Managing type 1 diabetes is challenging, especially when you’re trying to get back on track during this post-holiday stretch of winter. Seasonal bashes and winter weather can make it harder to keep blood sugar steady. With spring approaching (and March being National Nutrition Month!), now is a great time to evaluate your health and focus on what you want to improve. Here are five ways you can implement healthy changes on a daily basis, according to Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, MS, RDN, LDN, NASM-CPT, a registered dietitian in the Adult Clinic at Joslin Diabetes Center.
As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. “If you don’t plan ahead you’re going to get a lot of unwanted surprises,” says Anderson-Haynes. How many times did you go to a cocktail party hungry, or starve yourself all day, only to overeat at dinner? Like many people, you probably struggle to stick to your eating plan at times.
Better diabetes control starts by applying diabetes knowledge to everyday situations. For example, using a carb counter app can be extremely helpful. This tool will help you control your consumption of carbs and fat, whether you’re eating at home or in a restaurant.
Do you have a relationship with a registered dietitian? If you don’t, it’s time to talk to one about type 1 diabetes management and your diet. “Get the information you need and make that a routine part of everything you do,” says Anderson-Haynes. “Once you have this knowledge and skill base, you’ll be able to face every situation with confidence, including holidays.”
Enjoy your food
You know you have to watch what you eat, but you also want to be able to enjoy the foods you like on special occasions. “Since you want your carbs to count, when you go to a party or restaurant, try something you love or a food that you normally don’t have,” says Anderson-Haynes. Sometimes you’re better off with a small portion of something that brings you pleasure than a large portion of something you eat just to satisfy hunger.
Have you ever looked down at an empty bag of chips, only to realize you can’t recall eating them? Many people eat too quickly, and, as a result, overeat, especially in certain stressful situations, says Anderson-Haynes. Take smaller bites and put down your fork several times during a meal. When you finish eating, move away from the table. That way, you won’t be pressured to continue eating.
Indulge now and then
Most people can fit an occasional dessert into their meal plan. “If you know your carb goal is 60 grams per meal, you can probably fit dessert in easily, keeping in mind that some desserts can be 30-plus grams of carbs per serving,” says Anderson-Haynes. It’s more about compromise than an all-or-nothing approach. If you’re going to a party and want to indulge a little, adjust your eating plan during the day.
If you don’t want to worry about your blood glucose going too high on special occasions, stick to portions you eat on a regular basis, says Anderson-Haynes. Since larger portions usually mean higher blood glucose, practicing portion control at home is key. Know what a cup of rice or potatoes looks like. And focus on getting carbs from healthy sources such as whole grains, starchy vegetables, legumes and dairy.
In general, we tell people to check their blood glucose more frequently during celebrations when they anticipate a change from their regular routine, says Anderson-Haynes. “If it’s a little high, you can go for a walk. Also, make sure you follow your insulin plan, whether that be taking a correction insulin dose or following a sliding scale given to you by your provider,” she says. “If you have serious high blood glucose (hyperglycemia), and you can’t normalize it, especially if your blood glucose is over 250 with positive ketones, take it seriously. Call the clinic or your provider, or go to the emergency room.”