Control portions, remember meds, prevent snack attacks and more.
Readers with years of experience living with diabetes share tips for overcoming everyday challenges that can wreak havoc on blood sugar control.
Diabetes challenge: restaurant binges
“If I’m eating at a restaurant, I always ask for a to-go container when they serve my meal, and I’ll put away half the food before I take a single bite,” says Karen Travis from Hunt Valley, MD. “It’s a simple way to prevent overeating—and it saves you money, to boot!”
Expert tip: Portion control is essential for people with diabetes, says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, an endocrinologist from the Endocrinology and Metabolism Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “Separating your food from the start is a great way to accomplish it. As many people know, stopping halfway through sometimes isn’t realistic!”
Diabetes challenge: counting carbs
“I started using a carb-counting app,” says Karen. “Even after 20 years of diabetes, this has been a great help in making my counts more accurate.”
Expert tip: Stephanie Dunbar, MPH, RD, director of clinical affairs at the American Diabetes Association, says “technology is a great friend to people with diabetes. “For instance, you can check out a restaurant’s menu before you go so you can start thinking about what healthy meals to order.” Download a carb-counting app like Carbs & Cals for iPhone, or Carb Counting with Lenny for both iPhone and Android.
Diabetes challenge: remembering to take your medication
“Injections just weren’t working for me, so my doctor recommended the pump,” notes Karen. “If needles or the pump don’t work for you, you can try the pen, too—there are options out there!”
Expert tip: “The important thing is to find the device that works for you so you can stay on top of your blood sugar,” says Dr. Hatipoglu.
Diabetes challenge: sudden snack attacks
“When hunger strikes, a snack of about 10 almonds or a few pecans really fills me up and will not affect my blood sugar levels,” says Kim Kircher of Crystal Mountain, WA. “I can grab them and go without having to think or worry about my numbers. Plus, they keep me full for a while so I don’t overeat later!”
Expert tip: “Nuts are a great snack for people with diabetes,” says Dunbar. “They are low in carbohydrates and are loaded with healthy fats to help curb your hunger.”
Diabetes challenge: feeling deprived
“It’s so important to find little ways to treat yourself so you don’t binge, and I’ve discovered that dark chocolate does not affect my blood sugar as much as other sweets. So when I need a little treat, I reach for one, maybe two, squares of dark chocolate, and I never need extra insulin.”
Expert tip: According to Dr. Hatipoglu, cocoa is known to contain healthy flavonoids that are anti-inflammatory. “Go for chocolate that’s around 80% dark—the higher the cocoa content, the richer it is in flavonoids,” he says.
Diabetes challenge: missing favorite foods
Noreen Campbell of Broken Arrow, OK, substitutes fat-free chicken or veggie broth in place of high-sodium bouillon cubes. “And the low- or no-sugar versions of things are no-brainers—most of the time you can’t tell the difference in taste at all,” she adds.
Expert tip: “Learning to substitute is an important skill for someone with diabetes,” says Dr. Hatipoglu. “It will bring you closer to a healthier life.”
Diabetes challenge: keeping medications stocked
“I’m super-busy like most people, so I use my smartphone’s calendar to keep me on track with my meds,” explains Noreen.
Expert tip: “If you don’t have a smart phone, use a desk calendar to write down reminders,” suggests Dr. Hatipoglu.
Diabetes challenge: soda cravings
“When I find myself reaching for cola, I’ll slice up something colorful—like berries or kiwi or cucumbers—and add it to water,” says Noreen. “It’s sweet, refreshing, looks beautiful and hydrates you!”
Expert tip: “Using fruit or veggies in water is a great trick to add flavor,” says Dunbar. “Any fruit will work. It will provide a refreshing lift without spiking blood sugar.”