When you have diabetes, in pregnancy or otherwise, dietary recommendations can be hard to understand. Even though Food is the most important aspect of treating diabetes, no authorities agree about:
- Which foods we should eat
- How big a serving size should be
- How many times a day to eat
- Whether or not to snack
- What your diet should consist of in terms of carbohydrate, fat, and protein.
No wonder we are frustrated and confused!
A big part of my job is to counsel you about these issues. Being a diabetic myself, I have had to work hard to analyze all the research and figure out what works for me.
Today, I’m going to give you a peek behind the curtain and tell you how I eat. But I also have to tell you that what works for me may not work for you at all. Every one of us is different. We have different food preferences, different schedules, different body weights and types, different gut bacteria (which affects how many calories we absorb from our meals), different activity levels, and different tolerances for different kinds of starches. For instance, I can eat beans, but I can’t even look at rice without my blood glucose rising. So use my habits as a guide, but don’t try to eat exactly as I do.
The point is for you to be your own test crash dummy – try, and fail, and try some more until you figure out your own guide.
I eat lower carb, higher protein
I’m not strictly keto, but I have to really limit carbs. I can’t eat bread, rice, potatoes, or pasta without having big spikes in my blood glucose, so I am eliminating these foods. Except for Saturdays. Then I eat exactly what I want for a meal or two. Shipley’s donut? Why yes, thank you! Sourdough bread? Don’t mind if I do. It takes a whole day for my sugars to return to normal, but a weekly splurge keeps me sane. And I’m losing a pound or two a week! When I reach my ideal weight, I can probably add back some starchy foods. Until then, trudge, trudge, trudge.
I figured out which starches I can tolerate
As I mentioned, I can’t eat rice. Or potatoes, pasta, or bread during the week. But I can eat beans, which I love! Pinto beans, black beans, Great Northern, navy beans, refried beans, lima beans. All good. My secret is eating my protein and healthy fats first, then finishing with the beans (see my post on food ordering). And I can’t eat a lot of them, just about a half cup.
I eat three meals a day
I have tried fasting in various forms – just water and broth for as long as a day or two, or just skipping breakfast and eating lunch and dinner within 5-6 hours of each other. I know this works for a lot of people. But I like to eat, so it doesn’t work for me. Breakfast for me is usually eggs with cheese or salsa, a piece of sausage, and some guacamole or a small scoop of beans. (Can you tell I’m Texan?) Lunch is a salad with some protein – chicken, boiled egg, fish, or steak. For dinner, I want some meat with roasted vegetables and maybe another serving of beans. Remember that our brains register fullness better with protein than with carbohydrates. So I fill up first on protein and fats (cheese, dressings, etc), then I am not as hungry for the starchy stuff.
I don’t snack
Okay, I snack a little bit. But I try to eat substantial meals full of protein and healthy fat, so I stay full and am less tempted to eat cookies and chips between meals. If I feel hungry, a spoonful of peanut butter or some cheese or nuts hits the spot.
I plan ahead
If I get home from work and dinner is not planned or started, there is a Whataburger just a block from my house. And I have made more trips through that drive-thru than I care to tell you. My point? To be successful, I always have to think about the next meal. I don’t have a lot of will power, so I have to limit my opportunities to fail.
I eat the same things over and over again
Sure, variety is appealing. But overrated, as far as I’m concerned. I know what works for me, and I stick with my friendly foods. Eggs, salads, roasted meats and veggies, and some beans. I will mix it up with different salad dressings or special vegetables like beets or eggplant, but most of the time I keep it simple. Find what works for you and eat that.
I told you that the way I eat won’t work for you. You may feel like you need snacks. You may do great with rice and you may hate beans. But you have to figure this out for yourself. Find your happy starches and see how much you can have without causing problems. Keep a food journal and track your blood glucoses after different types of meals. It will become clear what works for you and what doesn’t. I can give you some guidelines, but I can’t do your homework. So get on it, and best of luck as you become the expert on you!