Eating smart: Living with diabetes

“You can’t eat that, it will drive your blood sugars through the roof!”

This ubiquitous phrase is often used by well-intentioned family and friends to scold folks with diabetes. Several arguments between my mother and diabetic grandmother have begun with this statement, and I am sure many more will follow.

Living with diabetes can be a frustrating challenge, and constant policing from family and friends can multiply this stress tenfold. In light of November being National Diabetes Awareness Month, I would like to share three diabetic care strategies that will ease the worry of those around you as well as improve your overall health.

Start counting carbohydrates and ensure a consistent amount at each meal. Though initially overwhelming, mastery of this skill is indispensable in diabetes management. Striving to eat a constant amount of carbohydrates for each meal and snack will help steady your blood sugars throughout the day. Even better, knowledge of how many carbohydrates you eat per snack and meal will allow you to budget occasional “naughty” treats that catch the attention of your family and friends. Everyone has different needs, so it is best to consult with a dietitian to create a personalized plan to follow.

Keep a food journal. Many of us go through our days mindlessly grazing in the abundant pasture of snacks at home and work. Maintaining a journal of what and how much you eat will cultivate mindfulness in an environment of constant consumption. Extra details such as time, blood sugar and mood will help paint a more vivid picture for you to strategize snacks and meals. There are free food journal apps such as MyFitnessPal and My Diet Coach, or you could use simple pen and paper. No matter what works best for you, the key is accuracy and consistency.

Pair proteins and healthy fats with carbohydrates. Proteins and fat slow digestion of food, giving your body extra time to process carbohydrates. For example, eating a cup of rice will cause your blood sugar to rise much higher than if you ate that same cup of rice with a bit of chicken. A Web search will provide a plethora of recipe suggestions for you to experiment with.

Adopting these routines will help tremendously in managing blood sugars and perhaps rid you of excessive familial pestering. As always, it is best to consult with a dietitian before major diet changes.

Eating Smart is usually written by Mary Koch. Koch is a registered dietitian at Banner Churchill Community Hospital and the VA Lahontan Valley Outpatient Clinic. Send your nutrition questions to Koch at


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