When my daughter was first diagnosed with diabetes she had a very strict meal plan. It specified exact portion sizes of starch, fruit, milk, protein and vegetables for all 6 meals and snacks every day. Getting particular servings of particular foods into a toddler was, as I've explained before, awful. But this was during the dark ages of NPH insulin. To avoid dangerous low blood sugars it had to be done.
Fast forward 11 years. My daughter has an insulin pump and the flexibility to vary her carbohydrate intake from day to day. Yet, as we were reminded this week, sticking to a general food routine has its benefits.
The installation of braces has altered the meal plan at our house. Smoothies, soups, applesauce and hot cereals have replaced many more standard meals in the past week or so. We've learned that, for my daughter at least (everybody's diabetes is different!), protein is important.
The vegetable soup with just a few chick peas was soft and delicious. The resulting low blood sugar necessitated 10 p.m. juice. To make things worse, the juice had to be sucked down through the orthodontic head gear, challenging at any time but particularly when half asleep.
The lunch of coconut milk yogurt and applesauce went down easily. But so did her blood sugar.
You physiology experts out there will already be aware that when we consume protein and carbohydrates together, the body digests the carbohydrates more slowly. This slower rate of absorption stabilizes the blood sugar over a longer term.
For years now, with very few exceptions, my daughter's main meals have contained some combination of protein and carbohydrates. Therefore her carbohydrate ratios and even likely her basal rates are contingent on both being in the digestion mix. Without protein, we saw quick drops in blood sugars after meals. It was an interesting, if annoying, science experiment.
This week has been better. She's chewing more easily. The crock pot is in action, making things tender. The protein-free coconut yogurts have been replaced with protein-rich soy ones. The scary post-meal drops have subsided.
The moral of the story is this: Though we're told (and often loudly proclaim) that people with diabetes can eat anything they want as long as they bolus for it, we find that sticking with a general meal routine leads to more stable and safer blood sugars.