Is Chia Seed Pudding REALLY Life-Changing for T1Ds?

“A Three-Minute Diabetes Breakfast That Changes Lives?”

Whoa, a life-changing breakfast? Sign me up!

Three years ago, that post was published on DiaTribe. I’ve come back to it every now and again with every intention of trying this amazing recipe myself, but it called for ingredients that I don’t usually have on hand.

I mean…chia seeds? Coconut oil? Those aren’t exactly pantry stables for me…and they probably aren’t for many other people.

But during a grocery store trip earlier this month (before things got really crazy), I finally remembered to pick up a giant pack of plain old chia seeds and decided to whip up the recipe.

As a simple Internet search informed me, I was free to play around with the ingredients I added to my chia seed pudding – really play around. Coconut oil wasn’t a requirement; rather, an add-in, and it turns out the only truly needed recipe components are chia seeds and a liquid of some sort. I’ve been using a combination of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and water, which suits my tastes just fine, though I’m sure that just about any other kind of milk out there would work well in this recipe, too.

This is what I added to my first batch of chia seed pudding (which made 4 servings):

  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 tbsp. vanilla protein powder (I just kind of eyeball it when I add it in)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (adds more flavor)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar-free syrup

I combined all the ingredients into a plastic container, gave it a good stir, and let it chill in the fridge for 4-6 hours before giving it a taste test.

And I was pleasantly surprised. It was definitely sweet and had an interesting texture going on – very pudding-like, but with a little something…else going on. I could almost compare it to bubble tea (a.k.a. boba or tapioca pearls).

When I prepped a bowl for breakfast the next morning, I added a little of whatever I had on hand, which was craisins, a bit of granola, and some shredded coconut. Now the challenge was…how do I bolus for something like this? And how would my blood sugar react over the next 3-4 hours?

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Sure, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing breakfast…but it sure does make my blood sugar happy.

I decided to bolus for the toppings, which I figured were about 15 carbs. Ultimately, though, I rounded up to 20 to pad my bolus since I really wasn’t sure how the chia seeds would affect me. (They’re loaded with fiber and even some protein, and sometimes it can be tricky to calculate accurate insulin dosages for high-fiber foods.)

I’m not exaggerating when I say I experienced an incredibly flat post-breakfast line on my CGM.

I was pretty wowed. There was ZERO rise after consuming the meal, and my blood sugar just…held out for hours afterward. So yeah, I’d say it’s pretty effin’ life-changing for THIS person with diabetes…

…except for one tiny caveat: I was hungry again just a couple of hours later. Perhaps I could’ve added more of the pudding to my serving, but it was probably over a full cup that was in the bowl…I had assumed that would be more than enough to tide me over until lunch. Then again, an easy fix could be to add more satiating toppings, like fresh fruit – which I’ve experimented with, and they make a great addition to the mix.

I’ve had chia seed pudding for breakfast many times now, and I’d say the final verdict is that I definitely like it, and my blood sugars seem to LOVE it. It’s probably not for everyone considering the texture is a little “different”, but I’m glad that I took a chance on this highly versatile recipe.

How to Hit Your Step (and Blood Sugar) Goals When You’re Stuck at Home

My diabetes has never liked it very much when I’ve stayed idle for too long.

Unfortunately, my diabetes and I don’t really have much of a choice these days other than to stay put – and I know that just about everyone else in the world is in the same boat.

So how do you hit your daily step goals when you can’t leave the house?

You get creative.

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With a little creativity, you can find tons of ways to stay active when you’re stuck at home – which will make your blood sugar and body happy.

And, in turn, your blood sugars will generally respond positively to any extra movement you get throughout the day…plus, with endorphins spiking (instead of bg levels), you can see a huge improvement in your mood. And who doesn’t need a mood booster right now?!

Here are the ways in which I’ve been getting 10,000 steps or more each day:

Taking spontaneous dance breaks. My mom and I are both working from home and sitting in front of our computers for long stretches of time Monday through Friday. To combat this, we’ve come up with a ridiculous but fun game called “DJ Dance Party”. It’s simple: Every couple of hours, one of us cues up music and we just dance around for the duration of the song. DJ Dance Party is a welcome reprieve from work, especially when it happens right after long conference calls!

Playing with pets. Our animals can get just as stir-crazy as we can, so by helping them combat boredom, we’re also doing ourselves a favor by getting off our butts. I play with my parents’ dog, Clarence, by chasing him around the house, throwing his toys at him, taking him for neighborhood walks, and kicking the soccer ball around in the backyard (weather permitting).

Dust off those old fitness videos. Do you have old Jane Fonda/Windsor Pilates/Jazzercise tapes or DVDs just laying around, untouched for years? Dig ’em out from wherever you’ve got them and give them a spin. It might feel silly, but then again you might also get a good laugh in addition to some exercise. I’ve done a few Zumba routines in the last couple of weeks because we have some old DVDs, and they’ve been surprisingly fun.

Hit up YouTube and other fitness platforms for free workouts. Personally, I pay for a subscription to Beachbody, which gives me access to countless workouts lead by professional personal trainers. I’ve used Beachbody workouts in lieu of going to the gym for about a year now and it has worked really well for me, but if I didn’t have the service, I know I could rely on YouTube – in fact, one search of the word “workout” on that platform brought up tons of results that vary in length and intensity. It’s a treasure trove!

Pace around when on conference calls. When I’m not attending a virtual meeting with a video chat component, I’m constantly walking around while I talk on the phone. And it honestly helps me become a more active participant in meetings, sometimes, because I don’t have the distraction of my computer monitors in front of me. I imagine this is the closest I’ll get to having a fancy-schmancy treadmill desk, but I don’t knock it because it works!

March in place while watching TV. Binge on all the TV shows and movies you want guilt-free and challenge yourself by marching in place in 15-minute intervals or at every commercial break. Steps rack up quickly this way, and it’s a go-to for me when I can’t get a walk in during the day.

So even though I’ve barely left the house, doing one, two, or a combination of these above exercises have guaranteed that I’ll meet my step goal each day. And they’ve also really come in handy after meals and long stretches of sitting, when my blood sugars are most prone to going up.

Staying at home has disrupted routines for most people, but it’s good to know that we can still control how much exercise we get in a day.

Consume ALL The Carbs!

See the title of this blog post? That’s basically my mantra lately.

Working from home (and never leaving the house, in general, except to walk around the neighborhood) has made me crave nothing but carbohydrates. Whether it’s in the form of biscuits, chips, chocolate, or cereal…I’ve been mowing down on many more carbs than I typically do.

I guess it’s the way I deal with stress and anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still eating plenty of fruits, veggies, and proteins…but I’ve also added an unnecessary amount of carbs into my daily diet. So I’m not totally trashing my body, but I am going through a little more insulin than normal. I’m also probably more apt to moving around whenever I can in order to combat higher-than-I’d-like blood sugars.

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Me with all my beloved carbs…and looking like I belong in the 90s with my Lisa Frank sweatshirt.

I can’t help it, I love carbs. They bring me comfort. They’re delicious. They come in so many iterations. But I don’t love how they make me feel (bloated, hyperglycemic, unhealthy, etc.). And I especially don’t love how they cause me to take more insulin than I prefer taking in a single day.

So I’m hoping that by admitting here that I’m overdoing it in the carbohydrate department will encourage me to cut back. Maybe small changes, like chia seed pudding (more to come on that in a future post) instead of cereal in the mornings for breakfast, are what I need to get me back on track. I’m not saying that I’m going to stay away from carbs altogether (oh heavens, no); rather, I’ll just be more mindful of how many I consume in a single day.

Besides making me feel better about myself overall, it’ll help me appreciate yummy low blood sugar treats – hello, Reese’s eggs – during those times that I genuinely need something sweet and carb-o-licious.

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 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.

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!

My New Favorite Low-Carb Recipe

The other night, I had two of my close girlfriends over for a couple hours of chatting and snacking. I’d thrown together a veggie tray for us to munch on and mentioned to my friends that I had tons of vegetables in the fridge that I wanted to try and use up in the next few days. They asked what I had, and I went through the list: tomatoes, snow peas, carrots, celery, peppers, and zucchini. At the mention of “zucchini”, one friend asked if I’d ever made zucchini pizza before.

My ears perked up. Zucchini pizza? I’d heard of making low-carb pizza using keto crust or even cauliflower crust, but not zucchini.

She told me how easy it was to make what she described as zucchini pizza bites: Cut up a zuke, top the slices with marinara sauce and cheese, and toss it in the oven. It was such a simple recipe that I decided to scour the Internet for ways to zest it up a bit.

That’s how I came across zucchini pizza boats, my new favorite way to consume pizza-esque food without all the guilt.

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One half is shorter than the other…because I couldn’t resist tasting my creation before snapping a pic. Oops!

Here’s how I made ’em:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil – this makes clean up easier.
  2. Cut zucchini in half, lengthwise. Pat the insides dry. Place both halves onto the baking sheet.
  3. Brush olive oil on each half. Sprinkle garlic salt on top.
  4. Spoon marinara sauce (or any kind of red pasta sauce) on top.
  5. Sprinkle any kind of shredded cheese you like on top (I used a Mexican blend), followed by Parmesan cheese.
  6. Add mini pepperonis on top. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted nicely on top.

And that’s it! Incredibly quick, easy, tasty, and filling. I ate these with a small serving of roasted Brussels sprouts and chicken meatballs and I was super satisfied. The best part is that I barely bolused for this meal and wound up with a fairly straight CGM graph.

I’ll definitely be prepping zucchini pizza again in the future, and maybe I’ll even add a few more carbs into the mix to see how my blood sugar fares.

Low Carb Lasagna Exists, and it is Amazing

Nothing screams “comfort food” quite like a hot, cheesy, and utterly delicious slice of lasagna. Unfortunately, though, said lasagna has a tendency to make my CGM scream, because consumption of the carb-laden food usually skyrockets my blood sugar.

On the bright side, a very low carb version of this dish exists, and it is just as wonderful as its starchy counterpart. The ground beef, pasta sauce, and mozzarella-parmesan blend are all there – the only bit that’s different is what’s used in lieu of pasta.

Instead of pasta, use cabbage leaves. No, I’m not kidding.

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Cabbage lasagna looks and tastes just like its carb-ier alternative.

The cabbage soaks up the flavors of the sauce, meat, and cheese. As the concoction is baked, the cabbage also takes on the same consistency as pasta. It slices just as easily, and no, you really can’t taste the cabbage flavor (unless you pick out several chunks of it to eat on their own, but honestly, who does that?). It’s such a satisfying meal that I promise you won’t miss the carbs from the pasta.

Besides, if you’re like me and enjoy eating a healthy amount of carbs daily…you can always add a slice or two of garlic bread to your meal. I did just that, and in addition to having a well-rounded meal, I experienced great post-dinner blood sugars: a diabetes win!

Sometimes, You Just Need to Enjoy the Sushi.

Or the pizza. Or the burrito. Or the decadent three-layer chocolate cake. Whatever the high-carb indulgence is, I’d rather just relish in it rather than focus on my diabetes.

Does that make me a “bad” diabetic? No. It’s not like I’m skipping an insulin dose or binge-eating food. I’m merely trying to enjoy a rare treat as well as the social experience that comes with it – like having sushi with coworkers.

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A recent sushi dinner reminded me that it’s okay to stop thinking about my diabetes for a little while.

So instead of staring at my double-up arrows on my Dexcom, I’m staring at the artfully arranged sushi platter in front of me.

Instead of ordering the lowest-carb item on the menu, I order what I actually want to eat.

Instead of fretting over how quickly my insulin will kick in, I fret over which sushi roll I should try first.

Instead of letting my diabetes take over my dinner, I’m letting it go and living.

Sometimes, I need to remind myself that it’s okay to stop obsessing over my blood sugar in order to just live and enjoy my life.