My Healthy Diet Refocus

Time off from training is certainly enjoyable but as a type 1 diabetic my diet remains very important to me. Cutting back from 15hrs+ training per week to a few social mountain bike rides and walking the dog is a big change which requires some significant changes to my daily insulin plan (about a 25% increase). To help me manage this big change I have worked hard to keep my diet in check, counted my carbs closely and tried not to over indulge too often (which usually results in some challenging BGL fluctuations).

For me it’s all about eating healthy, getting in all of the macro nutrients that I need and feeling satisfied throughout the day. I usual think about food as fuel and follow a strict plan to eat what I need and also maintain stable BGLs. Fundamentally I still follow this approach as it is healthy, I feel good and allows me to easily track carbs and insulin requirements. I also keep to eating at regular times during the day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and ensuring that my main meals are substantial and include all of my nutritionally requirements.

I have generally broken each of my meals down to the following:

  1. Protein – lean protein (100grams per meal)
  2. Carbohydrate – Unprocessed and low GI
  3. Fibre – Leafy vegetables which should also be used to fill you up
  4. Fat – healthy fats (only a small amount each meal)

As a rule of thumb I also vary my sources of each component with each meal and throughout the week; that is to not eating the same protein, carbohydrate or fat too many times. I do not count calories but eat a healthy portion of protein and fats with each meal, my carbohydrate intake is relatively low by nutritional standards but this assists with my BGL stability and I load up on fresh vegetables with every meal. Fruit is important but can be high in more High GI carbohydrates so I choose low GI fruits and keep them to two pieces per day.

When you break your meals down into these simple components it is then always easy to put together a healthy meal which ticks all of the boxes. The components are also not complicated making most meal quick to put together (<30mins). I have provided a very simple meal options plan below.

Breakfast

  • Eggs with whole grain toast, tomatoes, spinach and mushroom
  • Rolled oats with berries, seeds/nuts and yoghurt
  • Crumpets, natural peanut butter, low fat cottage cheese and fresh mashed blue berries
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An open steak sandwich cuts the carbs but is full of protein and salad.

Lunch

  • Lentil and vegetable soup
  • Roast chicken or tuna with mixed salad and legumes (chickpeas/kidney beans/four bean mix)
  • Whole grain sandwich or wrap with salad, cheese/avocado and lean meat (turkey/ham/chicken)
  • Vegetable frittata and fruit salad

Dinner

  • Grilled chicken with corn tortillas, avocado and salad
  • Seamed fish with potatoes and vegetables
  • Roasted vegetables with natural yoghurt dressing
  • Tofu/egg and vegetable stir fry with soba noodles
  • BBQ lamb/beef with roast sweet potato and salad/grilled vegetables
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One pot/pan meals are a favourite of mine and roasts are a perfect winter meal!

Snacks

  • Mixed unsalted nuts (30-50grams)
  • Low fat yoghurt with frozen berries (100grams)
  • Fresh fruit (banana, apple, pear, melons, etc)
  • Carrot and celery with hummus dip/natural peanut butter/low fat cottage cheese
  • Rice cakes with low fat cottage cheese, tomato/beetroot

I’ll admit that I keep myself on a pretty tight leash but during my current break from training I have been trying to indulge myself as much as possible. There’s been plenty of ice cream, some hearty winter pub meals and plenty of glasses of red wine. The thing for me though is that through both my diabetes and my years of training I have learnt to enjoy eating healthy and I now choose to eat this way because it really makes me feel great. Eating should be an enjoyable part of our lives, you should choose things that you and your family enjoy eating and you should create dishes that look, taste and smell amazing!

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Type 1 Diabetes & Food

As T1D’s we have a very unique relationship with food. I think that it is a love/hate relationship which needs to be finely balanced in our lives to stay both healthy and sane. The biggest challenge is trying to match insulin with the food we want/need to consume as well as the responses from our bodies. Like all of our body’s organs the pancreas does an amazing job in a non-T1D’s but trying to replicate this continues to be a work-in-progress for T1D’s (for 100 years now).

As an endurance athlete food is critically important to my performance and I spend just about as much time planning my diet as I do planning my training. Needing to eat certain foods at certain times isn’t something that goes hand in hand with T1D, and trying to manage BGLs around these requirements is particularly challenging. I try to consume enough carbohydrates to fuel and recover from training effectively whilst also adapting my diet and training to utilise fats as much as possible. Balancing this with protein and also trying to not feel hungry all of the time means that my diet is very structured and aims to tick a lot of boxes.

Veg (1)

Make the most of fresh fruits and vegetable to fill up your meals and provide healthy snacks

I think of food as fuel and look to consume the highest quality food that I can within the constraints which I have learnt allow me to maintain stable BGLs. Low GI, avoid high sugar content, balanced meals, lower carb snacks, etc. is all part of the plan. Achieving this is by no means easy and puts me in stressful situations regularly as I try to make the best choices and battle cravings for foods which are generally not healthy or good for my BGLs. I have survived through 20 years though and I have developed strategies to be able to maintain a healthy diet and also stable BGLs. Here are some of the strategies which I try to implement:

  • Carbohydrates: low GI, know the carb content, read and understand the nutrition labels
    • wholegrains, oats, sweet potato, pumpkin, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, quinao, soba noodles, low GI rices, bananas, berries, peaches, reduced fat milk and yoghurt, low GI muesli bars, Sustagen
  • Proteins: lean protein including fish and red meats, eat a variety of protein sources, don’t eat too much (per meal/day)
    • fish, lean red meat cuts, turkey, chicken, yoghurts, eggs, beans and tofu
  • Fats: natural “good” fats, only small quantities and only one fat per meal
    • avocado, roasted nuts, nut butters and eggs
  • Sports Nutrition: use for higher intensity training, combination of Hi-GI & Low-GI carb sources, include some protein to slow BGL rise and consume regular small amounts rather than less frequent large amounts
    • Hammer Bars, Recoverite, Clif Gels & Shot Blocks, Winners Gels, Carmens Bars, banana’s and dried fruit bars
  • Hydration: water is great for lower intensity sessions, use low sugar hydration most frequently or 6% carb mix as energy source to maintain BGLs
    • Water, NUUN Hydration, Endura Low Carb Hydration and Endura Performance
Meal Plan Image

An old meal plan from Ironman training in 2014.

The above meal plan can be view in detail here – Example Meal Plan

When I make a meal I follow a pretty basic method which I have learnt works for me around my training and diabetes. Basic summary and a couple of examples provided below.

Breakfast – 40 to 50 grams of carbs, 25 grams of protein and a little good fat

  • Rolled oats porridge, cinnamon, frozen berries, fat free yoghurt and crushed nuts
  • Poached eggs on toast with spinach, tomato and mushrooms

Lunch/Dinner – 25 grams of protein, 40 to 50 grams of carbs and fill the rest of my plate up with vegetables (low carb).

  • Tuna tin, four bean mix and salad
  • Chicken wrap with humus and salad
  • Steak, baked sweet potato and salad
  • Chicken fajitas with corn on the cob
  • Vietnamese salad with soba noodles and tofu

Snacks – <10 grams of carbs and 10-20 grams of protein

  • Fruits (apples, pears, kiwi fruit, bananas)
  • Carrots/Celery with humus/peanut butter/cottage cheese
  • Fat free yoghurt with berries/nuts
  • Almond/cashew/walnut mix
  • Low carb protein bar or shake
  • Boiled egg with dukkuh seasoning

A meal plan always sounds fantastic but the reality we all have our vices, I’ve actually got a real sweet tooth and am a chocolate lover. I try to follow my strategies for most of the time but do stray and when I do I just enjoy it for that moment and then get back on track (e.g. Easter).

*The author is not supported by any of the companies or products noted in this piece and has chosen these products based only on the authors own experience with these products.

**The author is not a dietician or nutritionist and the information provided is from the author’s experience only. See disclaimer.