I love carbs. Seriously – you name it, I love it: bread, pasta, rice, cake, ice cream, more bread, more pasta….mmmm…
So, deciding to eat low(ish) carbs was not the easiest step for me. It took me a while to psych myself up for it, and I spent about a week saying delicious, bloodsugar-raising goodbyes to my carby favourites, but then I did it. I made the leap to low-carbdom.
To be fair, I suppose I should call it a “moderate carb” diet instead of a “low carb” diet – and I really hate the word “diet” so let’s call it “carb controlling”. I am currently aiming to keep my carb-intake around 100g per day – net, that is (i.e. after subtracting fibre). I’ve been working with a very helpful diabetes-focused dietician to ensure that I’m still getting enough nutrients and enough calories (especially considering that I’m still breastfeeding), and that I’m not reducing my carbs to a ketone-inducing level.
“But Bethany,” you say, “aren’t you a Type 1 diabetic on an insulin pump? Shouldn’t you be able to eat as many carbs as you want as long as you bolus for them?”
Well…..in theory, yes. In practice, no.
One thing I have learned about my diabetes is that I require a lot of insulin for carbs, but that it’s almost impossible for me to match my insulin peak to my post-carb bloodsugar spike. I end up spiking nice and high after a high-carb meal, and then dropping nice and low a few hours later. I’ve tinkered and tweaked and tooled around with basals and boluses of all shapes and sizes, but nothing was cutting it. So, being the math geek I am, I said to myself (I talk to myself a lot), “Self, if we eat less carbs, we will need less insulin, and with less insulin and less carbs we should get smaller spikes and smaller drops.” And I was right! Limiting myself to 30g of carbs (net) per meal, with a bit of leeway for a couple of small snacks, made a huge difference and really smoothed out my bloodsugar levels! As an added bonus, it’s also helped me to lose the last of my pregnancy-weight! I’m feeling great!
Getting started was definitely a challenge. Aside from the fact that I was depriving myself of some of my favourite foods, I was also stuck with the challenge of finding suitable substitutes to keep myself nourished and full. It took a while, but I’m at a place now where I’m quite happy with my meals and I’m definitely feeling full when I’m done eating! I’m trying to keep my breakfast high in fat and protein, my lunches are typically salads, and my suppers are usually whatever my husband is eating but with a lower-carb substitute (e.g. mashed celeriac instead of mashed potatoes, spaghetti squash instead of pasta, cauliflower instead of rice). Most of my carbs are now coming from fruit, vegetables and dairy as I’m making a concerted effort to eat as “naturally” as possible.
There are, of course, exceptions to that rule: I eat yogurt sweetened with Splenda and make salad dressing with Splenda, I enjoy the occasional pepperoni stick or slice of bacon, I sometimes eat flavoured/salted/seasoned nuts, and I do indulge in low-carb baking from time to time. And, every now and then I let myself have a carby meal…because I do love carbs! While my goal is to eat naturally and control my carbs, I’m not interested in being too much of a hard-ass with myself because this has to be enjoyable if it’s going to work!
And it is enjoyable! (Yes, this still surprises even me sometimes!) There are lots of great, tasty, low-carb options out there. One of my favourite sources of low-carb, diabetes-friendly recipes is this blog by the wonderful Chef Barrae: Unrestricted Tastes on Restricted Diets.
Here’s a sample day of meals that I might eat:
- Breakfast: Balkan yogurt (i.e. high fat) with blueberries and walnuts
- Lunch: Salad (Romaine lettuce, grilled seasoned chicken breast, a bit of red onion, ½ an apple chopped up, slivered almonds, and my homemade oil/vinegar/mustard/Splenda dressing.), strawberries, light yogurt, a piece of dark chocolate for “dessert”
- Supper: Shrimp in alfredo sauce with mushrooms and peppers on baked spaghetti squash, topped with parmesan cheese (Note: my husband would have the same thing but on fettuccini.), a few pieces of pineapple, more light yogurt, or maybe a piece of Chef Barrae’s low-carb almond pound cake.
- Snacks During the Day: cottage cheese with fruit or veggies or nuts, nuts, string cheese, veggies with or without a bit of dip
I want to be clear that I don’t necessarily push this type of eating for everyone. It does take some effort to eat like this – in terms of buying some unique groceries, finding receipes, etc. – and it also takes a bit of a flexible palate (i.e. if you didn’t like a lot of vegetables, it wouldn’t be as easy). If I could manage my diabetes just as well eating a higher carb diet I’m pretty sure I would! But for me, and also for some of my friends with diabetes, it is definitely proving to be the right way to eat – my bloodsugar is more manageable, my weight is better, and I feel great eating like this! I’m pretty happy with my low-carb decision!