Hey everyone! The American Diabetes Association just released new recommendations for physical activity for managing blood sugar and I figured I’d share them since I’m carb counting at the moment!
In addition to getting 30 minutes of activity most days of the week, they also recommend spending 3 minutes doing gentle movement for every 30 minutes you spend sitting. This helps send sugar from the blood into the cell and also improves circulation, which can be poor in people with diabetes.
Not sitting too long is a fantastic idea, but for me the biggest challenge is remembering to do it! I have heard about some apps that are designed to help you get up and move more often, so I think I’ll give those a shot this week to try it out. I’ll be testing out Move – Daily Activity to Stay Healthy that gives you specific little activities to do at regular intervals, and Stand Up! The Work Break Timer, which lets you select time intervals anywhere between 5 minutes and 2 hours while at work to remind you to get up and move.
Update: You can find my reviews of these two apps here.
I love pumpkin in the fall. Love it. Stereotypes be darned, I do not care. This scrumptious squash finds its way into curries, soups, muffins, cookies, pancakes, and steamers around my house as soon as the leaves start to turn.
Pumpkin takes a front seat in this seasonal smoothie that is filling, nutritious, and delectable. I started with the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie recipe here and modified it to boost the protein, control the carbs, and add some greens, because if you’re making a shake, why not add greens? You can’t taste them and it’s an easy-as-pie (…see what I did there?) way to get an extra serving of veggies.
Try it for a tasty breakfast that is (bonus!) carb-controlled, heart healthy, and contains servings from 4 different food groups.
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (you can definitely use dairy milk but carb-counters be aware it will add about 12 grams of carbohydrate)
1 handful spinach or kale
½ cup pureed pumpkin
¼ cup light vanilla Greek yogurt
1/8 cup plain whey protein (I love the bulk whey protein from Winco!)
½ medium banana
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp honey (or your sweetener of choice)
- Add almond milk and greens to blender. Blend for 30-60 seconds or until leaves have been completely blended and the mixture looks like green, frothy milk.
- Add remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Enjoy!
Makes 1 16-oz serving. Contains 303 calories, 35.1 g carbohydrate, 14.6 g protein, 2.9 g fat, 0.1 g saturated fat, and 251 mg sodium. Includes 1 serving dairy, 1 serving fruit, 1 serving vegetables, and 1.5 oz protein.
So far, we’ve covered carbohydrate counting as the primary method of managing blood sugars. It is by far the most important nutritional factor to pay attention to. There are, however, other lifestyle factors that affect blood sugar and are critical to know.
If you have diabetes, have a family history of diabetes, or just want to promote health and prevent chronic conditions, check out the list below to learn about the types of things that can affect blood sugar aside from your diet:
- Stress – This one is HUGE. Stress of many kinds raises levels of a hormone called cortisol that raises blood sugar (1). It’s important to keep in mind here that stress is more than mental and emotional stress (bills, relational issues, busy schedules…you get the picture). It also includes physiological stress (think chronic pain, poor sleep quality and/or quantity, infections, illness, etc) that may not come to mind when we think of the word stress. It is important to make a priority of identifying effective methods of managing stress by addressing the roots of these issues.
- Mental/emotional stress – The “best” methods of stress management vary for each person but good options include yoga, walking, meditation, deep breathing, and enjoyable hobbies. If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or trauma that causes ongoing stress, find a qualified counselor you trust to help you work through these very real and overwhelming conditions.
- Physiological stress – Pursue the root cause of your physiological stress. If you suffer from chronic pain, discuss pain management options with your doctor (there are many options beyond pain pills!) or talk with a Registered Dietitian who is knowledgeable about methods of eating to reduce inflammation. If you have poor sleep quality, practice good sleep hygiene habits and consider asking your doctor to have a sleep study done (especially if you snore!) to see if you might have a potentially serious condition called sleep apnea.
- Physical inactivity – Our bodies are designed to move and groove. Doing so activates receptors to let more sugar out of the blood and into the cell to make the extra energy we need for all that movement. My favorite part about the benefit of exercise for blood sugar is that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking, dancing, swimming, biking – whatever you like!) can improve blood sugars for 1-2 days afterward (2). Talk about return on your time investment!
- Inflammation – Inflammation is a type of stress, so I could have included it under physiological stressors, but it’s such a big deal I felt it deserved its own bullet point. Type 2 diabetes is an inflammatory disease, and inflammation is one of the causes of the insulin resistance that is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Reducing inflammation through exercise, anti-inflammatory eating, and achieving a healthful weight can significantly improve blood sugars (3).
Medications – Certain medications can raise blood sugar significantly in some people. This typically resolves after they stop taking the medications, but not always. For people with diabetes, these meds raise blood sugars even farther. Taking these medications is not always avoidable, but if you’re concerned about your blood sugars, check the side effects on any medications you take and discuss them with your doctor.
- Aronson, D. (2009) “Cortisol – Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy. Today’s Dietitian, 11(11). Retrieved from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml
- Colberg, SR, et al. (2010) “Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes: American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: Joint Position Statement.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42(12). Retrieved from http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/21084931.
- Shoelson S, Lee J, & Goldfine A. (2006) Inflammation and Insulin Resistance.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 116. Retrieved from http://www.jci.org/articles/view/29069?search%5Babstract_text%5D=&search%5Barticle_text%5D=&search%5Bauthors_text%5D=&search%5Bfpage%5D=1793&search%5Bissue%5D=&search%5Btitle_text%5D=&search%5Bvolume%5D=116.
Today ends week 1 on carbohydrate counting and I gotta tell ya, this is my favorite “diet” by far. It doesn’t even really feel like a diet. I mean, check out some of the awesome meals I got to eat!
I think part of the reason it feels easy is that I have taught the principles so many times that I didn’t have much of a learning curve as far as learning how to carb count. I could recite carbohydrate portion sizes in my sleep…as a matter of fact, I probably do. You’d have to ask my husband.
The greatest part about carb counting is that it is not very restrictive IF you are intentional about balancing your plate with non-carbohydrate foods. You can eat pretty much anything, the most important keys are how much and when. There have only been one or two times throughout the week when there was something I wanted more of but I had already run out of carbohydrates.
Carb counting feels more like a guardrail than a diet – there to guide me in the right direction and keep me from flying off a cliff on a carb binge.
The most difficult part has been boring beverages. Most of the time I would way rather spend my carbohydrates on food than on beverages, which leaves me with tea only rather than tea and juice with breakfast and water instead of milk or a glass of wine with dinner. Overall, not that big of a deal but I have to admit I do miss drinking a glass of milk in the evening.
Here are the details for my first week on carb counting:
|Carb Counting Goal||Week #1||Week #2||Week #3|
|# of days nutrition recommendations met||7||7 (yay!)|
|Average carbohydrate intake per meal||45-60 grams||52.4|
|Weight change||-2 lb|
|Grocery Budget Change||+18%|
Though this particular meal plan has been very flexible, I’m looking forward to carb counting on my own and seeing how well I can do flying solo!
Have you ever been following a “diet” and then been faced with that darn thing called life? I have!
Stress, donuts in the break room, or (like for me) date night can throw the best-laid plans out the window and then many people sit, riddled with guilt and feeling like a failure, wondering whether or not to throw their healthy goals out the window simply because they ate something their over-restrictive plan “didn’t allow.” That’s why I am all about focusing on including lots of nutritious choices, being aware of harmful foods and ingredients, and especially having a plan that includes the foods that make your life worth living!
Check out this great article written by a fellow RD about building a healthy relationship with food! I’m in agreement that the mental game of dieting and restriction can be just as destructive as poor eating habits!
“Yes, I’m a registered dietitian and I care deeply about nutritious, wholesome foods and eating. But I also wholeheartedly believe that there’s a time and a place for a treat.”
– RD Paige Smathers, quoted from KSL.com
For a little practice, here is the carbohydrate breakdown for the four meals and two snacks I’ve had so far. Remember that my goal is 45-60 grams carb (3-4 carb portions) per meal and 15 grams carb (1 carb portion) per snack:
3 oz meatloaf = 15 g carb (1 carb portion)
1 small dinner roll = 15 g carb (1 carb choice)
1/2 c. mashed potatoes = 15 g carb (1 carb choice)
1/3 c. cooked carrots = 7 g carb
1 c. green salad = 0 g carb
1 Tbsp light blue cheese dressing = 0 g carb
Total carbs = 52 grams carb (3.5 carb portions)
whole wheat English muffin = 30 g carb (2 carb portions)
1 Tbsp fresh ground peanut butter = 2.5 g carb
1/2 medium banana = 15 g carb (1 carb portion)
green tea (with my awesome Mr. Tea infuser!) with Stevia = 0 g carb
Total carbs = 47.5 grams (3 carb portions)
Tuesday Morning Snack
3/4 oz pretzels = 15 grams carb (1 carb portion)
2 slices whole wheat bread = 30 g carb (2 carb portions) 3 oz. turkey deli meat = 0 g carb
1 slice cheddar cheese = 0 g carb
2 leaves lettuce = 0 g carb
2 slices tomatoes = 0 g carb
1 Tbsp light mayo = 0 g carb
1 tsp Dijon mustard = 0 g carb
1 medium apple = 28 g carb (2 carb portions)
Total carbs = 58 grams (4 carb portions)
Tuesday Afternoon Snack
6 oz. light yogurt = 16 grams carb (1 carb portion)
1 c. chili w/lean ground beef = 22 g carb (1.5 carb portions)
1 oz. cornbread = 15 g carb (1 carb portion)
1 c. green salad = 0 g carb
1 Tbsp light ranch dressing = 0 g carb
1 Tbsp fat free sour cream = 0 g carb
1 Tbsp Smart Balance spread = 0 g carb
And I had plenty of carbs left so I topped it off with a square of Ghirardelli dark chocolate (7 g carb)!
Total Carbs = 44 grams carb (3 carb portions)
So far, so good! The food has been tasty and filling, and I haven’t felt restricted. I’m loving the flexibility of this meal plan!
Comment if you have any questions about how the carb counting works (or about anything else)!