The Bad ‘Betes Habit I’ve Tried to Break for 23 Years (and It’s Still a Work in Progress)

Bad habits are notoriously difficult to break.

Nail-biting. Forgetting to floss. A social media addiction. Swearing. Luckily, I only struggle with two out of the four of those (I’ll let you figure out which ones are a big fuckin’ problem for me while I go check my Instagram account real quick).

When it comes to diabetes-specific bad habits, though, well let’s just say that in more than two decades of life with diabetes, there’s a biiiiiig bad (Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, think Big Bad like Evil Willow or Glorificus) habit that feels impossible to break.

And for me, that’s snacking freely without bolusing.

When I’m snacking throughout the day, I am not nearly as adorable about it as this cartoon girl (and I am almost never snacking on something as healthy as the piece of fruit she’s cutting up).

When I say “snacking freely”, I think it’s more accurate to call it grazing…I’m not eating large quantities of food or anything particularly carb-heavy, but it is usually enough to impact my blood sugar, at least moderately.

I’ve acknowledged this as a bad habit in a previous blog post, but for the first time, I’m really taking a step back and thinking about how if I stop doing this, I might see a tangible change in not just my blood sugar levels, but my A1c.

Don’t get me wrong, my A1c reading isn’t the most important thing to me (I’d rather focus on time in range, or the amount of time I spend each day below my high limit and above my low limit). But it is something that does come up, and will always come up, during appointments with all of my healthcare professionals. It’s definitely not something that they will be ignoring any time soon, and this year, I’d like to have an A1c that I’m a little more proud to own.

So I’m going to actively try and break this bad habit.

Whenever the desire to snack/graze strikes, I’m going to do what the pros recommend: Have a glass of water. Walk outside for a few minutes. Play with my puppy. Find a task around the house to focus on instead. Actively seek something else that will consume my time instead of me consuming something that will ultimately have a negative impact on my blood sugar as well as my mood. Be more careful about portion control when treating low blood sugars, because I can really spiral and eat half the damn kitchen when correcting a low, and it ain’t cute. And when all else fails and I need a snack (no shame in that game) actually take a freaking bolus for it because it’s okay to eat something extra throughout the day, I just need to stop being lazy and measure out whatever it is so I know exactly how much insulin I need to cover for it. That part isn’t rocket science, so I should stop treating it as such.

All bad habits are difficult to break, and I know one that’s been around for most of my life will make it particularly challenging…but it’s a new year, a great excuse for making a positive change with my eating habits and blood sugar levels, so I say bring on the challenge.

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.

Capture
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.

 

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!

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.