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?

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”.

low carb snack
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!

Type 1 Diabetes…the Uninvited Bachelorette Guest

T1D is an unwelcome presence in my life, but I’ve made peace with it. However, it doesn’t stop me from worrying about how its existence might affect others in a wide variety of situations.

Take a bachelorette party, for instance…I wasn’t sure how my diabetes would respond to a weekend spent in Saratoga Springs with my soon-to-be-married cousin and the gaggle of girls who would accompany her to a few different wineries, a comedy show, and other various shenanigans. I went into the situation hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

I Volunteer To Drink! (1).png

What does “expecting the worst” mean? Basically, it meant that I was preparing for the apocalypse. The bachelorette weekend was barely 48 hours total, but I was so paranoid about something going wrong with my diabetes that I packed twice the number of pods that I would need, extra insulin, spare syringes, Glucagon, and a low-blood-sugar-snack stash. Although I had a rough idea of what our itinerary looked like for the weekend, I still wasn’t 100% of what we would be eating and when, which as any T1D could tell you, is kind of a major concern when it comes to taking proper care of diabetes – and that concern is intensified when alcohol gets thrown into the mix, as it unquestionably would on our quest to find the best winery in Saratoga.

My worry only grew when things didn’t exactly start as I envisioned them. We hit the road around 4 o’clock in the afternoon that Friday, and picked up the delighted bride in Western Mass a short while after 6 o’clock. I expected that we would stop for food soon after the bride joined our caravan of cars bound for New York…only to be proven totally wrong when I discovered that most people were too excited to stop and eat. “No problem,” I said to myself. “I’m sure that by the time it’s 7:30 or so, people will be hungry.”

No such luck. As I watched my blood sugar slowly drop, my stomach roared with hunger as I thought about the last meal I ate, nearly seven hours ago. I knew I should speak up and ask the group to pull over, but I was scared. I didn’t want to be “that” person who was making such demands, especially since I was merely a passenger in the car and not driving.

But it was almost 8 o’clock and I knew that if I didn’t eat soon, it wouldn’t bode well for the rest of the night. My body tends to rebel if I go to sleep soon after eating a decent amount of food, and my blood sugars usually make me pay for the lateness of the meal. I feebly requested a stop to the girl who was driving, and discovered that she desperately needed to make a trip to the ladies’ room – at last, my chance for food! I called one of the girls in the other car to let them know that we would all be hitting up the next rest stop. “And Molly needs to eat!” The driver yelled into my phone before I could hang up. I felt myself blush, not wanting to be a pain in the ass…but little did I know, the girls wanted me to speak up.

When we all met at the rest stop, everyone asked with genuine concern how I was doing. As I assured them that I was much better now thanks to my Subway sandwich, I was gently scolded by the bride – my cousin – for not saying something sooner. Each girl agreed and I promised them that I would be better about letting them know about potential blood sugar issues for the rest of the weekend.

The funny thing is, though, that I really didn’t have any problems whatsoever. I was very surprised, due to the fact that we were eating late/inconsistent/not-very-healthy meals each day, drinking a few different kinds of alcohol, and spending less time than I anticipated moving out and about…normally, that’s pretty much a recipe for disaster. I can’t help but wonder if I avoided problems because I did everything the “smart” way – ate plenty of food to combat the effects of alcohol, took extra insulin as needed, and stayed hydrated all day, everyday. It certainly is a formula for success, and deserves credit for taming the unwanted bachelorette guest all weekend long.

Now if only I can replicate this for the upcoming wedding weekend…

Is it Possible to Eat Pizza Without Encountering Blood Sugar Problems?

My short answer to that question is YES. Yes, it’s absolutely possible to eat pizza – and just about any food, in my opinion – without experiencing turbulent blood sugars.

It all just comes down to serving size, timing, and method of insulin delivery. Piece of cake, right? (Or should I say, piece of pizza?)

Have a slice!

Well, it really isn’t THAT simple. Other factors include the exact type of pizza (Is it gluten-free? Are there toppings? Is the crust thick or thin?), whether or not other food/drink is being consumed with it, whether exercise or inaction will follow in the hours after eating it…truly, there’s all that (and more) that people with diabetes need to think about when eating any type of food.

But what’s different about pizza is that it has a particular combination of fat and carbohydrates that can make it a tricky food for people with diabetes to figure out how much insulin to take and when to take it. It’s a little easier for those of us who have insulin pumps, because we can utilize the extended bolus (or square wave) feature that allows us to give a certain percentage of a mealtime bolus at once, and select a time later on to receive the rest of the bolus.

If that last sentence didn’t make any sense, here’s an example of what I mean:

It’s dinnertime – 5:30 P.M. I have two slices of pizza that I plan on eating. One’s plain, the other has BBQ chicken on it. I figure that there’s 50 grams total of carbohydrates in the two slices of pizza. My blood sugar before eating the pizza is 130 mg/dL. I put that number into my pump, and also input 50 grams of carbs. My pump wants me to take 8 units of insulin to cover the pizza. Instead of administering the full 8 units at once, I hit the “extend” option and opt to take 75% of the dose now, and the remaining 25% an hour and a half from now. So I get 6 units of insulin at 5:30, and 2 units at 7:00. This extended bolus typically has the power to prevent my blood sugar from crashing and spiking hours after eating said pizza, and in turns, saves me from dealing with a massive headache and questioning why I ever ate pizza in the first place.

Granted, an extended bolus isn’t the end-all, be-all. It relies heavily on me and my ability to count carbs correctly and time my boluses perfectly. But I have had fantastic success using it, particularly in a recent situation in which I ate two large slices of whole wheat pizza, a side salad, and a bit of pita bread without spiking beyond 160. I can’t say whether it was the whole wheat crust that helped me out (maybe it has a lower carb count compared to regular crust?), or if it was just supremely accurate calculations on my end, but it really doesn’t matter to me in the end…because I know that I can eat and enjoy pizza – and again, virtually any food – without my diabetes ruining it for me.

 

Memory Monday: Carb Counting and the Calorie King

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…discussing carb counting and the role of The Calorie King with a nutritionist.

I’ve met with a nutritionist as part of my diabetes care a few times in my life. During my last visit, maybe six or seven years ago, the nutritionist gifted me with a book entitled The Calorie King. “It’s really going to help you with your carb counting,” she told me.

I remember staring at the book dubiously. It was a compact little thing adorned with bright, bold colors. A bearded man wearing a crown was the cover image, and I couldn’t help but think that it looked totally dorky. I was skeptical: How was a book about calorie counting supposed to help me with my carb counting?

Fresh and Organic
Have you ever heard of The Calorie King or used it yourself for dietary or nutritional purposes?

As it turned out, it could help me a lot.

The Calorie King wasn’t just a list of the calorie content of different foods – it was a comprehensive guide that told me everything about the nutritional content of food. It was like having a manual of nutritional labels, except it was in an easier-to-digest format. And it gave me something that I’d never had access to before: Carbohydrate counts of food that you can get at fast food places, sit-down restaurants, and the like. It gave me a better sense of just how ridiculous some restaurants’ portions can be, as well as how serving size is one of the most critical factors in determining a food’s carb count. My mind marveled at that silly little book’s treasure trove of information, which would be key in helping me determine how much insulin I should take for food in just about any situation.

These days, I use apps on my phone whenever I’m unsure about a given meal or food item. They’re far more convenient than lugging around a copy of The Calorie King. But it turns out my nutritionist kinda knew what she was talking about when she told me that it would open my eyes up to the world of more precise carb counting. And for that, I’m grateful.

 

When Diabetes Makes You Eat More in Between the Appetizers and the Main Course

Normally, I don’t eat snacks after I’ve had a starter course at a restaurant, and my order’s in for my entree…because that’s just weird. I’m going to a restaurant to eat food, anyways (presumably a meal), so why on earth would I need to eat a snack in between courses?

Diabetes. Duh. Diabetes is always the answer (or root of the problem).

How annoying it was to start feeling shaky and sweaty, only to discover that my blood sugar was almost in the 60s soon after devouring my app and placing my dinner order. How irritating to know that the two chicken wings I just ate contained virtually zero carbs; therefore, would not do anything to boost my blood sugar any time soon. And how obnoxious it was, looking around the crowded restaurant and realizing it’d likely take some time for my meal to come out – and that the food I’d ordered was also relatively low carb (a bun-less turkey burger with side salad), and would also do nothing to correct my low.

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You can see that I held off on correcting the low for as long as possible…but then the shakiness started.

Can you tell that I was just a bit irked at the situation?

I did what I had to do – reach into my backpack to grab one of the leftover granola cups from the pack of two I’d started earlier that day. I ate it quickly, crushing the wrapper in my hand and shoving it hastily back into my bag, hoping that no one saw me eating food that wasn’t from the restaurant like a wackadoodle.

And I swear, within five minutes, our food was out. I was happy but also just mad that I had to snack in between my appetizer and my main course. But diabetes is like a petulant toddler – it doesn’t care what you want or need, it just demands. It’s more demanding than any person or thing in my life. It’s exhausting, but there’s no choice other than to just oblige its needs, even if it means eating when you don’t want to.

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.

Feel the joy!
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.