The Search for My Ideal Diabetic Diet, Part 1

Update: After I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, I read over 20 books and attended conferences with a goal of reversing my symptoms.

3 months after I wrote this article, I was back in the hospital twice more for the same reason: life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis. I had done everything I could to “reverse my diabetes.” Why wasn’t it working?  Because I was misdiagnosed.

I was finally diagnosed correctly with Type 1 Diabetes. Ketoacidosis is very rare in Type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance) but quite common to people with Type 1 diabetes (insulin dependence). Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured or reversed.

Misdiagnosis is quite common because people (including many doctors!) tend to think of Type 1 as something that only begins when you are a juvenile. I, and many others, are living proof that is not true.

With all the irony that brings, here is my original post:

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.

Cheerios (corn starch and sugar) for breakfast

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!

My hospital discharge papers provided no diet change recommendations

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….

30-day tracking of my blood sugar and the number of carbohydrates I consumed

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.

  1. 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!)
  2. Week 5-8: Low Carb High Fat (a.k.a. LCHF, ketogenic, Atkins, Paleo) – Limited Success
  3. 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.

Salmon, Veggies, Rice on a Plate
Example of healthy portion control

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.


    • Hi Lisa. I’m so glad you found my post helpful! With patience and willpower, you can control this. I hope my next blog post will be helpful for you too. Stay strong! ❤️

  1. Hi Libby…

    Sorry to read that you have to deal with this, but how you are doing so is inspirational.

    I hope it doesn’t cause you to leave the hotel living life. If all goes to plan, late this year we’ll be giving up our place, putting stuff in storage, loading up the dog in the jalopy and following in your footsteps.

    We’ve also starting eating vegetarian ~5 days a week. We’ve found some great recipes and enjoy our meals just as much. Plus, we are feeling better and losing some weight.

    BTW, I see you just subscribed to my blog. Cool beans, and welcome!

    • Wow, we have much in common. It would be fun to meet up with you guys sometime when we’re all wandering in the same area.
      BTW, I thought I was subscribed already, but I noticed I wasn’t yesterday. Your blog is great!

        • My work often takes me to California, and my husband and I both like the Pacific Northwest. So somewhere along the Pacific Ocean is likely. I’m leaning more towards continuing the hotel lifestyle though. I’ll share my thoughts on that soon.

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