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.

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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…

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.

Yes, I Can Eat Those Christmas Cookies

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Check out that spread. You’re looking at an assortment of nine different kinds of Christmas cookies, all baked fresh by my mom, aunts, and cousins for our annual cookie swap this past weekend. And I can attest to the fact that each of them were effing delicious.

Now, if you’re thinking that people with diabetes can’t or shouldn’t eat cookies, sweets, or carbs in general…I’m here to (gently) tell you that you’re wrong. It’s a myth, a grain of utmost untruth, that people with diabetes cannot have carbohydrates of the sugary or starchy varieties. It’s fake news, y’all!!!

The FACT of the matter is that people with diabetes don’t have limits on what foods they’re able to eat. But there are matters of condition and preference to take into consideration here. First and foremost, carbs MUST be counted before they’re consumed. This is crucial because it determines how much insulin a T1D must inject. And then things like personal taste, diet, and comfort levels come into play that account for the variations in eating habits among people with diabetes. And that is the reason why you’ll meet some who are low carb, high fat followers, some who do not consume gluten, and others who do not exclude any particular food group from their diet.

I’ve written a bit about this before, so why am I repeating it again? Because it’s worth knowing and accepting that everyone is different. Bodies respond differently to different stimuli, including the foods and insulin we put into them. And whatever works best for someone should be unconditionally tolerated, not judged, by others.

So if I want to eat a bunch of Christmas cookies as part of my Christmastime celebrations, then here’s my friendly reminder that I can – and you bet your bottom dollar that I did, and was very grateful for insulin after doing so.

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Peanut Butter Paradise

Family members, friends, coworkers, and really any one person who is the least bit acquainted with me all know one thing: that I, Molly Johannes, have an addiction to peanut butter.

Creamy, chunky, even the powdered stuff that you mix with water – it’s all positively delicious to me. I’d like to blame it on the fact that peanut butter is a lower-carb food item; when I was little, it was the first thing I’d reach for when simultaneously experiencing high blood sugar and hunger. Okay, okay, it still is my go-to snack even now.

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Living my best life in peanut butter paradise.

What’s not to love about peanut butter? It’s rich and thick, somehow sweet and savory at the same time. It pairs excellently with a number of foods, from apples and bananas to toast and crackers. It also comes in a wide array of flavors; beyond traditional, I’ve seen peanut butter fusions containing white chocolate, dark chocolate, honey, strawberry, and pumpkin. I can honestly say I’ve yet to come across peanut butter in any iteration that I truly disliked.

It’s a problem. A peanut butter problem. But an oh-so-tasty (if highly caloric) one to have, and one I’m happy to live with because it coexists so blissfully with my diabetes.

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!

Breakfast or a Plateful of Carbohydrates?

Look at the following image: What do you see? Breakfast, or a plateful of carbohydrates?

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Breakfast, or a plateful of carbs? Trick question, it’s both.

Trick question, it’s both.

I seldom enjoy large breakfasts like this, but when I’m treated to them, it’s more than just a savory, delicious meal. It’s also a math problem. So besides looking at a plate full of yum, I’m also looking at this:

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Looks like I’m having approximately 60 grams of tasty carbohydrates.

I can’t help it, I HAVE to look at my food this way because it helps me determine how much insulin I have to take. Once I add it up, I take the total amount (60) and divide it by 8, because that’s my morning insulin-to-carb ratio. From there, I take about 7.5 units of insulin to cover my breakfast. Of course, I’m not doing the division by myself – my pump is programmed to know all my mealtime ratios, so the only steps I’m responsible for is adding up my carbs and entering that information into my PDM.

You might think it’s a lot of work, but it’s what I’m used to, along with my fellow T1Ds. It all comes with practice, and before long, calculating carbs becomes part of the normal daily routine.

So this example is both breakfast and a plateful of carbohydrates, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. After all, I’m used to crunching numbers along with my food.