

My rating: 8/10

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Flashing a big smile after enjoying the Strawberry Nut Zeno bar!

Cocoa Chip – Like Strawberry Nut, I really enjoyed how Cocoa Chip tasted. It was reminiscent of a Chewy chocolate chip granola bar, except I found the Zeno bar to be much more satisfying (and with hardly any carbs compared to the Quaker-branded bars). The only reason why I didn’t score it a touch higher was that it tasted like many other granola bars out there that also have the chocolate chip flavor profile. But just like the Strawberry Nut flavor, this one was soft and chewy, and didn’t raise my blood sugar at all.

My rating: 7/10

Almond Nut – This one REALLY surprised me, because I assumed almond nut would be the blandest flavor of the bunch. I’m happy to report that it was actually my favorite. It was practically like eating almond butter, which I’m crazy about, but in bar form. What’s not to love about that? Just like the other two Zeno bars, Almond Nut only had a few net carbs overall, and I experienced zero blood sugar spikes after consuming it.

My rating: 9/10

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All 3 Zeno bars from the sampler pack.

All things considered, it’s safe to say I had a great experience with Zeno bars. All three were yummy, made for quick and convenient snacks on the go, and (the best part) cooperated well with my diabetes. I’m especially looking forward to stocking up on the Almond Nut flavored bars, because they were so unique compared to other snack bars I’ve had, but also totally delicious.

After reading this blog post, I’m sure you’re wondering how you can obtain some Zeno bars to try yourself. Check out their website, zenobar.com, to order some bars and read more about their origin story.

French Fries Are (Still) Evil

In Hugging the Cactus’s infancy, I wrote a blog post called French Fries Are Evil. In this post, I came to the conclusion that french fries are evil because they’re fatty, slow-releasing but high carb little jerks.

I’m here today, almost two years after that post, to let you know that these feelings toward french fries have not changed one bit.

Yep, they’re still evil.

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French fries…a.k.a. little sh*ts.

They straight-up tricked me into thinking that I was bound for a night of beautiful blood sugars not too long ago, despite the less-than-healthy decisions I was making regarding food and drink.

Why did I (naively) think that french fries would play nice with my blood sugars?

Well, for starters, I was doing my best to cut carbs the rest of the carbs I’d be consuming for this particular meal, which was a pulled pork sandwich with a side of fries. I ate less than half of the bun and I certainly didn’t finish the heaping portion of fries. But I did eat a lot more than I normally would (and savored every single one), making sure to bolus semi-aggressively for the indulgence.

And I was literally coasting for hours afterward – I didn’t budge above 130 for at least three hours post-meal. I was confused, but elated! Did I finally figure french fries out? Did I master the correct portion of carbs/protein/fat to eat with them? Or maybe my pancreas decided to resuscitate itself for a narrow window of time that particular evening?

I’m gonna go with the latter.

Because a bit after midnight – a witching hour, indeed – that’s when the crazy corrections, and excessive cursing on my part, started. The french fries had made a proper fool of me again, and I couldn’t believe I’d really fallen for their conniving ways again.

Needless to say, I won’t be ordering french fries with my meal again any time soon. Some foods just aren’t worth it when it comes to figuring out how to make them play nice with my diabetes, and french fries don’t quite cut the mustard.

Oh, and YOU’RE WELCOME for the really silly pun.

Adventures in Low-Carb Snacking

I’ve logged a lot of miles on the road this summer. From planned trips back to my home state of Massachusetts to weekend getaways to neighboring states, I’ve spent many hours in the car. Conversations with my partner and friends on the phone, as well as podcasts, have helped time pass…but so has snacking on a variety of road-ready foods.

I admit that I often don’t choose the healthiest road trip snacks. I tend to gravitate towards “comfort” foods – anything from peanut M&Ms to cheese-flavored chips. I wish that I craved something better for me, like carrot sticks or celery stalks, but my intense dislike for long hours on the road coupled with the need for convenient foods only (i.e., nothing that needs refrigeration) results in me making less desirable snack choices.

In turn, my junk food cravings are typically disastrous on my blood sugar. I do bolus for the junk, but since I’m forced to sit idle in the car, I face more frequent and intense blood sugar spikes than I would if I were able to get some movement in shortly before or after consuming the food. So not only do I end up eating food that’s bad for me, I also have to deal with the consequences on my blood sugar, and it’s a lose-lose situation.

That’s why I created a little game for myself during my last long car ride. When my boyfriend and I stopped at a gas station to fill up the tank before driving for four hours, I decided to go into the convenience store that was located there and scour the shelves for the lowest-carb snack foods I could find that were also remotely appetizing.

Enter…”pork skins”.

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The big selling point of this snack? The fact that it’s 0 carbs per serving!

The name itself is positively revolting, but the actual snack is a savory wonder for a T1D. It’s got 0 carbs in the ENTIRE bag. It also happens to be chock full of protein and is relatively low in calories. What a find! We totally crushed the entire bag in about two hours flat.

Other findings from this particular trip include a lower-carb bag of trail mix that was incredibly satisfying. I was pleased to have found one that wasn’t a mix of 20% nuts and 80% candy/dried fruit, because the latter is what always messes up my blood sugar. I also snagged a bag of beef jerky, because I can always count on that to be a delicious low-carb treat.

And my drink of choice? I found a blue Gatorade Zero, which I’d never had before because it’s not sold in stores I go to when I’m up north. I loved it and was especially appreciative for it after a weekend of not getting enough fluids.

All in all, it was kind of fun to see what kinds of snacks I could find that wouldn’t do damage to my blood sugar. I wound up finding some stuff that’s bound to become staples for future road trips, and was so sated by the combination of them that I didn’t even need to cook dinner when I got to my apartment. Turns out that low/lower-carb snacks pretty much rule!