Skipping meals could potentially push your blood glucose higher. When you don't eat for several hours because of sleep or other reasons, your body fuels itself on glucose released from the liver. For many people with type 2 diabetes (PWDs type 2), the liver doesn't properly sense that the blood has ample glucose already, so it continues to pour out more. Eating something with a little carbohydrate signals the liver to stop sending glucose into the bloodstream and can tamp down high numbers.
Skipping meals can also lead to overeating, which can cause an increase in weight. And if you take certain diabetes medications that stimulate the body's own insulin such as common sulfonylureas, or you take insulin with injections or a pump, you risk having your blood glucose drop too low when you skip or delay meals.
Low-carb diets "are not balanced and deprive the body of needed fiber, vitamins, and minerals," says Constance Brown-Riggs, M.S.Ed, R.D., CDE, CDN, author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes (Career Press, 2010). Recently, Brown-Riggs counseled a PWD type 2 who ate very little carbohydrate. The result: poor energy and severe headaches. Brown-Riggs helped the person balance out his meal plan by suggesting fruits, grains, and other carb-containing foods. "His headaches subsided, his energy level was restored, and he was happy to learn that he could eat healthy sources of carbohydrate and manage his blood glucose levels successfully," Brown-Riggs says. The keys to success are to manage portions of all foods, spread your food out over your day, and work with your health care team to devise an individualized meal, activity, and medication plan.
Eating Pasta Al Dente
It is best to eat your spaghetti al dente, says David J. A. Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., Canada research chair in nutrition and metabolism at the University of Toronto and St. Michael's Hospital. Overcooked pasta and other starches become soft, lose their form, and give up their glucose more readily, likely giving you a bigger rise in blood glucose, he says.
"The real problem with pasta is that it's so palatable," and you may eat more than you intend, says Jenkins. A cupful of pasta provides as many calories and carb grams as three slices of bread, and the pasta goes down faster. Jenkins' advice: Cook starchy foods adequately, but avoid overcooking. Most important, control portions and count the calories and carb grams.
Adding Diabetes Shakes and Bars to Meals
Shakes or bars made specifically for people with diabetes can help you control blood glucose levels when you're on the go, says Brown-Riggs. "When used as a meal replacement or snack, they take the guesswork out of carb counting," she says. Toss them in your purse, suitcase, or desk drawer so you'll always have a suitable choice when you're stuck in traffic or can't break for lunch. But if you fall into the trap of eating them in addition to your usual meals or snacks, both your weight and your blood glucose could climb. You have to swap them for other foods, or your calorie and carbohydrate intake will likely be too high.