This series is to document my journey as an adult-onset, Type 1 Diabetic who is insulin-free and managing diabetes through a Paleo diet and healthy lifestyle changes. The first post in the series, explains how I was able to stop taking insulin by removing gluten from my diet, Insulin Free Type 1 Diabetes Management | Why I Am Gluten Free.
Eat More Vegetables
My first weeks of being gluten-free were so encouraging. My blood glucose readings were coming down into satisfactory range for a type 1 diabetic. I was on cloud 9 that I had found the loophole. I had beat the system!
Not so fast, Emily! At my next endocrinologist appointment, I found my A1c was back down to 6.6 (from 9.7 at diagnosis), which is on target for a type 1 diabetic, but my daily readings weren’t quite good enough.
For some reason, when I met with the diabetes educator, I just thought my blood sugar readings should be below 150 at each testing point throughout the day. I was wrong. In the fire hose of information I was absorbing, I had forgotten the little chart my endocrinologist had given me regarding target blood sugars throughout the day.
Fasting Goal: <130
Pre-Meal Goal: <130
Pre-Bed Goal: 100-150
Oh. Right. The only time my goal blood sugar reading is less than 150 is right before bed. Hmm.
I leave that appointment deflated and not sure I’m on the right track or if I can manage type 1 diabetes through diet (This is the beginning of a recurring theme. It feels like I am forging my own path. It is isolating and deflating at times. I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing. I don’t know how long this experiment will work. I don’t always know the right path to take when my blood sugars rise. I’m figuring it out as I go along. When I find something that works, it’s exhilarating. When I fail, it’s the lowest of valleys.)
Back to the drawing board. Where do I go from here? I honestly didn’t know.
Dan and I love watching documentaries, and the one we were working through at that time was In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen. (Go quick to PBS! It’s free to watch right now!) My biggest take-away from that documentary was we need to eat more vegetables.
I was already making our food from scratch at home. We didn’t eat out much, so I thought we were doing great in the healthy food department. However, our breakfast options consisted of oatmeal or eggs and sausage. No veggies at that meal. Lunch options were leftovers or egg salad/tuna on crackers. Maybe there was a veggie at that meal, but likely not an entire serving. Dinner usually had a vegetable as we were grilling often (it was summer), but if we weren’t grilling, the vegetables were minimal.
In fact, I distinctly remember counting up how many servings of vegetables I’d had in a day, and I was actually contemplating if the onion and garlic I had used in a recipe could count as a serving of vegetables. Ha! I was really grasping for any tiny bit of vegetables to count because really my vegetable intake was low.
One Vegetable at Every Meal
I knew we needed to up our vegetable intake. I decided to challenge myself: one serving of vegetables at every meal. Can I just be honest with you? It was really hard at first. We ate a lot of smoothies with our breakfasts because I didn’t know how else to get a vegetable in us other than blending it up with sugary fruits!
A couple weeks into this challenge, the difficulty eased up. We could eat scrambled eggs, sausage and a sweet potato hash. Delicious. For lunch, we found we really like the crisp crunch of fresh, raw vegetables. Our garden was in full swing at that time, so we had plenty of fresh cucumbers, carrots, and snap peas to keep us full at lunch. For dinner, I leaned on frozen veggies (if short on time), grilled vegetables, or tried to put even more vegetables in a soup or side dish than the recipe called for.
Two Vegetables at Every Meal
I soon realized, I could do more. The kids were used to seeing vegetables at every meal, and they were eating them without fuss! So I challenged myself again: two servings of vegetables at every meal.
The second challenge was not as difficult as the first because the foundation had already been laid. The groundwork was there for vegetable intake, I just had to add more. Breakfast hash with sweet potatoes AND kale or smoothies with cucumber AND spinach. Lunch plates now had two raw vegetables in large piles on each plate: egg salad with sliced bell peppers AND carrot sticks or tuna patties with cucumber slices AND avocado. Dinner on the grill now had hamburgers with grilled zucchini AND summer squash.
Results of More Vegetables
My blood glucose numbers went down a bit, but the vegetable intake didn’t have the dramatic effect that removing gluten from my diet did. What it did change was my snacking and satisfaction at meals. I found if I ate more vegetables at each meal (1) I could eat more, as much as I wanted, with minimal blood glucose affect, and (2) since I was more full from my meals, I wasn’t looking for snacks as much between meals.
The change in my snacking habits/cravings was huge from a lifestyle perspective. I was much more content with my diet since I wasn’t craving high carbohydrate snacks all the time. At mealtime, I could fill my plate twice and still have my blood sugar in line. Freedom to eat as much as I want?! If you’ve ever been on a restrictive diet, you know the feeling I’m describing!
Besides the habits in my eating, I knew it was the right thing for our bodies and our health to be eating more vegetables. Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to survive. Everyone can agree we should eat more, right?
These two challenges took a month or more for me to conquer. It is now late summer, late August/early September 2017. For the most part things are trucking along just fine. My morning blood sugars aren’t always in line, but the rest of the day looks so good, I ignore the morning reading a bit. I am feeling on top of the world again with this diet, even if my fasting blood sugar isn’t quite right, the rest of the day is in range so adding artificial insulin would send me low. So that is not an option right now.
We all know we should eat more vegetables. The problem is how. Follow my example, start small with just one vegetable at each meal. Once you find your rhythm, up it to two vegetables per meal. Then eat more than one serving of each of those vegetables, and you will likely be eating the recommended daily amount. Vegetable intake plus removing gluten from your diet will leave you full, snacking less, and likely shedding more than a few pounds, without even trying!