By Dr. Jody Stanislaw
Diabetes takes constant vigilance. Every bite of food that enters your mouth matters. Every day brings different energy needs and different hormonal levels which affect blood sugar levels. The window for ‘good blood sugar levels’ is very narrow; yet staying within that window from day to day is a matter of life or death for every person living with diabetes, be they Type 1 or Type 2.
If you don’t have diabetes you may think you can eat all the sugar you want, but sugar levels higher than normal are unhealthy, not to mention the issues with processed foods. This is true no matter who you are. Achieving good blood sugar levels and eating wholesome foods is vital for everyone.
I know first hand, how every bite matters, because I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes since I was seven years old. My family raised me to adopt healthy eating, and to live an active lifestyle. For this I am extremely lucky, because good diet habits and exercise are essential for living a healthy life with this potentially fatal disease.
There are 2 distinct paths one can take when living with diabetes, be it Type 1 or Type 2…
The first involves eating whatever one pleases and living a sedentary life. This path creates a myriad of health dangers directly related to having too much sugar in the blood stream. The consequences are dire, such as losing toes or feet, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, depression, fatigue, and early death. Too much sugar in the blood is like having shards of glass scrapping along the internal walls of one’s arteries, causing severe damage and destruction to the cardiovascular system.
The second path takes daily vigilance. But to me, the gift you will receive of health and vitality make this choice absolutely worth it. I am a vibrant, 42-year-young woman and I’ve achieved this feat by keeping my blood sugar levels in a healthy range a priority, every day of my life.
I now share my recipe for success with patients all over the globe. Patients who work with me feel better than ever, because I teach them my simple formula: How to adopt healthy lifestyle habits that stick. I give details of how you can inquire about working with me below.
Normal blood sugar level is between 80 – 110 mg/dl. Eating just 15 grams of carbohydrates can raise that level by approximately 60 points. That equates to just 1 apple, ½ banana, 4 oz. juice, 1/3 c black beans, 1 small slice of bread, 1/3 c rice or ½ c pasta. Yet most people eat much bigger portions than these, so you can see how quickly and easily your blood sugar level can increase based on what you choose to eat.
If you have a healthy pancreas, anytime you eat carbohydrates and/or sugar, the pancreas should make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar in the healthy range of 80 – 110 mg/dl, no matter how many grams of carbohydrate you eat. Insulin’s job is to take glucose out of the blood and feed it to your cells.
The problem is, just like anything that gets over-used, things wear out. The more carbohydrates/sugar you eat, the more worn-out your insulin producing cells become. Over time, if you continue with a high carbohydrate diet, your body cannot keep up with the demands of making enough insulin to keep the blood sugar in the healthy range. So, slowly over time, the blood sugar levels stay higher and higher. This is a primary mechanism for how Type 2 Diabetes begins.
Alternatively, Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune attack against the insulin producing cells, which usually occurs in childhood. Now adults are being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at an alarming rate for an unknown reason, likely due to environmental triggers. Why the body attacks itself, almost overnight, is not well understood. In Type 1 diabetes, insulin-producing cells are literally killed off by the immune system over a span of a few months, and the patient is immediately put on insulin injections. Eating fewer carbs will not make their insulin producing cells grow back (which can be possible in Type 2), but it will make managing the disease and hitting the mark on healthy blood sugar levels significantly easier.
Every person can benefit from keeping his or her blood sugar in a healthy range. It can help prevent many long-term health issues and have immediate benefits such as more energy, better mood, clarity of thinking and focus.
The worst way to start your day, whether you are a diabetic or not, is by eating a bunch of sugar and carbs. The standard American breakfast is the worst! Cereal, toast, pastries, pancakes, muffins, a mocha. All of these foods can easily contain over 100 grams of carbohydrates. This gives you an immediate burst of energy, but at a high price. Over the next few hours, as your blood sugar level plummets after the initial spike, you become fatigued, cranky, and may feel ravenous or crave more sugar. So, then you want to grab another high carb snack, which just starts the roller coaster all over again.
Anytime one eats a high carb choice, be it at the start of the day or not, this roller coaster of energy ensues. The energy spike is usually followed soon after by fatigue, hunger, and/or irritation.
So what should you eat? If man made it, you probably shouldn’t eat it very often…shoot for less than 20% of your total daily intake from processed foods. Not only to avoid the refined sugar, but processed
foods have a double negative: they are not as nutrient dense as real food and they usually contain unhealthy preservatives and other additives.
I recommend following the 80/20 rule. 80% good stuff leaves room for your body to be able to handle 20% of the bad stuff. No need for perfection if overall you take good care of your body. (Having said that, individual needs vary greatly. Discuss with your diabetes care team before making changes to your dietary regimen.)
So I recommend to most of my patients to aim for eating wholesome foods grown by nature at least 80% of the time. And within that wholesome 80%, there are four categories of wholesome, nature-made carbohydrates: Fruits, Vegetables, Beans/legumes, and whole grains. These are where your carb choices should come from. Everything else…crackers, chips, cookies, white rice, cereal, bread, pasta, juice, and the like…is processed foods that are not needed as a part of a nutrient-dense, wholesome diet.
Of course, we all have our particular processed foods that we love and feel like we can’t live without. Making room for them occasionally might be fine, depending on how your diabetes care is overall. Discuss with your healthcare team what a healthy balance is for you.
Here are some wholesome meal ideas to help you get going:
- Smoothie: protein powder, almond milk, berries/apple, and greens
- Scrambled eggs with 1 piece of whole grain toast
- Veggie omelet
- Chicken stir-fry
- Hard boiled egg with 1 piece whole grain toast
- Avocado on seed crackers
- Egg veggie muffins (see my recipe below)
- Flaxseed muffin (see my recipe below)
Lunch & Dinner should be based around protein & veggies, such as:
- Salad with chicken/beans/seeds/nuts
- Sandwich fixings wrapped in butter lettuce instead of bread
- Chicken stir-fry with veggies and 1/2c brown rice
- Taco salad with lots of guacamole and salsa
- Grilled chicken with grilled zucchini/eggplant/tomatoes…
- Baked fish with asparagus/broccoli/green beans…
- Grass-fed steak with 2 red potatoes and veggie
- Fajitas: fish/chicken and veggies on a small 100% corn tortilla
These recipes are wholesome, low carb, nutrient dense options that are not only good for those with diabetes, but are good for almost everyone! Again, discuss with your health care team before making changes. For example, if you have kidney issues, less protein may be required. But eating a real food choice over a processed choice is pretty much guaranteed to be a good choice 100% of the time.
The information I just gave you is priceless because, if you follow my advice, it could save your life.
I would’ve paid thousands of dollars to know this when I was young because it would’ve saved me years of frustration with eating so many carbs and suffering the ill effects of high blood sugar levels.
Do you have questions? I’d love to help. Let’s chat. I make time in my schedule to connect with others living with diabetes because talking one diabetic to another can be life changing. My specialty is Type 1 but I help Type 2’s as well.
If you need help with what to eat to achieve better glucose control, or would like to learn how to avoid going low during exercise, or how to wake up with a perfect sugar level, or if you have any other diabetes related questions for that matter, schedule a complimentary phone consult with me here to get started: www.ConsultWithDrJody.com
You CAN be healthy and happy while living with diabetes and I’m here to help you make that happen. Let’s chat soon.
To your health!
Dr. Jody’s Delicious, Low-carb, Easy Flax Muffin-in-a-Minute:
The only carbs in this muffin come from the fiber in the flax seeds and so this muffin has a very low/no impact on blood sugar levels.
Put into an empty coffee cup:
- 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
- 1 tea cinnamon
- 1/2 tea baking powder (get one without ‘aluminum’)
….mix together in a coffee cup. Then:
- Melt 1 tea butter or coconut oil on top of mixed dry ingredients
- 1 tea vanilla
- 1 egg
- sweetener of your choice…stevia is the only one I recommend for diabetics
….mix it all up
Optional extra ingredients:
- just a few small banana chunks (which make it super creamy & delicious)
- a few blueberries
- chopped nuts
Cook in microwave for 45-60 seconds and enjoy!
**Due to very high fiber content, be sure to drink 8oz water/tea/liquid with muffin.
Egg and Veggie ‘Muffins’
…make a bunch of these Sunday night so they are ready to grab & go each morning
Author: The Seasoned Mom
- 4 whole eggs + 4 additional egg whites
- ¼ cup diced onion
- ½ of a carrot, grated
- ½ of a red bell pepper, diced
- ½ of a small zucchini, grated
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Coat 8 muffin cups with liners and cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, toss together all of the vegetables.
- Spoon vegetable mixture into prepared muffin cups, filling each cup about ⅔ full.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Use a ⅓-cup measuring cup to scoop egg mixture into each of the muffin cups, filling each cup to the top.
- Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with about ½ – 1 teaspoon of Parmesan cheese.
- Bake muffins for 30 minutes, or until puffy, golden, and cooked through
- Save in fridge and just heat one up each morning for a fast healthy breakfast