5 Tips for T1Ds Dining Out

Nothing beats home-cooked meals. But it is nice to go out to eat after a long workweek or to celebrate a special occasion. It’s a good way to unwind and socialize.

And like many other things, it’s also a little bit more complicated when you have type 1 diabetes. Not every T1D might feel the same way as I do, but there are times when I feel worried about going out to eat. Specifically, I start asking myself questions like, “Will there be a decent variety of lower-carb choices on the menu? Have I had this kind of cuisine before, and can I accurately predict how it will impact my blood sugar? Can I order what I actually want to eat without worrying about the carb content? Will the portion sizes be too small or too big? How long will it take for my meal to arrive, and does this mean I can safely pre-bolus for it?” Sadly, those are just a few of the questions that come to mind before some restaurant excursions.

5 tips for t1ds dining out

That’s why I like to remind myself of the following five tips. They’re pretty common sense, but then again, they’re also key for me to enjoy a meal out guilt-free and in a way that works best for my diabetes.

  1. Cut down on carbs, as needed. I’ve learned that one of the best ways to make sure my blood sugars cooperate during a dinner out is to try to reduce my carb intake as much as possible. After all, most restaurants don’t have nutritional information readily available for diners to consult. As a result, it’s impossible to know every single ingredient that could be in a given dish, let alone their carbohydrate content. So that’s why I cut corners where I can. If I’m craving a burger, I order it and ask for it without a bun. I substitute fries or other starchy sides for a salad or seasonal vegetables. If I notice that a pizzeria can make a cauliflower crust instead of a normal one, then I ask for it. I find that using this strategy helps me in just about any kind of restaurant. And if I find myself wanting to order something really high carb (which is rare), then I rely on tip #2.
  2. Ask for a doggy bag. Say I ordered pasta at a restaurant. At most places, there could be upwards of 80 or 90 carbs in that one dish, which is just too much for me to consume in one meal. So I make a plan to eat half of it and bring home the rest. It’s a tried-and-true technique that works for anyone who’s trying to watch what they eat, not just people with diabetes. It’s a win-win because I can still order that carb-y dish, but I don’t have to worry about potentially taking too much or too little insulin to cover it. Fewer carbs in one sitting means less room for error.
  3. Load up on veggies. I incorporate as many vegetables as I can into my meals at restaurants. In addition to subbing sides, I also will focus on eating those if they come with an appetizer. For me, it’s all about filling up on the healthy stuff so I don’t leave the restaurant with too much food guilt.
  4. Share with your table mates. Whether I’m with a large group or just part of a pair, I almost always offer to share appetizers or desserts as a subtle form of portion control for myself. Who doesn’t love splitting an order of nachos or a slice of cheesecake? It’s a great way to start off or end a meal out that involves minimal guilt or blood sugar concerns.
  5. Order drinks with care. I’m very careful when it comes to choosing drinks that have zero carbs, or at least very few carbs. More often than not, I stick with water or unsweetened iced tea with lemon to accompany my meals. But when I choose to drink alcohol at a restaurant, I try to order a glass of wine or lower carb cocktails. I tend to have better luck with those, because I can more accurately predict how they’ll affect my blood sugar, if at all. I do like beer and order it from time to time, but I limit myself to no more than two – any more than that and I push my luck by running the risk of experiencing high blood sugars.

But arguably my most important, unofficial sixth rule is to remember to enjoy myself. There’s no sense in stressing too much about what my blood sugar might or might not do (unless there’s extenuating circumstances, then I totally pay it proper attention). I like to bear in mind that no matter how my blood sugars may react to certain foods, I still have to eat. Why not appreciate every aspect of the experience?

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Favorite Things Friday: My Fave Carb Counting App

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite things that make life with diabetes a little easier for me.

I’ve written about my favorite diabetes-specific apps in the past, but I’ve also got a couple others that aren’t directly related to T1D that are mainstays on my iPhone. But there’s one in particular that 1) on the surface, has nothing to do with diabetes and 2) has been exceedingly helpful at giving me guidance when it comes to carb counting in certain situations. So without further ado, let me share the name and what I like so much about the app itself.

MyFitnessPal is my carb-counting app of choice. As the name implies, it’s an app that revolves around, well, fitness. It’s designed to provide users with a comprehensive log that tracks activity levels, food/water intake, nutrition information, and so much more. Initially, I downloaded it to keep a record of my daily calorie consumption and quickly discovered that it wouldn’t only help me figure out what dietary changes I needed to make, but it would also improve my carb counting.

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An example of MyFitnessPal in action – if I wanted to know the carb count in a cup of veggie soup from Panera, I can find it by simply searching for it within the app. 

How? The app contains a comprehensive food library – sort of like the one that’s built into the OmniPod PDM, except this one is much, MUCH more substantial. It includes foods from fast food restaurants, regular dining establishments, grocery stores, and just about any other place you could order food from. It’s been an absolute godsend in situations in which I’m really struggling to figure out how many carbs are in a dish that I’d like to order/buy. It’s not an end-all, be-all source of information – just like anything else in life, the food library isn’t flawless – but it’s a solid starting point when it comes to foods I’m less familiar with.

In addition to showing me how many carbs I consume in a day, the app has also taught me how logging simple information related to diabetes can go a long way in establishing trends, such as how different foods affect my blood sugar. The act of logging or writing something down can sound like a pain, but really, the few minutes it takes each day is worth the knowledge it ultimately imparts.

Readers, what about you? Do you use carb-counting apps? If so, which ones and why? I’m especially curious in hearing feedback from anyone who uses Figwee – I’ve heard nothing but praise for that one. Drop a comment here, tweet at me, or leave a note on my Instagram page about your favorite carb-counting app!

Diabetes, Diets, and Holidays are Naughty, Not Nice

Ahh, the holiday season…it’s been in full swing for just about a month now, and with that arrived a bevy of parties, potlucks, and poor dietary decisions. In a week, the new year will be here and it’ll bring a fresh start with it, but for now…I’m trying to find a way to make peace with all the indulgences I’ve enjoyed in the last several weeks.

Takeout Chinese food, pizza, homemade roasts, and baked goods galore are among the gamut of glutinous grub responsible for transforming me into a guilty gourmand over the course of the holidays. (Can I get a round of applause for that alliterative sentence?) I wish I could say that I had the willpower to resist the temptation of these foods that have been provided at the various holiday parties I’ve attended; alas, I couldn’t stop myself from noshing on them just as much as the other guests at these gatherings. A fair share of my fellow party attendees commiserated with me about diets flying out the window this time of year, but very few of them could understand that the fattening fare impacts more than just my waistline.

My blood sugars, of course, have been a victim of holiday feasting just as much as my size six jeans.

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Instead of sugarplums, I’ve got visions of wacky blood sugars and too-tight pants dancing in my head. Fun!!!

Truthfully, they’re not as terrible as they’ve been during past holiday seasons. But that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with them, or okay with the fact that they tend to rise and crash at equally rapid paces when I eat too much of the carb-y stuff and correct accordingly with insulin. The roller coaster ride combined with the feeling that I’m turning into the Pillsbury dough girl is what I’m fed up with, and I’m trying to figure out a way to stop punishing myself for it. After all, a new year IS right around the corner, and like many others in the world, I can and should use it as a reason to start eating more mindfully and healthfully, leaving the dietary mistakes of 2018 in the past.

It’s definitely cliche, but I’ve got to get back into the routine and replace all the cookies and fancy chocolates I’ve been consuming with leafy veggies and lean proteins. It won’t be easy, but I know that it’ll be worth the improved blood sugars and looser pants that are bound to follow.

 

Yes, I Can Eat Those Christmas Cookies

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Check out that spread. You’re looking at an assortment of nine different kinds of Christmas cookies, all baked fresh by my mom, aunts, and cousins for our annual cookie swap this past weekend. And I can attest to the fact that each of them were effing delicious.

Now, if you’re thinking that people with diabetes can’t or shouldn’t eat cookies, sweets, or carbs in general…I’m here to (gently) tell you that you’re wrong. It’s a myth, a grain of utmost untruth, that people with diabetes cannot have carbohydrates of the sugary or starchy varieties. It’s fake news, y’all!!!

The FACT of the matter is that people with diabetes don’t have limits on what foods they’re able to eat. But there are matters of condition and preference to take into consideration here. First and foremost, carbs MUST be counted before they’re consumed. This is crucial because it determines how much insulin a T1D must inject. And then things like personal taste, diet, and comfort levels come into play that account for the variations in eating habits among people with diabetes. And that is the reason why you’ll meet some who are low carb, high fat followers, some who do not consume gluten, and others who do not exclude any particular food group from their diet.

I’ve written a bit about this before, so why am I repeating it again? Because it’s worth knowing and accepting that everyone is different. Bodies respond differently to different stimuli, including the foods and insulin we put into them. And whatever works best for someone should be unconditionally tolerated, not judged, by others.

So if I want to eat a bunch of Christmas cookies as part of my Christmastime celebrations, then here’s my friendly reminder that I can – and you bet your bottom dollar that I did, and was very grateful for insulin after doing so.

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Sugary or Sugar-Free Soda? Find out Using This Trick!

Have you ever ordered a diet soda, sipped it, and immediately doubted whether it was truly diet? Then you might find this little tip useful.

Whenever you’re not certain that your drink is diet or regular, try grabbing your glucometer, putting a test strip in it, dipping your finger in the drink, and wiping it onto the strip – just like you would do when checking your blood sugar. If the drink is diet, then you’ll know because your meter will display an “extreme low” result, or something to that effect. The key is to not panic and remember that it isn’t your blood sugar you’re looking at, it’s the sugar levels in the drink! It’s just the opposite in the case that your drink is regular/sugary – you’ll get a “high” reading that’ll make it obvious that your beverage isn’t what you ordered.

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Photographic evidence of my soda test results.

This trick has come in handy several times for me. Most recently, I was doing some Christmas shopping at the mall with my boyfriend when we decided to stop at the food court for some lunch. We split a chicken tender meal from Arby’s, which came with a medium soda that we could fill on our own.

I took on the task while he waited for our food, and was excited to see that they had Diet Dr. Pepper on tap (seriously, that’s rare for most fast food joints). I filled up the cup, fitted a lid on top, stuck a straw in, and took a sip. Hmm…it tasted sweeter than I thought it should. I mentioned this to my boyfriend as he picked up our food and we made our way to a table. I told him that I definitely got it from a tap that was labeled “diet”, but we both knew that just because the label says it is, it doesn’t guarantee that the right soda bib is hooked up to the proper line. (Our shared experience working at a movie theater several years ago clued us in to the fact that employees can make mistakes with this.)

He expressed his doubts, as well, and then it occurred to me to do the old soda test strip check. So I did, snapping a picture of the results and feeling reassured by the factual evidence that I was drinking a sugar-free – not sugary – beverage.

Trick-Or-Treating with Diabetes

Happy Halloween, boos and ghouls!!!

Halloween is a holiday that most people associate with candy and costumes. Since I have T1D, you might assume that I wasn’t able to partake in haunted happenings as a kiddo. But that’s far from the truth. In fact, I looked forward to Halloween every year just like any other child who enjoyed dressing up, watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and trick-or-treating.

My parents handled trick-or-treating and my diabetes like true pros: They let me enjoy it and take home just as much candy as my older brother each year. We always wound up with fairly large hauls, and the only difference between mine and his is that mine contained a couple extra “diabetes-friendly” goodies, courtesy of my relatives.

I’m glad that they never made me feel different, or like I couldn’t celebrate it in the same way as my brother and other kids my age because of my diabetes. In turn, I bet they were glad that I was always determined to make my candy last as long as possible – they didn’t have to worry about me sneaking extra pieces, unless they were accounted for with a bolus. And we mutually enjoyed that there were plenty of “low snacks” to spare around the house to take care of any hypos that my mom or myself might have. Trust me, treating lows is always much more fun with a good piece of candy, especially if it was a Reese’s cup.

Today, I’m celebrating Halloween by wearing a costume to work and eating pizza with my coworkers. It’s definitely a departure from the Halloweens of my childhood, but no less fun. I figured I’d wrap up this holiday-centric post by remembering the good ole trick-or-treating days with some pictures of my favorite costumes I wore in my “youth”:

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Circa 1995

The year that I was a nurse, and my brother was the letter “G”. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m fairly certain this Halloween was so memorable because of his unique costume choice, not because it was my first time trick-or-treating.

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Lady Liberty

My Statue of Liberty costume – possibly my favorite costume ever! My mom HANDMADE the entire thing, from the giant tinfoil crown to the torch that (she insisted) I kept high in the air the whole time I was trick-or-treating.

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Cowgirl with an attitude

A cowgirl! This picture makes me laugh because it really captures my personality…

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Cinderelly, Cinderelly!

…but then again, so does this one! Cinderella is my absolute favorite Disney princess, so when I got to dress up just like her for one Halloween, it was a dream come true.

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It’s leviOsa, not levioSA.

Speaking of magical characters, I loved dressing up as Hermione as an adult! I wore this costume for my first Halloween at my job. It was a hit around the office.

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She really is a funny girl, that Belle

And that brings us up to last year’s Belle costume. Another Disney princess, another elaborate hairstyle, another fun outfit and character to don for a day.

Whether you indulge on some candy today, wear a costume, or merely go about your business like any other day…make it a great one and may your blood sugars be spooktacular!

Grazing: My Bad Habit

A handful of peanuts here, a couple of slices of cheese there.

A pile of popcorn followed by a spoonful of peanut butter.

A few pretzels and a small smattering of chocolate chips – because chocolate.

These snack combos, as strange as they may be, all describe some snacking behavior that I also refer to as “grazing”. Grazing is all about taking little bits of food when I’m not necessarily hungry. I equate it to eating out of boredom, except I’m not indulging on full meals or anything, I’m simply munching because the food is there and my blood sugar is acceptable enough to the point that I can freely snack without having to bolus, or worry about significant blood sugar jumps later on.

In other words, grazing is a habit I’m trying to break.

grazing

I’m not stupid. I know that the aforementioned foods I choose to graze on contain carbohydrates. Whether trace or moderate, they’re still there. And I choose to ignore them.

I don’t know why. If I want to have a snack, then that’s okay, as long as I take insulin for it. But I guess my rationale for grazing is that I’m taking “itty bitty” amounts of food that will minimally impact my blood sugar, if at all.

Then again…it’s not exactly logical when those small snacks DO wind up impacting my blood sugar. Usually, the spike happens several hours after, and each time I get angry at myself for a) not having enough self-control to resist grazing and b) not taking insulin for it when I do give in to the bad habit.

Nearly 21 years of diabetes and I’m still occasionally blown away by the minutiae of it: how just the slightest smackerels can take a toll on the straight-lined graphs I strive to achieve daily.