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Posts from the ‘Diet and Food’ Category

McDave from the Plane.

“Were you saving these seats for us?”

I travel regularly for work, and because I’m usually on the road without my family, I end up in various discussions with strangers to fill the time.  Since my days as a breakfast waitress in college, I’ve always enjoyed those snippets of single-serving conversations.  Airplane travel can offer insight at 30,000 feet (sometimes from the pilot).

“Yes.  I’ve been waiting for you guys for hours,” I replied, standing up so that the couple could join me in row 9.

This was my introduction to Dave and his lovely wife.  Throughout the course of the flight from Orlando back up to Providence yesterday, I spent some quality time talking with these two and over-sharing to a frightening degree.

We talked about flying, and how none of us cared for it.  We talked about the Patriots and how mother  (and his wife) are hardcore fans.  We talked about how his daughter has been an extra in several films and TV shows.  And we talked a lot about food.  After a discussion about what I do for work and what brought me into the diabetes space (see also:  diagnosed 28 years ago, felt alone, founded a blog, found some friends), Dave admitted that his own diet could use a shift in priorities.

“We could eat better,” he said.

“We could eat a LOT better,” his wife said from the window seat, smiling ruefully.

“Everyone could eat better, but our fast-food society doesn’t exactly make it easy.  You have to go above and beyond to make sure you aren’t eating junk.  Junk is mainstream!  Think about how screwed up our perception of ‘breakfast’ is; we dump sugary syrup onto pastry-esque pancakes and call it a healthy meal.  That’s not a meal … it’s dessert!”  They nodded, and I realized I was on a mile-high soapbox.  “I’m so sorry.  Food stuff makes me ranty sometimes.  Like when I think about the kinds of foods marketed towards my daughter.  Chicken nuggets and french fries and sugar cererals.  Stuff is gross.”

“So she’s never had a Happy Meal from McDonald’s?” asked Dave, half mocking me, half actually asking.

“She’s had McDonald’s food two or three times in her life, but that’s it.  And no, she’s never had a Happy Meal.”

He laughed.  “You’re missing the chance to make her happy!  But not the food – I get that you don’t want to give her the food.  I used to make my own Happy Meals for my daughters.  I’d take a toy that they hadn’t played with in ages and pack it in with their lunch.  Instant Happy Meal!”

“That’s a good idea.  I like that.”

“Yeah.  Now you can write about it in your blog, right?  I want to be in there.  People would want to read more about me.”

His comments made me laugh.  “Sure.  I’ll write about you.  But the blog post has to have some kind of resolution, right?  Where we both promise to make changes and then we hold one another accountable?  Or is that taking it too far?” I asked him.

Dave thought for a minute.  “I can do that.  Listen, my wife and I will make a change.  We promise to eat something green with every meal.  A vegetable, like spinach or broccoli or squash.  Except that squash isn’t green, so we’ll have to be flexible with the color requirement.  But a vegetable with every meal.”  He made a fist and jabbed it towards the air with conviction.  “A vegetable with every meal!”

“And I promise to make my kid a happy meal, like the one you described.”

He handed me his business card and I promised to send him a link to the post once it was live.  (Hi, Dave!)  The plane landed and we all went our separate ways, resolute in our decision to make positive changes.

This morning, as I packed Birdy’s lunch for preschool, I put one of her small, forgotten toys in the lunch bag, alongside her healthy food options (and a crappy drawing of Loopy drinking a mug of steaming coffee).  I wondered what kind of vegetable Dave managed to work into his breakfast that morning, and smiled.

What’s the point of going through life without ever making eye contact, or making a connection?  Single-serving or not, I’m better for having sat next to Dave.

Practice Turkey.

Chris and I are both from big families with piles of aunts and uncles and cousins at every birthday party.  Part of being part of a flurry of people means big holiday gatherings, and Chris and I are prepping ourselves to start hosting some of the holidays.

Problem is, I’m a terrible cook.  Or, better stated:  an inexperienced cook.  Cooking hasn’t ever brought me joy or satisfaction, and I’m not interested in the time it takes to perfect a recipe.  I cook for form and functionality (read: make sure my family doesn’t survive on garlic salt and overripe bananas), not for fun.  I’m not good at making the effort to learn.

But if we want to start hosting holidays, we need to learn how to prepare some of the main courses.  Which brings me to the Practice Turkey:

Practice Turkey is currently taking up residence in our freezer, and my goal is to use him to teach myself how to properly prepare a whole turkey.  (Sidebar:  Animal is in our freezer because Birdy is afraid of him, but refuses to let us donate him or throw him out.  She wants him in the house, but entirely contained.  So he lives in our freezer and has been there about a year.  I always forget that he’s in there, until someone comes over to visit, opens the freezer, and subsequently goes, “OOH!!”) In the next week, my plan is to practice my culinary witchcraft on Practice Turkey so that when we host holidays this year, I’m not in a huge panic because I can be all, “Oh, the turkey?  I know how to do that.  I’m all over that!”

I need to actually do it in order to make sure I can do it.

Same goes for technology hiccups in my diabetes management plan.  I use an insulin pump and a CGM (hellooooo, disclosures), and with that convenience and data comes an influx of autonomy and the sacrifice of my autonomy, if that makes sense.  The devices give me a lot of flexibility and freedom, but if I rely on them too heavily, I forget how to manage my diabetes on my own.

I need to be my own Practice Turkey, relearning the details of diabetes.  I need to make sure I know how to calculate a bolus, check my blood sugar regularly by finger prick, and finagle basal insulin doses if my pump ever breaks, or if I ever want to take a CGM break, or if my will to wear devices breaks a little.  And over the last week, I’ve been on a bit of a device break (thank you, winter skin issues), realizing once again that a refresher course on how to drive the stick-shift version of my diabetes (so to speak) helps me take better care of myself overall.  Taking an injection before I eat makes me think twice about the food I’m putting into my body, and also help me remember to pre-bolus (because it’s a process, not just the push of a button).  Using the treadmill instead of a correction bolus to fix a 180 mg/dL keeps exercise fresh in my mind.  3 am checks aren’t always necessary, but doing a few of them helps me spot-check my overnight basal rates.  I appreciate my devices, but I needed a reminder on what they do for me, and how to continue to do for myself.

Practice (turkey) makes perfect.

[Also, today has been unofficially designated as a “day to check in” (hat tip to Chris Snider) with the DOC blogs that we’re reading.  I read a lot of diabetes blogs, but I don’t often comment because I usually want to say something meaningful, instead of “I like your post.”  (But I do like your post!)  But instead of finding that meaningful comment, I usually roll on and forget to return to comment.  NOT TODAY!  Today I’m commenting on every blog I read, because that’s the name of the game.  I love this community, and today I’ll show that through comments.  So please – if you’re here, share what your favorite word is, or just say hello.  And thanks for being here.]

Spinach and Mushroom Fritatta.

I can’t cook.  Except when I can.

Turns out following a recipe is a helpful way to make a graceful transition between “fridge full of ingredients” and “actual, edible outcome.”  And a recipe that’s reasonably low in carbs, high in eggs (I frigging love eggs), and tastes good works for me.  Stolen from AllRecipes, I tweaked my version of this mushroom and spinach fritatta a little bit based on what was in the house and what I wanted in my face:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of fresh, chopped spinach
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped scallions
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl (preferably one that the cats haven’t been eating from), whisk the eggs and ricotta cheese together until smooth.  Then mix in the seasonings, then the spinach, and then the mushrooms.  The whole bowl sholud become a weird, pudding-ish mixture of breakfast bits.

Coat a 9-inch pie plate with a little bit of olive oil to keep the fritatta from sticking and then pour in the egg and spinach mixture.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the top is solid.  For me, it took 32 minutes to cook in full, and I let it sit for half an hour before we cut it and served it.  (I think if we cut it up any earlier, it wouldn’t have settled and had been a little soggy.)

Carb-wise (and according to the AllRecipes version), this dish serves up about 6 grams of carbs per slice.

The verdict at the brunch we hosted was that this spinach and mushroom fritatta was a hit.  “It’s delicious,” said one of our friends.  And that’s when I refused to tell them I made it, because I didn’t want my reputation to cause them to second guess their taste buds.

 

 

Cutting Back on Artificial Sweeteners.

My sweet tooth is completely jacked up.

Bypassing the dessert table isn’t a tough choice.  I can skip the brownies and pie since the Great Palette Change of 2010 (when I was pregnant and my body decided that chocolate was gross and seafood was suddenly on the approved list) and now that I’ve been off the gluten stuff since August of last year, avoiding sweet treats has been a no-brainer (because if I have gluten, my body becomes a vessel of extreme bloat – no effing thank you).

But oh holy cow do I love coffee, and the amount of sweetener I would add to a cup of coffee was abysmal.

I think my taste buds ended up a little warped as a result of drinking diet soda when I was a kid.  After my diabetes diagnosis in 1986, Equal replaced sugar in my house, and the sweet power of Equal is eleven billion times sweeter than regular sugar.  (Not entirely true – 160-220 times sweeter than sugar seems to be the information I found online.  Correct me if I’m wrong, please?)  Convincing my tongue that less sweet is sweet enough has taken some time.

Over the last few months, I’ve been actively cutting back the amount of artificial sweetener I’m cramming into my coffee cup.  At one point, I was using three Splenda in one iced coffee, and for me that felt like way too much.  So, week by week, I tried to use less.  The first few days it was two and a half packets, in an attempt to show my tastebuds that less is more.  After a few weeks, I had cut back to one packet.  (And one packet helped, because then I felt like I could let go of that matchy-matchy OCD thing.)


And now I’m using half of a packet, or sometimes none at all (depending on how nice the coffee/milk combo is).  My goal is to make “none” the new standard.

It took some time to adjust to the lack of sweet.  My body craved that cloyingly sweet taste bud burst, but weaning was the way to go for me because cutting out sweetener entirely and all at once would have been an exercise in futility.  I’m not there yet, but working to make this a “habit of less” because I’m ready to ditch sweetener as much as possible.

It’s hard, though.  Sometimes I just want to rub the contents of a packet of Truvia on my gums.  (Too much?)

Have you ever worked to ditch a habit?  How did you do it?  I think the process of weaning is BORING and if there are ways to trick my mouth into not caring about sweetener, I’d love a tip or two.

 

Chocolate Chip and Heath Bar Cookies OMG.

I can’t cook, but I can bake.  (Which is a bit ironic, because the things I create are best avoided, for my own, personal blood sugar reasons.  /digression)  And for our annual holiday dessert party, I worked with a cookie recipe from the How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook to bake up some delicious treats.

Here’s the low-down on how Birdy and I baked these up:

ingredients

1 3/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free baking flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp xanathan gum
1/2 tsp salt
10 tablespoons salted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup Heath Bar bits

The recipe in the How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook is pretty spot on, but we tweak it just a little bit.  The ingredients in the book call for unsalted butter, etc. but Birdzone and I made some changes based on preference.  (We like cookies that are chewy and soft, and this chart serves as a gorgeous guide.)

First, we combined the flour, baking soda, xanathan gum (the magic ingredient!), and salt together in one bowl.  Then we whisked together the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in another bowl, mixing until it was smooth.  To the butter, etc bowl we then added the egg, milk, and vanilla and beat the crap out of that mixture with a whisk until it was one smooth mixture.  Then we added the flour mixture to the butter bowl (Does this make sense?  Refer to the original recipe for accurate info.) with the intention of mixing it together slowly, but when Birdy helps, she dumps the whole bowl in at once, so it all went in at once.  (Oh my, run on sentence.)

Once the bowls are combined, we add in the chocolate chips and the Heath bar bits.  Then the dough sits, tightly covered, for 30 minutes.  Only we left ours for 45 minutes, which made it even easier to work with.  (I haven’t tried refrigerating the dough overnight, but that’s next on my list.)

After 30 – 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  The dough is ready to shape into tablespoon’ed balls (that sounds perverse, sorry) and spaced out on the cookie sheet.  Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the middles don’t seem sludgy or weird.

The final product is a chewy, delicious cookie that doesn’t have any gluten in it and will make everything other than your blood sugars happy.  (The photo up at the top of this post is of our first attempt at these cookies, without Heath Bar and without extra butter or salt.  They were good, but not nearly as good as the ones we didn’t snap pictures of … mostly because the cookies didn’t last long enough to photograph.  They were that good.)

Happy baking and for Pete’s sake, BOLUS.

 

Pros and Cons of Going Gluten-Free. (and a brief lament about the smooshed banana)

It’s been about seven weeks on this “no way, gluten!” lifestyle, and I’m starting to find my footing.  But there are still many pros and cons to balance, so I’m listing them here.  That way, I can look back at this post in a few months and be all, “Pfffft.  Whiner.  You’re in the zone now.”

Here we go – PROS and CONS of Going Gluten-Free in ALL CAPS at times because that’s the only way my brain can operate this morning.

CON:  It’s a pain in the ass, doing this.  Reading food labels for carbohydrate content and grams of sugar in pursuit of better blood sugar control is second nature to me by this point.  After 28 years with type 1 diabetes, I’m comfortable with the carbs.  But trolling labels for that bright, shiny GF logo, or reading through each ingredient to ensure that I’m not inadvertently eating gluten is a new adventure, and one that I find very intrusive.

PRO:  As a result, weight management has been easier lately.  Which I guess is a plus but at the same time, I’m hungry, so I can’t call this a total pro.

CON:  I’m hungry.  (See above.)  All the time.  Mostly because I’m unsure of what to eat, and that insecurity leads me to eat the same things all the time.  Staples like hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, spinach salad, yogurt, almonds, and every fruit I can get my paws on dominate my days.  Menu items like gluten-free pizza, butternut squash (done with GF ingredients), and chicken soup are being explored, but my natural inclination to be a lazy chef makes this sort of exploration tougher.

PRO:  Eating the same things all the time makes me very familiar with how they map out, blood sugar wise.  So I’m best able to pre-bolus with precision and my post-prandials aren’t gross.  This is boring as eff, but effective for diabetes management.

CON:  Low blood sugars have been really weird lately, especially the ones that follow a visit to the gym.  Before going gluten-free, I’d eat froast or some other glutened up snack to keep my blood sugar steady through cardio (yes, there are other options, but I can’t pretend to have chomped on kale during a run – that would be a big, fat lie and kale hates lies).  Now, I’m erring on the side of fruit and sometimes those sugars get in and out of my system too quickly to hold me for an entire workout.  I’m still figuring out what foods work best to deal with during- and post-exercise hypoglycemia.

PRO:  Glucolift Wildberry tabs are gluten-free.

CON:  Traveling is weird now, too, keeping gluten off my plate.  Airports are not designed for people with dietary needs or preferences, especially little airports like the one I frequent here in Providence.  Finding foods that are gluten-free while on the road is tough, with little exception.  Once I land somewhere, I’m fine, but while in transit, I keep my bag stashed with snacks.

PRO:  I’m learning a lot about what foods travel well.  These gf bars are among my favorites to toss in a backpack, and while they are not as healthy as something fresh, they can stand up to traveling with me and they are more filling than the Southwest pretzels that I can’t eat.

CON:  Bananas do not keep well in backpacks.  They turn brown quickly and often end up smeared on … oh, let’s say the lid of a laptop.

PRO:  I wash my backpack more often than I ever have before, and now it permanently smells like dryer sheets.  Which is a nice contrast to my computer, which smells permanently like bananas now.

CON:  I hate being “that girl.”  The one who asks waitstaff if certain menu options can be made without gluten.  The one who reads labels before taking a bite of anything.  The one who might be mistakenly marked as someone following a “trend diet” instead of someone who is unhappily-but-smartly following through on feedback from her body.  As good as I feel off gluten, I wish I could still eat the stuff and not make waves.

PRO:  I’m learning not to care about feeling slightly embarrassed because DUDE I feel so much better.

“You’re more … you.  The change between then and now is significant,” Chris said the other day.

He’s right.  My mood/disposition/health/everything since kicking gluten out of my diet has been ten steps in the best direction.  All of the non-celiac gluten sensitivity symptoms are gone.  The “head fog” where I would forget what I was doing or what I was about to say has receded.  The numbness and tingling in my hands and wrists is gone.  The ache in my hip joints after running is gone.  I don’t want to spend the afternoon taking a nap on the couch.  My energy is back.  My face is less puffy.  I can chase Birdy without feeling like my feet are in lead boots.  It took months to tune in to how poorly I felt, but now that I’m feeling better, the change is undeniable.

As much as I miss being more carefree about food, a gluten-free diet is the best fit for me.  And after almost three decades of type 1 diabetes, what’s one more food constraint?  So long as coffee and wine remain in the mix, I’m good.

Opening a Can of Gluten-Free Pumpkin Whoop Ass.

I’m five-ish weeks into a gluten-free life, and the waah waaaaaah is starting to wear off.  (I can’t pretend to be above the waaah.  Diabetes is such a food-anchored disease, and an additional restriction acts as an extra fun vacuum, sucking the fun out of meals even more.)  But I’m rounding a corner with this new (and admittedly self-imposed, but with good reason) restriction, and it’s time to start branching out.

My mother-in-law is an excellent cook and she gifted America’s Test Kitchen:  How Can It Be Gluten-Free cookbook to Chris and I after learning about our gluten-free leanings.  For a few weeks, I avoided opening it because I was feeling crummy about the transition, but this morning Birdy and I decided to tackle the gluten-free pumpkin bread.

I don’t know what copyright infringements exist when it comes to recipes, so I’m opting to not post the recipe here (I’m scared of the Test Kitchen people), but I will confirm that the bread, although a little bit of a pain in the butt to prepare, was delicious.  IS delicious, because it’s still sitting out on the kitchen counter cooling and the whole house smells terrific.

The bread recipe only called for 1/2 a cup of pumpkin, so we had the majority of a can of pumpkin left over, all nice-smelling and tempting us to make something else.

“COOKIES!!!” yelled Birdy, which is her answer to just about everything.  (A close second to “Why?”)

“Okay, let’s hunt down some cookies that have pumpkin in them,” I replied.

“Why?”

“Because … you just said cookies?”

“Oh yeah.  I forgot.”

Moving on.

We found a gluten-free pumpkin sandwich cookie via Google with these puffy, awesome pumpkin cookies and a cream cheese filling, so have at it we did.  Navigating the gluten-free curve has been interesting, though, because I am learning how many random things have gluten in them.  Like vanilla.  The vanilla in our cupboard is imitation (don’t hate) and according to Chef Google probably contains gluten (and also anal secretions from beavers WTF), so we used the makeshift substitution at the bottom of the recipe of 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.

The end result, though visually clumsy, was also delicious.

It’s easier for me to avoid desserts most of the time because eating less junk makes the most sense for me, diabetes-wise.  But for those moments when I’d like to enjoy something sweet, I’m glad there are options that won’t wreck havoc on my body.  Gluten-free doesn’t have to be gross, and I’m slowly learning that fact.

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