It’s been 9 weeks since I left the hospital with my type 2 diabetes diagnosis. As I shared in my last post Why Do I Have Diabetes?, last year I made poor food choices, which led me to a Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) attack. Now it is critical that I eat well to get and stay healthy. Whether I continue with my hotel lifestyle or “settle down” somewhere with a kitchen, I want to feel confident about exactly what and how I should be eating from now on.
The hospital provided no guidance. My initial meals were vegetable broth, Jell-o, and Italian ice. Once I could eat solid food (and they knew I was a vegetarian), my lunches and dinners consisted of a giant tray of fruit, with a side of more fruit, and white rice. For breakfast I was served Cheerios and white bread. So much sugar and carbohydrates (which turns into sugar)! I couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital so I could nourish myself.
My hospital discharge papers also failed to mention anything about changing my diet going forward. For example, I had no idea at the time that carbohydrate (carb) control is critical to diabetes control!
I previously followed a healthy, whole food plant-based (WFPB or “plant strong”) diet, so I figured I would start with being strict with that lifestyle again. I ate meals like a sweet potato filled with black beans, and I snacked on fruit throughout the day. Unfortunately, when I tested my blood sugar, my numbers were super high (>200). Note: I later learned that my primary issue was portion control.
I considered fasting diets, but there was limited (free) information about what I should eat, and it was potentially only a short-term fix. After reading some articles and joining some groups of Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) dieters, I joined the low-fat bandwagon. Primarily meat- and cheese-based, it is similar to Atkins, Paleo, and the ketogenic diet. I’ve been ovo-vegetarian (no meat or dairy) for 3 years. However, I was willing to eat meat again if I needed it to bring down my blood sugar.
I journaled everything I ate in myfitnesspal, and I documented all my numbers in a spreadsheet. I saw that when I minimized my carb intake and instead ate meat and cheese, my blood sugar levels decreased. Success! Well, limited success….
However, I felt that this LCHF diet was not very healthy. I was not getting enough fiber, and fatty meat and cheese made me feel sluggish. Also, I love animals and prefer not to eat them! I embarked on more research. For example, the American Diabetes Association has a “What Can I Eat?,” with good starting guidelines. I also found this article helpful: 101 Registered Dietitians & Experts Answer 3 Diabetes Diet Questions.
I’m now in the 3rd chapter of the search for my ideal diet.
- Week 1-4: Whole Food Plant-based (a.k.a. “plant-strong” or “healthy vegan”) – Failure (In hindsight, I failed due to a lack of portion control!)
- Week 5-8: Low Carb High Fat (a.k.a. LCHF, ketogenic, Atkins, Paleo) – Limited Success
- Week 9+: Nutritionist-recommended Balanced Diet with Portion Control – SUCCESS!!!
Last week, I attended an excellent nutrition class from Kaiser Permanente: “Living Well with Diabetes: Eating to Live Well.” The nutritionist reminded us that diabetics are more susceptible to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, so a healthy diet needs to consider those issues too. For example, I learned that while egg yolks may be fine for a non-diabetic, a diabetic should limit them to no more than 2 per week. I learned about the importance of choosing from a variety of food groups, about portion control, and about spreading my carbs throughout the day. I also confirmed that vegetables are encouraged and “unlimited.” Hooray! I created a personalized meal plan of all my favorite food.
I created a personalized meal plan of all my favorite food. I initially included some lean meats to cover their “protein” food group. However, I’ve been successfully replacing that meat with healthier, plant-based protein sources such as tofu, beans, and nuts. I eat a large salad every day, which provides plenty of protein too. (Do you think vegetarians need more protein? Please check out this great article: When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?) My blood sugar numbers are great, AND I feel great! It turns out that my “ideal diabetic diet” is simply my “ideal healthy diet.” I’ll share more details in my next post, My Ideal Diabetic, Part 2.
I’m sharing my journey and lessons learned in hopes that my experience could help others. Everyone is different, but it never hurts to learn and share. I’d love to hear about your personal experience as well.