Diabetes First Steps

When I found out I had diabetes, it was a complete kick in the gut. Diabetes did not run in our family, I've had little to no contact with it and had zero knowledge. Luckily my doctor recommended a diabetes class and I immediately signed up. If this was something I had, I needed to research the heck out of it and learn how to live with it. Knowledge is power, right?

While I waited for the class, I checked with Dr. Google. I felt certain that there were hard rules that needed to be followed and I was going to follow them to the letter and kick diabetes ass. Grrhh!

What I learned is this: there are no hard and fast rules. Let me say that again; there are no hard and fast rules for managing diabetes care.

There are a million experts on the subject and with Dr. Google on your side, you'll probably find every one of them. You will also find information that contradicts just about each of those rules. What do you follow? It's very, very confusing.

If you've been recently diagnosed, I want to give you a little bit of solid information that I've learned. I'll put it in plain-speak and what I know to be true. But always, always, always, consult your doctor. Diabetes is a continuing dialog with him/her and he/she is always the best source for information. Really.


You need to learn how to manage food

This is not something I knew much about and still feel that I don't know what I should. But, since my diagnosis, everybody was telling me what I should do: total vegetarian, Keto, Paleo... awk!!


I heard that gasp but listen to why you shouldn't change anything yet. Keep reading, please.

More than likely, your doctor has recommended a diabetes class and/or nutritionist. They possess key information that you will need to embark on this journey successfully. They will tell you what to eat, when to eat, what to look for, what to run away from. Until you get that information, you simply cannot make an informed decision.

Now, if you're anything like me, you're still going to visit Dr. Google the first chance you get. Ok fine, be that way. Here's a little something you should know:

Your well-intentioned friends are telling you that carbs are the devil. After all, carbs make you fat, right? Not necessarily.

The American diet is rich with over-processed, sugar-laden "food" that have a boatload of carbs. The balance between how much insulin is in your body and the carbohydrates you eat makes a difference in your blood glucose levels.

Learn more about how carbs impact a diabetic's body, different types of carbs and more from the American Diabetes Association.



Carb counting is a real thing

And you're going to get very good at it. And that's ok. Really. Once you get the hang of it, it's fast and relatively simple. You will find a way that works best for you - it may be a bit of this and a bit of that. Perfect. You do you.

A diabetic should only consume a certain number of carbs per day. You will be told by either your doctor or in your diabetes class/nutritionist visit what your magic number is. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends 45–60 grams per meal and 10–25 grams per snack, totaling about 135–230 grams of carbs per day. I've heard whispers that this number is now changing and less carbs per day is recommended.

Have I told you to go with what your doctor/nutritionist/class recommends? I can't stress that enough.

I was told that I should have 30-40 grams per meal. They did not give me a snack option so I do 30 grams per meal and this allows room for light snacking.


I have my carb numbers, now what??

This is the part that trips everyone up. Well, ok, it tripped ME up. How the heck was I going to eat with my numbers??

Unfortunately, my diabetic class didn't really answer this question for me, they were too general. I'm the trifecta where I'm #1 diabetic and #2 overweight along with #3 high blood pressure. Winner-winner-chicken-dinner!

I need to lose weight, keep my carb numbers in check and try to lower my blood pressure. Talk about an "oh crap" situation!

Don't fret. I found an answer and I'll share. I'm nice like that.

ANSWER: MyFitnessPal

I found out about them on another of my "I'm going to get skinny and live happily ever after" binges (that didn't work).

With MyFitnessPal (free app available), you can enter a food for a meal and it will tell you how many calories it is, how many carbs, how much sodium, fiber, potassium.... more information that you probably want to know.

Better still, what if you have a recipe for Grandma's pot roast that you just love and are afraid you can't have any more? You can enter the recipe into MyFitnessPal and it will tell you the same information!


If you find a website that has tons of yummy looking recipes and you don't know if you can have them now? You can insert the link into the recipes section and it will tell you!

mfp-nutrition label.jpg

The red box lists the total carbs.

(Photo shown is from the website, appearance changes in the application)


sugar - how do i sweeten things now??

Welcome to the great debate. If you think I'm going to provide you with an easy, one-size-fits-all answer, you are sadly mistaken. I can tell you what I use and why. 

First, since I have to watch what I eat, since I don't have teenagers around to eat me out of house and home so I can spend a little more on food, I try to eat somewhat clean. Clean to me = less processed, more natural, organic where I can and when it makes sense, etc. Do I always manage to do this? Oh, heck no. But it's a brain worm, back there wiggling around.

As always, we need to check out what the ingredients and carbs are on our sweeteners. Some are higher than you'd think and I've realized that while "clean" it's still off of my list. Honey is a great example of this. I'll use it but in a limited capacity.

Body Unburdened does a great job of explaining more clean type of sweeteners. Most of them are quite wonderful until you check out the carb count. That usually eliminates quite a few.

Crunch Betty explains about sugar alcohols, xylitol in particular. So, watch for carbs, watch for sugar alcohols.

Are you with me so far?

I looked toward Keto blogs to see what they used for sugar. KetoDietBlog had a lot of useful information. It's a good read and I took away a lot of useful information from it. For example: " Commercially available Stevia-based sweeteners are NuNaturals, SweetLeaf and other.... Beware of sweeteners, especially powdered stevia products, that may additionally contain artificial sweeteners, dextrose, maltodextrin (e.g. Stevia in the Raw) or even sugar. Sweeteners with dextrose and maltodextrin are known to raise blood sugar. These may be hidden carbs... Also, Dextrose is usually made from GMO corn while Maltodextrin is made from rice and may contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) which is not required by law to be labeled."

Important learning right there! Again, read the nutrition label.

You're going to have to research yourself by reading, trial and error to see what works for you. What I use in my recipes is SweetLeaf Organic Stevia, brown sugar, raw honey and maple syrup. The rest I stay away from.

Note: The content above is not to take the place of your doctor's consult.