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.

Why I Refuse to Quit Carbs

Recently, a random person on the Internet criticized my choice to incorporate carbohydrates in my daily diet. Thanks for the unnecessary judgment, stranger!!!

I’m not really upset about the comment, though, because it prompted me to reflect on why I consume carbs.

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I LOVE CARBS. But of course, everything in moderation! So as much as I’d like to eat this mountain of nachos – a serving will do just fine & works better for me.

For me, it’s about more than just enjoying (relishing, adoring) the taste of carb-heavy substances both starchy and sweet. Carbs also help me achieve balance in my blood sugars. For instance, I find that consuming a serving of carbohydrates at dinnertime keeps me steady as I move through the evening hours. Say that I’m eating grilled chicken with a side salad for dinner. That’s a good meal by itself, but I like to complement it with a carb like half a cup of mashed potatoes or brown rice. I’ve noticed that the carbs kick in more slowly when they’re consumed with minimal or zero-carb foods, thanks to the power of the glycemic index.

The glycemic index is, in short, a measure of how quickly the carbohydrate content of foods will affect blood sugar levels. Since learning about it in college and subsequently researching the glycemic indices of various foods I eat, it’s been an immensely useful tool in determining the makeup of my meals throughout the day. Knowing the glycemic index of a wide array of foods also helps me figure out the timing of my insulin doses; in turn, preventing crazy spikes or crashes after eating.

I can’t shortchange carbs for the fact that they literally save my butt sometimes, too. When I’m experiencing a low blood sugar, nothing BUT carbs will bring me back up to a normal level. Whether it’s carbohydrates from healthy fruits or straight-up candy, it’s giving my blood sugar the surge it needs to keep me going. Like many things in life, it’s a matter of moderation – making sure I don’t consume TOO many carbs when I’m experiencing a low.

If you’re someone who thrives on low carb, high fat diets, that’s great! I know that many people find this to be a successful method in achieving target blood sugars. But for me, my tried-and-true technique of balancing carbs, fats, and proteins is always going to be my ideal strategy. Just because that’s what works for me doesn’t give anyone a right to criticize me for it. I’m here to live my best life, as we all should try to do. Shouldn’t we encourage one another to thrive, instead of judging?

The answer, if you didn’t realize, is YES.