But you’re a Diabetic…..
”Can you eat that?”, when I was first diagnosed that was all I heard, from everybody. No matter where I was eating, with whom I was eating the same question. I know everybody means well but it does become infuriating.
That’s why I am writing this piece, any diabetics reading this will probably already fully understand what I am writing, this is more for the non diabetics to read. Hopefully giving a little insight into what this diabetes thing is all about.
The fact of the matter is, unless it is rat poison, we can eat exactly the same as everybody else in the world. Having type 1 diabetes just means we need a bit more thought about what goes in our mouths.
The public image of diabetes in the UK is ” you mustn’t eat cakes and sugary things”……wrong. We can eat cakes and sweets the same as you, just not in excess, in fact neither should a non diabetic eat these in excess.
In truth the things us diabetics need to keep an eye on is the carbohydrate content of our diet. Carbs appear in almost everything we eat. Rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, carrots, cakes, chocolate even fruit juice. The little buggers are everywhere, and most of them will turn to sugar and raise our blood sugar levels.
The one food we CAN’T eat
One thing I can’t eat is diabetic chocolate, or any food which is labelled diabetic.
It is our pancreas’ which are broken, not our tastebuds!!
These foods are still really high in carbohydrate and will effect blood sugars in the same way normal food does, and has the added bonus of being a laxative!!
Controlling my blood sugar
For me to control my blood sugar levels I have to inject insulin. The amount of insulin I need varies on the carbohydrate content of the food I am eating. I work this out by using my insulin to carb ratio. For me I need more insulin per 10g of carbs first thing in the morning than I do for the rest of the day. My ratios today are
Breakfast – 1 unit of insulin covers 10g of carbs
Lunch – 1 unit of insulin covers 15g of carbs
Dinner – 1 unit of insulin covers 12g carbs
So if my breakfast is 30g carbs I am going to need 3 units of insulin to eat that meal and maintain some kind of blood sugar control. The same meal at lunchtime would only need 2 units of insulin, taking 3 would cause me to have a hypo later in the day.
As you can see it isn’t a case of just stick insulin in 3 times a day, there is quite a lot more to it than that if I want to have good control and lead a long healthy life. This is why I might be using my phone at the dinner table, if I dont know the carb content of a food Google will!!
The only way I know the ratios to use and what to eat is by experience. When I was diagnosed I didn’t know how many carbs were in one finger of a Twix, 12g by the way, or how much insulin that would need at dinner time, 1 unit by the way. I experimented and worked out what works for me. Please do not think these ratios will work for everybody. In fact they work for me this week, but next week it could all change again. Its just one of the many curve balls diabetes chucks at us daily.
Can carbs count
Carbohydrates are what the body uses to make its primary source of energy, a fuel if you like. On average you will probably be consuming around 300g of carbs a day as a non diabetic. For me I eat a medium carb diet and limit myself to 120g a day. That won’t work for all diabetics, but for me it works pretty well.
Almost everything we eat will have a carbohydrate content of some sort, and as a diabetic I have become pretty good at knowing the carb content of most foods.
A non diabetic may think a nice plate of mashed potato with some carrots and a small piece of steak and kidney pie is quite a balanced meal. In many ways it is, but for me that would be 3/4 of my whole days carbohydrate intake, around 75g of carbs at a guess. Therefore I would make some food swaps on that plate to lower the carb content of the meal slightly, thus making it easier for me to control my blood sugars. It doesn’t mean I can’t eat it, it means I’m choosing to eat a lower carb version. Swap out the mashed potato for something else and it helps massively.
A great resource for counting the carb content of foods is the ➡ Carbs and Cals app
Please do have a look at my blogs on food swaps, where I talk about the diet I eat and what foods I choose to avoid.
Take care, carbs are everywhere
Please sponsor me to help Diabetes UK – ➡ London Bridges Challenge