The best diet for optimal blood sugar control & health
Emma Baird is a type 1 diabetic and a writer with a keen interest in health and nutrition. She is the co-author of The Diabetes Diet and she runs her own blogging/PR business, and writes fiction in her spare time. Most importantly, she is the guardian of one very spoiled cat…
This week, I tried a cooking method I’ve never used before—low cooking. For those unfamiliar with the term, low cooking can be used for tender cuts of meat. You sear it in a pan and then place in an oven at a very low temperature and cook for a long time.
It differs from slow cooking in that slow cooking is usually used for tougher cuts of meat and involves liquid. I used the low cooking technique to cook a ribeye steak we got from Donald Russell. If you live in the UK and buy certain magazines or Sunday newspapers, a Donald Russell flier will have fallen out of them at some point.
True cost of meat
‘Donald Russell’ is a farm in Inverurie (Aberdeenshire) which supplies many top end restaurants and Balmoral with meat and fish. I can vouch that the quality of the produce is superb. It is also stonkingly expensive, but that will reflect the true cost of meat especially if you want to buy meat that comes from animals that have lived a life as close to the one they are supposed to. If (and that’s a big if) my writing career ever makes me decent money, this will be the only meat I buy.
Anyway, I cooked the steak for three minutes all-in on a high heat and then popped it in the oven at 80 degrees C for 35 minutes, and served it with peppercorn sauce and salad (and fried potatoes for my carb-loving husband). Here’s the peppercorn sauce recipe. It isn’t the classic one as I find fiddling around with sauce recipes too much to resist. The sauce has about 5g of carbs per serving.
Once more, dear friends, I’m putting my body to good use—a drugs trial where I hope my small part contributes to better outcomes for other people with diabetes.
Last year, when I received one of my six-monthly invites to the retinal screening clinic, an invite popped out of the envelope. Did I wish to take part in a trial for a drug aimed at preventing the progression of diabetic retinopathy? Not ‘alf. I’m keen to hang onto my eyesight for the rest of my life, especially as I’m a voracious reader.
I do have diabetic retinopathy. The changes to my eyes happened years ago, I’m screened regularly and while the letters that follow my appointments tell me there is more evidence of minor changes so far I’ve not needed treatment. And long may that happy state continue.
The drug I’ve been taking is a fenofibrate. I say that as if I have any idea of what that means. I don’t, apart from it belonging to the fibrate class of medications and it also has cholesterol reducing properties. I’ve now taken it for seven weeks.
If you are not familiar with drugs trial protocol, if a person is judged suitable for a trial after tests, they take the drug for a run-in period. Further tests are done—blood pressure, height, weight and bloods—and then you are put in one of two groups. One takes the real drug, the other takes a placebo and that’s you for two years.
I’ve done the run-in and now I’m about to do the two years around with the other thousand or so people who have been recruited to take part. Exciting to think our participation might shape treatments for years to come, and here’s hoping the drug proves effective not just for me but for anyone else at risk of losing their eyesight.
When you’ve lived with diabetes as long as I have, it’s almost impossible to imagine what life is like without that constant round of tests, injections and mild anxiety around food as you eat something and hope it doesn’t result in postprandial blood sugar levels that are too high or too low.
Today, I read about people’s experiences of research or new procedures they’d taken part in. One woman wore the artificial pancreas when she was pregnant. Giving it back afterwards was, she said, “like losing a limb”. Another person received islet stem cells transplant because he couldn’t recognise hypo symptoms and was able to come off insulin altogether, although he did have to go back on small amounts four months later.
So, Emma B, I said to myself, say you woke up tomorrow without type 1 diabetes what would be the best thing about it. And is there anything you would miss?
The main point that would strike me would be the energy. Imagine living with levels of energy that remain more or less constant. To the non-diabetics out there, please make the most of it this on my behalf. You have no idea how brilliant it is. I get days here and there when the energy is constant, and blimey you could put me in charge of Brexit and I’d sort it out… But some of those other days are tedious. Tiredness makes you grumpy and makes every task far more difficult, meaning you have to invest in willpower (a finite thing) for trivial rubbish.
It’s hard to over-estimate the impact that one single thing would make. Perhaps I’d turn into an extrovert. Tiredness often makes conversation an effort. Or I’d enter a full marathon instead of a half. My freelance copywriting business might take off because I’d be able to do far more work every day AND I’d be an excellent net-worker and pitcher, thanks to the whirling fizz running through my veins.
I’d also relish sitting down to meals without having to do blood tests and injections first. Oh the bliss of pulling up a plate without eyeballing its contents and doing all the calculations in your head—right, so that’s about 15g of carbs (I think), my blood sugar is a little raised so I need to factor that in, but I’m going for a walk afterwards so include 30 minutes of exercise, maybe allow for an hour because I’m going up that big hill… etc., etc.
I might never go near a doctor’s surgery again. A silly thing, I know, but we sugar shunners spend a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms, often wondering why the magazine collection is so rubbish and why all the posters on the wall are so out of date. There’s the clinics, the retinal screening and all the other appointments associated with diabetes. Not going along to any of them ever again would be a joy.
My abdomen would say an almighty big ‘thank-you’ for not getting stabbed seven or eight times a day. Granted, the needles we have these days are tiny (I use a 4mm version), but occasionally I hit a nerve and it HURTS. Ditto my fingers. As one of our regular readers said, doctors can always tell the folks who are conscientious about blood tests as they were the ones with tiny black marks all over their finger tips.
Pizza and chips anyone?
Would I dive into plates of chips, 15-inch pizzas and cakes and sweets? Probably not. I’m used to eating in a certain way, and I believe it’s healthy for most people, not just those with diabetes. I do eat chocolate and pizza from time to time because life’s too short to eat low-carb all the time.
And now for the things I would miss… wait for it…
Nothing? Diabetes doesn’t need to be dreadful. A sensible low-carb eating plan and a bit of exercise can work wonders. And it’s not the worst chronic health condition you can have, but honestly, truly and seriously I do not think there are any type 1s out there who wouldn’t say “goodbye” to diabetes without a backward glance.
I thought I’d record some of my meals this week, and allow you all to marvel at my food photography skills. Not.
Anyway, on Monday I ate half and avocado, a packet of flaked salmon and some salad, followed by dry-roasted peanuts. Of all the things I ate this week, this was the most aesthetically pleasing. I’m no food stylist as my photos on this blog testify, but it’s hard to make chopped avocado, salad and flaked salmon look rubbish.
On Tuesday, I ate a Caesar salad—partly to use up chicken we had in the freezer and partly to get rid of some of the jar of anchovy paste I bought the other week, which is destined to turn mouldy before I get round to using it all up*. My version of the dressing is this: whole egg, 100ml rapeseed oil, one clove of garlic, crushed, one rounded teaspoon anchovy paste, juice of half a lemon and 25g grated parmesan. Whisk together and use up within a few days.
Wednesday, I went for weirdness—two boiled eggs, cauliflower with a tin of anchovies chopped and mixed through, and the oil in the tin used to dress a salad. I’m eating tonnes of anchovies at the moment. They feel as if they are eco-friendly, super-healthy and those tins are dirt cheap.
On Thursday, I attempted a cauliflower risotto a la the Diet Doctor, as I wanted to try a new recipe. Cream, cheese, cauliflower and mushrooms… what’s not to love?! I’ve added the link to the recipe and you can see what it looks like when people who know how to make food look enticing get their hands on it.
Saturday, I decided, needed to be treat-worthy. ‘Treat-worthy’ is a subjective term. For my husband, it’s sirloin steak and chips whereas I can take or leave steaks. I’d rather eat a cheese omelette, so that’s what I did, doing my best to recreate a fluffy omelette I had in a cafe in Knaresborough last summer.
Throughout the week, I snacked on nuts. This week’s headlines about diabetes included a piece about nuts and how they might reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems for those with type 2 diabetes. That’s good enough for me. I love nuts—salted, smoked almonds in particular. But I’m happy to eat handfuls of the natural, unsalted varieties too.
And finally, we’ve been trying to persuade the cat his new best-loved food is Carne cat food. It’s a German make and it contains a lot more meat than most brands. Freddie, on the other hand, loves Whiskas – so much so he has worked out how to remove a packet from a tin and rip it apart with his claws…
Did you have a favourite meal this week and what was it? Let us know in the comments below.
*Does anyone know any other uses for the stuff? The jar suggests pasta and pizza, both out for obvious reasons.
There’s a new book out for everyone who has questions to ask about how you exercise with diabetes, and it includes advice about low-carb eating and exercise.
Nearly 300 athletic individuals were included in this new edition, now re-titled The Athlete’s Guide to Diabetes by Shelley Colberg, after answering Shelley’s online survey about their activities and diabetes management. And 15 athletes are included in all-new profiles.
Much of the first half of the book has been rewritten to include low-carb eating, the latest diabetes technologies, new medications, and much more. Tips and best practices to deal with device slippage, temperature extremes, and different activities are included as well.
There is guidance and unique perspectives on 165 sports and activities. More than 80% of the content is entirely new, and the publisher is offering an online CE exam for anyone who needs the credits.
Check it out on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Human Kinetics.
Amazon (in USA–but other countries to follow shortly):
Here at the Diabetes Diet, we’re fully on board with the making life easier message. Living with diabetes is like supporting a part-time job on top of everything else in your life.
And boy, if we were unionised, we’d revolt against the lack of time off and sick pay (ha!), and work conditions that are an uphill struggle all the time… One of the reasons low-carb diets make life easier for the sugar-challenged is that we don’t have to spend ages figuring out how many carbs are in particular dishes and how much insulin we need to cover them. Meat, sauce and salad is a lot easier to work out than meat, veg, roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding.
So, with that in mind, here are our favourite hacks:
Make your home carb-proof
If it’s not there, you won’t miss it. Temptation comes in many forms, but it’s much easier to ignore the siren call of crisps or chocolate if you don’t keep them in the house*.
Have easy meals
If you can master the omelette, fried fish, steaks, burgers or open a tin of tuna, mix it with mayonnaise and tip it on a bed of crispy salad, you’re laughing. Diabetes makes you tired. Have some go-to super-fast meals you can make quicker in the time it takes to order and wait for a take-away.
Eat two starters when out
Starters tend to be lower in carbs than main courses, so go for two of them. Three, if you are very hungry.
Stock up on low-carb snacks
Cheese, olives, unsalted nuts, hard-boiled eggs… all help satisfy cravings and have plenty of protein for satiety.
Try some of the substitutes
To be honest, I’ve yet to meet the low-carb bread recipe that convinces me, but some of the baking ideas might work for you. Bread, cakes, biscuits and even fudge are out there so why not give some of them a try?
*Reader, all too often I slip on this one. Or do that thing where I buy crisps or chocolate for my other half, kidding myself that they are for him. No, no, not me oh luscious purple-foil wrapped packet…
It’s Chinese New Year and the Year of the Pig—all hail the pig, supplier of many good things in our household—so I thought this week’s recipes ought to include a stir-fry.
Traditionally, stir-fry recipes include rice or noodles. You could use cauliflower rice if you wanted (and there’s a great recipe here) or those zero noodles, but I find a load of vegetables and protein filling enough. I adapted a Dana Carpender recipe for a low-carb Hoisin sauce, and I went with tofu as I’m trying to watch my carbon footprint these days.
For the sauce, blend the ingredients together and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large work, and add the celery, red pepper and courgette. Cook for three minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another two minutes. Finish with the cabbage and cook till this softens.
Add the tofu and about half the sauce and mix well.
Allow about 10g carbs
*Feel free to replace the tofu with chicken, pork or beef Stir-fry this first in oil until cooked. Set aside, cook your veggies and then stir back in.