Many people with diabetes cringe when they hear the words low carb diet. But I speak to you now from personal experience, it’s not such a difficult diet. It may not be as easy as a pure chocolate diet, but once you get going it gets easier each day.
How I started a low carb diet
I’m not a medical professional or nutrition expert of any sort, and the advice I’m sharing is based on my own experience (and success). I started following a low carb diet because through trial and error I saw how much easier it was to manage my blood glucose when I didn’t eat carbs. And, when I thought about what it really means to have diabetes, the low carb diet made perfect sense. If my body can’t process carbohydrates, I shouldn’t be filling it with them. I worried, though. What would life be like without carbs? My diet consisted mostly of carbs. I couldn’t really imagine not eating them.
I knew if were to wake up one morning and stop eating everything I loved, I’d be hungry and cranky. So, I came up with a plan to give up carbs gradually and turned into a low carber with ease. Below are the steps that helped me. If you are considering a low carb diet, I hope they’ll help you, too. And remember, if you make changes to your diet, you will need to adjust your diabetes medication. Consult your doctor or medical professional before starting this or any other diet.
1. I eliminated sugar. White. Brown. High Fructose Corn Syrup.
If I could do this, I could do anything.
This step taught me to read labels carefully, ask about what’s in the food I was being served, and made me aware of how much ‘hidden’ sugar is out there. I took my time doing this, and didn’t push myself to move forward with the rest of my diet until I was mentally ready.
The first step alone – cutting out sugar – led to weight loss and better blood sugar levels, and still allowed me to eat carbs whenever I wanted, just not sweet carbs. I tried not to swap sugar for other sweeteners. The idea was to get my body used to eating food that wasn’t sweet. When I had cravings for sweets, I tried to satisfy them with fruit. I swapped my morning bowl of cereal for plain yogurt with nuts and berries. I started eating eggs for breakfast.
2. I ate at home.
I tried to eat at home as often as possible, and avoid temptation. The first few weeks without sugar were hard, so I didn’t buy my coffee in bakeries. I didn’t walk down the cookie aisle in the supermarket.
This step required a certain amount of anti-social behavoir. It meant saying “no” when my friends invited me over. As my body adjusted, however, temptation wasn’t a big issue. I went back to my normal routine, and stopped stressing about what I could or couldn’t eat.
3. I cut out white flour.
This step moved me into the world of whole grains. I tried to stick to grains (pseudo-cereals) with a lower GI like quinoa and buckwheat. Occasionally, I ate low carb bread or a small portion of whole wheat pasta. I increased my veggie intake. Roasted cauliflower, green beans, broccoli, spinach, green salad… I tried to have at least one veggie at every meal. Yes, you can eat veggies for breakfast!
4. I cut out white rice, and rarely ate brown rice.
5. No more potatoes. (French fries count as potatoes!)
I still ate small amounts of sweet potatoes, along with non-starchy vegetables.
6. I reduced grain intake even more.
By this point I had significantly reduced my intake of carbohydrates. I started to focus on cutting back on all carbs. I snacked on nuts. If I ate a sandwich, I ate only open-faced to minimize bread intake. I took even smaller portions of whole wheat pasta or brown rice. I began to add fat to my diet to avoid feeling hungry. Fatty cheese. Spinach in cream and butter. Nut butters. Lots of them.
7. I stopped eating corn (even popcorn).
8. I reduced whole grain intake to only once a day.
9. I carried almonds with me everywhere. I began to think of them as part of my diabetes treatment. A perfect snack.
12. Glucose tablets, not food, to treat lows. I realized a low doesn’t mean eating everything in sight.
13. I stopped eating after dinner. I did my best to eat enough at dinner so that I didn’t want to eat again at 10:00 p.m. This rule kept me from going to bed with high blood sugar, or needing to take insulin late at night.
14. I ignored all the people telling me I was eating too much cheese.
15. Fruit. I set limits. I ate berries instead of grapes. Half an apple. No bananas. I embraced the cucumber as a quick snack.
And that was it. I’d done it. Over a few months, I’d transitioned to a low carb diet fairly painlessly. When it got tough along the way I reminded myself that this was about feeling better, and making blood glucose easier to manage. It was not a punishment. If I had an intense craving, I didn’t feel bad if I gave into it. I still don’t. Because some days really do require chocolate chip cookies.
The information I’ve shared here is what has worked for me. I love to eat salads and vegetables. I can go a long way on a few spoonfuls of almond butter mixed into yogurt. If you eat meat, eggs and chicken, this will be a breeze. If you don’t, you need to find good sources of protein. Now start visiting all the amazing low carb food blogs out there, like this one, and get advice from the pros. You’ll realize eating low carb doesn’t mean you’re deprived.