Hello, I'm a type 1 diabetic and I'm concerned that eating throughout the day, as my doctors recommend to maintain my blood sugar, is causing me to gain weight. If I don't eat regularly all day then my blood sugar gets low, however I feel like I'm eating too often and adding on pounds. What should I do?

It is good that you are concerned about your diet and also concerned about unwanted weight gain. I think your doctors are correct in that eating at set intervals all throughout the day is the best way to prevent low dips in blood sugar followed by high peaks in glucose numbers. Consistent eating can allow blood sugar to never get too low. Now ask yourself: what exactly am I eating all throughout the day? Someone monitoring blood sugar and eating often may be at risk for weight gain if she is not careful and chooses foods that are very high in calories and protein. For example, one that eats consistently but chooses foods like French fries, doughnuts, milkshakes, supreme pizza, fettuccini alfredo, etc. may gain weight because too many calories are coming in and not enough are being expended.

You have the right thinking though. Consistent and healthy meals and snacks are essential to maintaining optimal blood sugar levels. Now you just have to make sure you are staying in your caloric range while still choosing a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. I first advise you to determine what your calorie goals are. To start, you may wish to check out the Old Orchard website. From there go to “Health Resources” and then “Health Calculators” and then click on “Nutritional Needs”. This will allow you to plug in your personal information and obtain an approximate calorie goal to shoot for. From there determine your carbohydrate needs (as this will most impact your blood sugar levels). The general rule of thumb is to figure 50-60% of your total calorie needs will come from healthy carbohydrate choices (so someone taking in a 1600 calorie diet will need roughly 800 calories from carbohydrates. Each “serving” of carbohydrate is around 15 grams…so figure around 45 grams of carbohydrate per meal—or 3 servings).

Now is the time to begin to plan ahead. A healthy meal plan can consist of frequent meals and snacks, but still be lower in calories, fat, and salt but higher in fiber, vitamins, and flavor. Consider breakfast first. Choose one that contains a variety of foods (carbohydrates, fats, proteins). For example, choose a cereal high in fiber like one from the Kashi brand, which generally contains protein also. Always start meals by reviewing the label and determine what amount is one serving. Measure out the portion, top with reduced fat milk, a few blueberries and side it with a scrambled egg. That way you are getting a variety of nutrients in one meal. From there choose healthy snacks between your meals. I suggest ones that are higher in fiber. That way you will stay fuller longer and it will help prevent you from taking in too many calories (but remember to continue to monitor servings of carbohydrate per snack and meal as to not exceed your limit). Try a small low fat yogurt and fruit smoothie, a slice of reduced calorie toast with a little peanut butter and banana slices, a handful of trail mix, carrot sticks paired with hummus, reduced fat popcorn or a reduced sugar protein bar. For meals, the American Diabetes Association suggests that you “Create your Plate”. Cut your plate down the middle and then on one side divide it into two, so you have three unequal portions. Fill the largest portion with a non starchy vegetable (broccoli, spinach, onion, cucumber) and then fill a small section with a high fiber starchy food such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, cooked beans or sweet potato). The last portion can contain your meat or meat substitutes. For a calorie savings remember that a deck of cards (3 oz) in considered a portion of meat, and choose lean meats like fish, turkey, and boneless/skinless chicken.

A person with diabetes can follow a healthy diet that can not only help control blood sugar levels but also help you control your weight. It will take a little extra time and planning, but once you get started you will automatically get to know what portion sizes look like and you will become good at meal planning. Getting your whole family involved will not only be good for them, it will help you out in the process as well!

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