High-fat meals. An occasional high-fat meal is almost inevitable. If you know it’s coming, you might plan for it by keeping your other meals for the day moderate in fat content (but don’t skimp on meals or you’re likely to overeat later). You can also keep portion control in mind at the meal and try to keep yours small.
Some people find that a high-fat meal such as pizza raises blood glucose level later in the day, and many people who use insulin have learned to compensate with larger doses of mealtime insulin. Before trying this, it’s important to establish that a given meal or amount of fat actually does raise blood glucose, and it’s advisable to work with your dietitian or doctor when changing insulin doses.
Fast food. In general, fast food is high in fat and sodium and low in vitamins and fiber, so it’s not recommended as a diet staple. However, sometimes it may be all you’ve got. When that’s the case, you can still limit the damage by ordering smaller (not super-size) items and going easy on condiments and side dishes. If you must eat at fast-food restaurants regularly, ask for a copy of the restaurant’s nutrition information, and choose menu items that fit your meal plan as closely as possible.
Unplanned carbohydrate. Maybe you ate it by accident or maybe you couldn’t resist a treat you hadn’t planned for. Whatever the case, now your blood glucose is high. What do you do? Most of the time, all you can do is learn from the experience and try not to repeat it in the future. Your doctor or dietitian may have other suggestions for handling this situation.
An occasional diversion from your meal plan shouldn’t cause great harm, but if you start having frequent high blood glucose readings, your weight starts creeping up, or your glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) test results start increasing, it’s probably time to pay closer attention to what you’re eating.
Making meal planning manageable
Learning to add color, variety, and flavor to your meals definitely takes some work, but it’s worth it if it makes it easier to control your diabetes and enjoy your meals. Here are some tips for keeping meals interesting and meal-planning manageable:
- Plan meals and read recipes when you have some free time and are not hungry.
- Have some old standbys — that is, menus you like and have already analyzed for nutrient content — ready for when you’re in a rush or low on energy.
- Keep your kitchen stocked with shelf-stable basics and a variety of condiments and flavorings so you can put meals together quickly.
- Make sure you have an accurate set of measuring cups and spoons, and use them to measure portions.
- Keep your meal plan and any reference tools you use handy (perhaps posted on the refrigerator) so you can determine the size of a serving in a jiffy.
- Buy a new cookbook from time to time. There are many cookbooks written specifically for people with diabetes that have a nutrient analysis for each recipe, saving you from doing a lot of arithmetic to figure out how many grams of carbohydrate or other nutrients are in a serving.
- If it’s the planning you dislike the most, shop around for a cookbook written for people with diabetes that suggests complete menus, not just individual recipes. Make sure the one you choose provides the calorie, carbohydrate, protein, fat, and sodium totals for the entire menu.
- For positive reinforcement, check your blood glucose level about two hours after the start of a meal, particularly if measuring out portions or limiting the size of your food servings sounds restrictive. You should be pleasantly surprised by blood glucose measurements in the range determined by you and your health-care provider. Many people are also able to lose some weight by sticking to moderate portion sizes.