The Strangest Things I’ve Eaten in the Middle of the Night for a Low Blood Sugar

The thought occurred to me that I should write a blog post on this subject sometime around 3 A.M. after I shoveled a slice of cheddar cheese into my mouth.

Low blood sugars combined with odd hours of the night aren’t foreign to most people with diabetes, but they can be…interesting when you aren’t prepared to handle them with low snacks stashed away in or on your nightstand.

To elaborate, I almost always have a box of raisins or a bottle of glucose tablets sitting on top of the nightstand next to my bed – but there are those times that I run out and forget to replace them.

In those situations, I really have no choice but to eat everything in the kitchen head downstairs and scavenge in the kitchen for something that will bring up my low blood sugar.

I love how sassy this cartoon person is as they shamelessly reach into the fridge for a midnight snack or seven (check out that popped knee).

Usually, I consume things that make sense – a handful of cereal, a glass of juice, a few marshmallows…whatever the kitchen is stocked with that will work fast. And this is absolutely the best tactic when dealing with a middle-of-the-night low because it helps ensure that I will be able to get back into bed (and hopefully fall asleep) as soon as possible.

But every so often, I go absolutely apeshit in the kitchen and EAT ALL THE THINGS!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, not ALL the things, but definitely way too many things.

I blame it on the fact that my body is in that savage, must-eat-food now mode: Hungry and full cues aren’t a “thing” in that state. So I kind of mindlessly eat junk until the symptoms of my low blood sugar go away. This can take at least 15 minutes, so as you may be able to imagine, I can go overboard with food consumption.

And my choices can get more than a little weird.

Here are the most bizarre food items that I’ve eaten when dealing with a middle-of-the-night low blood sugar. I classify them as “strange” because either 1) they don’t do anything to help low blood sugar because they’re low carb, 2) they’re kind of disgusting, 3) the quantity is odd, or 4) a mix of all of those qualities:

  • A slice of cheddar cheese (mentioned in this post’s introductory sentence)
  • About one-third of a Nutella jar (that was so yummy but damn I shudder to think about the calories and fat in that serving)
  • Too much peanut butter to quantify (please see above comment RE: Nutella)
  • SUGAR-FREE syrup (emphasis on the sugar-free because WTF was I thinking when I straight up drank two swigs from the bottle)
  • Exactly three frosted mini wheats (I don’t even LIKE this cereal but I guess in this situation I thought that consuming no more, no less than three was a brilliant idea)
  • Pickles (not weird at any other time of the day because I love pickles but maybe not the best snack in the early morning hours)

Welp, now my stomach is churning slightly as I think about all the junk I’ve eaten at ungodly hours of the night…if you don’t mind me, I’m off to go restock my low snack supply on my nightstand so I don’t have to make any early-A.M. hour trips to the kitchen any time soon!

4 Tips on How to Handle Hunger Pangs and High Blood Sugar

One of my Instagram followers recently reached out to me and asked for some advice.

…can you make a blog post about how to reduce temptation when blood sugars are high. Whenever my blood sugars are low, I [don’t] really want to eat but of course I have to but for some reason when they are high, I’m soooo hungry and I’m just tempted to eat tons of carbs! Help!!

I liked this comment for several reasons. One, this person told me it was tough for her to ask me about this in such a public forum, so I applaud her for stepping out of her comfort zone. Two, it’s an excellent blog topic suggestion. Three, I can absolutely relate to feeling hungrier than normal when my blood sugar is high. And four, I’m sure others can, too!

Pizza is great (for obvious reasons) but maybe a little less so when blood sugar is high…

I’ve always kind of assumed that I get hungry when my blood sugar is high because at that moment in time, food is practically forbidden…so it becomes incredibly appealing, even though it’s not always advisable to eat with a high blood sugar (because depending on what food it is, it could make high blood sugar go up even more).

So thanks to this comment on my IG profile, I started thinking about the ways I fight off hunger pangs when my blood sugar is high and came up with these 4 tried-and-true tricks I’ve learned over the years:

#1: Make a smorgasbord of low carb snacks. My mom will appreciate my use of the word “smorgasbord” in this tip because that’s exactly what she used to call the plate of snacks she’d fix for me when my blood sugar was high throughout my childhood. She’d assemble an array of low carb goodies – cheese, pepperoni, olives, nuts, pickles – that would satisfy my hunger without raising my blood sugar even further. As a child, I felt special because I was virtually getting my very own charcuterie board (just minus the crackers) and that made high blood sugars much more bearable.

#2: Drink plenty of water (or other low/no carb beverage). I’ve heard medical professionals, nutritionists, fitness experts, and the like say time and time again that one reason we might feel hungry at a given moment in time is because our bodies are trying to tell us that we’re actually thirsty, not hungry. So it makes a lot of sense to stay super hydrated when dealing with a high blood sugar because it can stave off hunger as well as help flush out our systems.

#3: Seek distractions. I write more about this in an upcoming blog post, but when my blood sugar is high, it’s important for me to not dwell on it too much because it seems like it takes it that much longer to come back down. So I distract myself in every possible way: I find an activity to do, TV to watch, a family member or friend to talk to…this helps me forget about the high as well as any cravings for food that may come along with it.

#4: Remember…this too shall pass! Again, I gotta give my mom some credit for this one because she says this motto to me all the time. When I’m feeling extra hungry and experiencing a high blood sugar, I just try to remind myself that both the high and the desire to snack are fleeting. Sure, they’re not fun to deal with at the same time, but knowing that they’re only temporary makes everything easier.

My Top 10 Low Blood Sugar Treatments

Anyone who has ever experienced low blood sugar knows that it’s an icky feeling.

The shakiness. The sweating. The desperate desire to eat the entire contents of your kitchen.

It’s an unpleasant experience, but the one thought that has always made low blood sugars slightly more bearable for me is that I have to consume fast-acting, sugary, yummy carbs that are medically necessary. I’ve had some fun with that medically necessary bit in situations over the years: “Hey, stay away from that cupcake, I need it for my blood sugar!”

In any case, I’ve come up with my 10 favorite low blood sugars treatments that I’ve discovered work best for me…and tend to also be pretty tasty (well, maybe not #3, but everything else is a winner for most people in the flavor department).

1. Marshmallows. Even though I feel like I’m playing chubby bunny (you know, that pointless game when you see how many marshmallows you can fit inside your mouth at once and your cheeks puff out like an adorably plump rabbit munching on carrots) any time I consume a marshmallow, I can’t deny that they work incredibly well for low blood sugars. While I don’t mind the flavor of marshmallows, I definitely don’t love it, so I can always resist the temptation to over-correct a low blood sugar when I use marshmallows to treat it.

2. Mini boxes of yogurt-covered raisins. This has been my go-to for almost 10 years now because they’re just so convenient. The mini boxes are highly portable and contain about 11 grams of carbohydrates, which is perfect for not-so-bad lows that just need a little boost.

3. Glucose tablets (or gummies). They’re the old standby for a good reason: They were specifically made for treatment of low blood sugars, and they’re also extremely quick and easy to consume whenever, wherever (cue Shakira and her hips that don’t lie).

4. Frosting. So bad for you, but so good to eat by the spoonful when dealing with low lows. I don’t often have frosting on hand, but if I have some leftover from baking, I’ll throw it in the fridge and try to forget that it exists until I need it for a low blood sugar.

5. Orange juice (or a juice box). I feel like juice was a signature treatment for lows in my childhood: Since small children often drink juice boxes, it made a lot of sense. But back when I was working in an office full-time (sigh), I had a couple of juice boxes stashed away in my desk drawer because I got a kick out of feeling like a little kid with her juice boxes while sitting her grown-ass adult woman’s work cubicle (yes, I know I’m kind of weird. Embrace it.)

My Top 10 Low Blood Sugar Treatments
These are a few of my favorite things! (drastic shift from Shakira voice to Julie-Andrews-from-The-Sound-of-Music voice)

6. Starbursts. In college, I met a fellow type 1 in my social psychology lecture hall who swore by carrying starbursts for low blood sugars. She explained that four of them had the exact same amount of carbs as four glucose tablets, but they were far superior in taste because, well, starbursts are candy. I’ve kept this in mind over the years and its come in handy: More than once, I’ve been in a situation where I’ve had to get carbs fast but didn’t have glucose tablets on me, so I bought a sleeve of starburst to treat oncoming lows. They work well and they’re especially delicious when using the pink or the orange starbursts (not the yellow or red…fight me on it).

7. Skittles. What I love about using Skittles for low blood sugars is the 1:1 rule. One Skittle has one carbohydrate, so it’s extremely easy to figure out how many will bring up blood sugar, depending on how low the low is. 10 works well for when I’m in the 70s, whereas I might have 15 when I’m in the 60s. All bets are off when I fall below 60, though, and I’ll settle for a large, uncounted handful – maybe the whole dang bag – instead.

8. A piece of fruit. Ooooh, a genuinely healthy option on this list! The horror! But it’s a fact that fruit works just as well as any piece of candy or sugary treat for bringing up a low. I’m not talking about a single blueberry or strawberry, though: I’m talking either an apple or a banana – something that has some genuine carb content to it in a single serving.

9. A couple handfuls of cereal. This is a riskier choice because the lack of restraint I have around cereal when I’m low, but who else can relate to waking up at 2 A.M. to treat a low and being too tired to measure something out, so out comes the cereal box and handful after handful of Lucky Charms or Cookie Crisp are consumed in a very short span of time?! There’s no questioning cereal’s efficacy in a hypoglycemic situation, but when it comes to controlling the amount eaten…well, that’s a hard thing for me to do.

10. Fruit snacks/gushers. Embarrassing story from my childhood: Remember those commercials in which kids who ate gushers had their heads turn into giant pieces of fruit? Well…I was convinced that eating gushers would lead me to the same fate, so I avoided them until one day I finally realized it was just a stupid commercial (albeit with very freaky graphics) and it was totally safe to consume gushers. And thank goodness, because they’re delicious and great for lows! So are fruit snacks of just about any variety, though I’ve had the most luck with Mott’s and Welch’s fruit snacks.

Do you have any low blood sugar treatments that I didn’t mention here but should consider trying? Drop a comment to let me know what it is and why it’s your favorite!

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 Peanut Butter and Chocolate Punishment

loooooove peanut butter (frequent visitors of this blog are very aware of this fact) and chocolate. It’s the perfect combination of salty and sweet. And Reese’s cups of all shapes and sizes are definitely the most delicious snack in the entire world – though I have a special affinity for Reese’s pumpkins for having the ideal chocolate-to-peanut butter ratio.

Despite my unwavering adoration for peanut butter and chocolate, the dynamic duo doesn’t always love me – or my blood sugars – back…especially when I neglect to bolus accordingly.

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. I’d just woken up from a brief cat nap on the sofa and felt hunger pangs. I checked my CGM and noticed that my blood sugar was going a little low, so I yawned, stretched, and ambled into the kitchen for a snack.

That’s when I remembered I had a tasty treat in the fridge – crunchy peanut butter chocolate squares I’d whipped up the night before to bring to a friend’s apartment. They were made from, obviously, crunchy peanut butter, but also crushed graham crackers, butter, confectioner’s sugar, and a silky, smooth layer of melted dark chocolate. The squares were chock-full of carbs, but cut small enough and on the thin side…so I naively assumed I could eat a couple without doing any real damage to my blood sugar levels.

The Peanut Butter and Chocolate Punishment.png
The crime? The existence of these peanut butter and chocolate squares. The punishment? High blood sugar for unknown length of time. Cruel.

So I dove in, helping myself to some additional crumbs at the bottom of the bag that had broken off from roughly cut squares. After a couple of minutes of totally pigging out, I made myself stop because I could practically feel my blood sugar begin to rise. I even took a couple of units of insulin (not at all calculated, just two off-the-cuff units) to offset any high blood sugar.

Unfortunately, two units wasn’t exactly enough. Within an hour, I saw my blood sugar go from the 80s to somewhere in the 280s. Not at all what I wanted! I began bolusing and stacking my doses like crazy while I fixed dinner and fretted over how long it might take for my blood sugar levels to come back down so I could eat a real meal. By the time dinner was ready, though, I was still high but confident that the insulin on board would do its job. But it took nearly five hours for everything to stabilize, from when I first gave into the peanut butter and chocolate squares to a couple hours after dinner.

Not my finest moment in life with diabetes since everything could’ve been prevented from the beginning. But maybe it goes to show one of the reasons why people start out each new year with the hopes of eating clean and cutting out sweets – junk food tastes so wonderful when it’s being consumed, but the long-term effects are too much of a punishment to make it worth it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, time to evacuate the apartment of all carb-y confections…

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.

Favorite Things Friday: Mini Boxes of Yogurt-Covered Raisins

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite diabetes products. These items make the cut because they’re functional, fashionable, or fun – but usually, all three at once!

Mini boxes of yogurt-covered raisins is an oddly specific kind of food, but they’ve literally saved my life (and my mom’s) hundreds of times.

I’m almost certain that I introduced these raisins into our low supply kit because I was looking for something that 1) was portable 2) had 10-15 grams of carbs 3) could be quick and easy to consume and 4) wasn’t glucose tablets (I get sick of them). I must’ve been browsing through the aisles of the grocery store when I found a bag containing 10 mini boxes of raisins. Clocking in at exactly 10 grams of carbs per box, they seemed to fit the bill nicely. I brought them on a trip to Disney World soon after buying my first bag, and that sealed the deal for me. They proved to be super convenient throughout the trip and helped prevent me from over-correcting my lows, which was huge for me.

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A box of raisins adjacent to my OmniPod PDM. I can easily fit several boxes of raisins into my purse, along with my other diabetes supplies.

Since that trip, the raisins have become a go-to low treatment for me and my mom, who agrees that they work just as well as glucose tablets. They’re much tastier than glucose tablets, and qualify as a healthier way to treat a low. As tempting as it might be to treat with Skittles or Starbursts, I struggle to control my intake of the candy when dealing with a particularly icky low. The raisins are already perfectly portioned, so that eliminates the can’t-stop-won’t-stop (eat ALL the foods!) feeling that can make dealing with low blood sugars difficult.

The raisins are excellent on the go, too. I can pop a box of them in the car, at my office desk, in the gym, or at church. I’ve even whipped them out at bars, and my friends get a bit of a chuckle when I down them like a shot of alcohol. But honestly, they’re so discreet and go down so easily that most of the time, people don’t even notice that I’m eating them. And if people aren’t noticing yet another part of my otherwise very prominent diabetes care kit, then that suits me just fine!