It's tempting -- and even sounds logical -- to skip meals: You're busy, you're not hungry, you're trying to lose weight, or your blood sugar is too high. Skipping meals, however, may actually increase your blood sugar and cause you to gain weight. Here are seven rewards of eating regularly scheduled meals when you live with diabetes.
Reward 1: Improve fasting blood glucose numbers.
During sleep, when you're not eating, the liver sends more glucose into the blood to fuel the body. For many people during the early years of having type 2 diabetes, the liver doesn't realize there is already more than enough glucose present. "Your morning (fasting) blood sugars have much more to do with your liver and hormonal functions than what you ate for dinner last night," says Kathaleen Briggs Early, Ph.D., RD, CDE, assistant professor of biochemistry and nutrition at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima, Washington
Real-life example: Until recently, if Cheryl Simpson's blood glucose meter flashed a high reading before breakfast, she might delay eating until midafternoon in an attempt to lower that number. Now Cheryl, PWD type 2, won't leave home without eating breakfast. Her blood glucose numbers have improved. "Plus, eating breakfast makes it a whole lot easier to make good food choices later on," she says.
Reward 2: Stay off the blood sugar roller coaster.
Irregular eating can have you "bouncing back and forth between normal blood sugars and high blood sugars," Early says. A meager meal can give you a meager rise in blood sugar. If you take one or more blood glucose-lowering medications that can cause low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), skipping meals or eating too little can increase the risk. Spreading out foods, especially carb-containing foods, over three meals each day (and snacks if you want them) can help maintain steady blood sugar levels.
Real-life example: Cheryl, PWD type 2, would make her way through the meat, the vegetables, and each of the rice and noodle dishes at a Chinese buffet before topping off the meal with ice cream. She thought a big meal wouldn't hurt as long as she held back at other meals that day. Cheryl now understands the damage done by a big glucose spike after a big meal and that splurging won’t prevent hypoglycemia if she skimps at another meal.
Tip: If your meal is delayed and you’re worried about low blood sugar due to the medication you take, choose a snack with about 15 grams of carb, such as a small box of raisins or handful of pretzels. If you’re at risk of experiencing hypoglycemia frequently, always try to carry one or two portions of 15 grams of carb.
Reward 3: Fight fatigue and boost energy.
Eating meals spaced throughout the day provides a consistent fuel source and can help combat the feeling of fatigue. For people who want to snack, a small amount of carbohydrate can help keep energy levels up, and including protein will help you feel full.
Snacks that contain some carbohydrate and protein are:
• 1/2 cup carrot sticks and 2 tablespoons hummus
• 1/2 cup cantaloupe and 1/2 cup cottage cheese
• 1 small apple and 12 almonds
• 1 small apple and 1 string cheese
• 1/2 cup banana slices and 1 tablespoon peanut butter
Real-life example: Cheryl, PWD type 2, has a little more kick in her step now that she doesn't skip meals. She didn't realize how drained she felt every day until she started feeling better. Along with other eating changes, spreading out her foods has helped her accomplish more throughout the day.
Tip: Tired or thirsty? A glass of water and a bit of exercise may help you beat fatigue (with no added calories).