- Everything you eat can affect your blood sugar! Carbs are very important to keep track of when it comes to diabetes management, but fats and protein can also impact your numbers. For example, foods high in fat, especially saturated fat, can raise your blood sugar hours after eating and can keep your numbers elevated for longer. Diabetics are at an increased risk of developing heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. Therefore, limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats is important as they can impact your cardiovascular health. Saturated fats include processed animal meats and high-fat dairy products such as butter, hot dogs and bacon. Trans fats can be found in processed foods such as frozen pizzas, fried foods and baked goods.
- Drink alcohol responsibly. Alcohol can be tricky to manage as a diabetic. Common alcoholic drinks are sugary and can spike your blood sugars. Watch for carbs in beers, wines and mixed drinks. Additionally, diabetics can experience a drop in their blood sugar hours after drinking, which is oftentimes when you’re asleep in the middle of the night! Be sure to check your blood sugar before going to bed and have a snack if you’re in the lower range. It may be a good idea to set an alarm for a few hours after you go to bed to check your sugars.
- The types of carbs you eat can impact your diabetes management. Types of carbs include sugars, starches and fiber. Sugars include both foods that naturally contain it such as sugar in fruit and milk, and added sugars seen in soda and many other processed foods. Starches include grains, oats, beans and vegetables like corn and potatoes. Fiber is found in plant foods but isn’t digestible in humans. Sugars and starches can raise your blood sugar, whereas fiber doesn’t typically affect blood sugar. Sugars often cause a spike or immediate rise in blood sugar, whereas starches have a lower glycemic index and therefore raise your blood sugar more slowly.
- Limit eating out. This is tough for a lot of people. Eating out is very hard on diabetic management because oftentimes you cannot accurately count the number of carbs, fats and protein in your meal. Additionally, restaurant food is often loaded with fats and sugars, making it taste rich and flavorful, but also makes your blood sugars rise both in the short term and over the longer term, affecting your numbers hours after eating. Furthermore, if you’re like me and you like to bolus (meaning dose your insulin) before eating to reduce the blood sugar spike, it can be hard to time this out because you cannot predict when your food will be ready! Your diabetes (and your wallet!) will thank you for eating out less.
- Meal planning. Diabetes management is entirely dependent on blood sugar management and that depends on your diet. Therefore, as a diabetic, what you eat on a daily basis has a huge impact on your health! An optimal meal plan will take into account your health goals, including weight management, your tastes and your lifestyle. Creating a weekly meal plan can help ensure that you have healthy, balanced meals for your week and will allow you to calculate all of your carbs, fats and proteins with each meal ahead of time. Eating roughly the same amount of carbs, fats and protein at each meal can take a lot of the guesswork out of your insulin bolus.
It may seem overwhelming to improve your diet, but making small changes on a consistent, daily basis will yield significant results over time!
Kelly Wild (@kellywild8) is a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy. She also is a National level Olympic Weightlifter and former 3 time CrossFit Games athlete. Kelly also played Division I ice hockey at The Ohio State University. Kelly believes that health care should be proactive, not reactive. This mantra has inspired Kelly to publish a number of online fitness protocols at Californiastrength.com that anyone can use to reduce injury risk and improve strength in order to continue to pursue all of your athletic and fitness goals!