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February 26, 2024

Type 1 Diabetes & Food: Tips for Embracing Conscious, Mindful Eating.

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“You can’t be eating that cake. You’re diabetic!”

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been at the receiving end of shock and unsolicited advice (more like reprimand) by possibly well-meaning, nevertheless unhelpful relatives, friends, and even strangers.

Between monitoring blood sugar, calculating insulin doses, and battling outdated advice, it’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of restrictive diets and food fear. But hold on, my fellow diabetes warriors, because here’s the truth: we weren’t built for diets; we were built for mindful choices.

Ditch the demonization of specific foods and instead cultivate a relationship with food that’s positive, empowering, and, dare I say, even delicious.

First things first, let’s bust some common myths about type 1 diabetes and food that have been floating around longer than a forgotten Tupperware container in the back of the fridge:

Myth #1: Sugar is the devil.

Not quite. While mindful of portion sizes and their impact on blood sugar, enjoying treats occasionally is absolutely possible. Remember, balance and conscious choices are your superpowers, not strict bans.

Myth #2: Carbs are the enemy.

Bzzt, wrong answer! Carbohydrates are our body’s fuel, and complex carbs like whole grains and fruits can be our nutritional besties. The key is understanding portion sizes and pairing them with other food groups for a balanced plate.

Myth #3: There’s a magic “diabetic diet.”

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t exist! What works for one person might send another person’s blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride. Focus on personalized approaches that consider your activity level, preferences, and even your cultural background.

Now, ditching the diet doesn’t mean free-for-all chaos. Instead, it’s about embracing conscious eating.

Imagine it like becoming a food ninja, using your awareness and knowledge to make choices that work for your personalized training manual:

1. Become a body whisperer: ditch the clock-watching and listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Don’t eat mindlessly or restrict yourself unnecessarily. Your body is your best guide.

2. Befriend the plate method: this isn’t about punishment; it’s about balance. Fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies (think colorful magic), a quarter with protein (hello legumes!), and the last quarter with complex carbs (brown rice, quinoa). This ensures a symphony of nutrients and helps manage portions without feeling deprived.

3. Spice up your life (and your plate): don’t get stuck in a food rut. Explore different colors, textures, and flavors. The world is your culinary oyster (or lentil, if you prefer).

4. Make healthy swaps: craving pizza? Cauliflower crust to the rescue! Love pasta? Whole wheat is your new BFF. There are delicious, satisfying ways to make adjustments without sacrificing taste.

5. Channel your inner chef: cooking more at home gives you control over ingredients and portion sizes. Experiment with spices and herbs to add flavor without relying on unhealthy additives. Think of your kitchen as your personal flavor lab.

6. Don’t fear healthy fats: healthy fats like avocado, nuts, and olive oil are your friends. They promote satiety and can even help regulate blood sugar. Just remember, moderation is key. Saturated fats on the other hand can impact how the body absorbs insulin, hence it’s best to limit those.

7. Celebrate food, don’t fear it: food is more than just fuel; it’s about connection, joy, and cultural traditions. Share meals with loved ones, appreciate the flavors, and create positive memories around food. Remember, food can be a source of celebration, not just stress.

Bonus Tip: technology can be your sidekick. Utilize apps and tools to track your food intake, blood sugar levels, and activity. But remember, these tools are meant to empower you, not restrict you. Use them mindfully and don’t get bogged down by numbers.

A few more handy notes:

>> Learning to read food labels helps keep account of the carbohydrate intake.

>> As much as possible, try to eat meals and snacks at the same time every day. This helps in avoiding spikes and dips in blood sugar.

>> Ensure there are high-fibre foods in your daily intake.

>> Generally sane advice for everyone but something to keep in mind for those of us with type 1 diabetes: enjoy but limit consumption of sweet treats like candies, cookies, ice cream, sugary beverages, and highly processed and refined foods.

Living with type 1 diabetes is an adventure, and food is a big part of it. Let’s ditch the diet drama, embrace mindful choices, and embark on this journey with open hearts, curious minds, and a plate full of possibilities.

Meal inspiration for Type 1 Diabetes: I’d also like to share the recipes for two dishes that I quite enjoy.

Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Burgers (with a Sweet Potato Twist)

These protein-packed burgers are bursting with flavor and offer a healthy twist on the classic.

Ingredients:

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup mashed sweet potato
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Hamburger buns (whole wheat or lettuce wraps for a low-carb option)
Sliced avocado, tomato, and red onion for toppings

Instructions:

1. Combine all ingredients except hamburger buns and toppings in a food processor and pulse until they form a slightly chunky mixture.

2. Form the mixture into four equal patties.

3. Heat a skillet over medium heat and cook patties for 3-4 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through.

4. Serve on hamburger buns or lettuce wraps with your favorite toppings.

Rainbow Veggie Bowl with Tahini Dressing

This colorful bowl is packed with nutrients and offers a satisfying combination of textures and flavors.

Ingredients:

1 cup mixed greens
1/2 cup cooked quinoa or brown rice
1/2 cup roasted vegetables (such as broccoli, sweet potato, bell peppers)
1/4 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup crumbled tofu or tempeh (optional)

Tahini Dressing:

2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Prepare the tahini dressing by whisking together all ingredients until smooth.

2. Assemble the bowl by layering greens, quinoa/rice, roasted vegetables, cucumber, tomatoes, and tofu/tempeh (if using).

3. Drizzle with tahini dressing and enjoy!

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