Best Way To Meal Plan For A Type 1 Diabetes Diet

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Best Way To Meal Plan For A Type 1 Diabetes Diet 

If you have type 1 diabetes, your blood sugar levels must be monitored. The foods you eat will affect your blood sugar, so naturally, your diet is on your mind quite a bit. Many people feel frustration trying to create a normal diet when they have diabetes. It can be frustrating to feel like you can’t order off the menu at a restaurant or aren’t sure if you can eat the dinner served at a friend’s house. 

The single most important thing you can know is that there is no official type 1 diabetes diet. What will work for you isn’t necessarily what will work for another person with the same condition. The essential thing to remember is to monitor your response to foods to determine which are the best for you. That being said, there are some tips and advice you can implement into your diet that might make your life easier.

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What Can I Eat With Type 1 Diabetes?

Carbohydrates And Type 1 Diabetes

It’s not easy to navigate carbohydrate intake when you have type 1 diabetes. First, understand that there are three forms of carbohydrates: 

  • Starch
  • Sugar
  • Fiber

When the carbs you eat head into your digestive tract, they turn into sugar, then enter the bloodstream, which raises glucose levels in the body. What you need to keep in mind is that not all carbohydrates have the same blood sugar response. 

Choose the types of carbohydrates that don’t have added sugars, have some fiber, contain other good nutrients, and aren’t processed. Your intake of carbohydrates should always be properly matched with your insulin intake. (1)

Best Foods For Type 1 Diabetes

When it comes to managing type 1 diabetes, you need to eat foods that are high in nutrients. Healthy fats, nutrient-dense carbs, and proteins are all involved. You may also need to consider the timing of eating and any medications you’re on that can affect your food intake. 

Some great choices to include in your diet are

  • Leafy vegetables
  • Citrus fruits
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Salmon
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Low-fat yogurt & milk

Meal Planning For Type 1 Diabetes

To successfully plan meals for type 1 diabetes, you need to know what daily serving suggestions to include in your meals.  The timing of your meals matter, too, with research showing that having regular eating patterns helps with glycemic control. (2)

Daily serving suggestions for people with type 1 diabetes include

  • 6 servings of grains, beans, and starchy vegetables
  • 2-4 servings of fruit
  • 2-3 servings of dairy (low-fat or nonfat, if possible) 
  • 2-3 servings of meat and fish
  • Limited intake of fats, alcohol, and sweets

Healthy Snack Options

If you have type 1 diabetes and are searching for healthy snack options, here are some ideas: 

  • Broccoli florets with yogurt dip
  • Carrot sticks with guacamole dip
  • String cheese
  • Parmesan crisps
  • Cottage cheese
  • Almonds, cashews, or pistachios
  • Olives
  • Kale chips
  • Apple slices with almond butter

The Keto Diet And Type 1 Diabetes

You may have heard about the benefits of the keto diet for type 1 diabetes. A ketogenic diet involves eating in a manner that minimizes carbohydrate intake and increases fat intake. Studies show that eating a ketogenic diet had the following effects on type 1 diabetes: (3)

  • Decreased blood glucose variability
  • Decreased HbA1c levels
  • Reduced insulin required per meal
  • Improved quality of life

Eating keto doesn’t always have to involve tons of meat and dairy, though. I wrote a book called Ketotarian that can serve as a guide to make sure you get a ton of healthy, plant-based foods while still eating in the keto style. 

Intermittent fasting is another tool you may want to consider if you have type 1 diabetes. Research shows that fasting can minimize the risk of hypoglycemia, lower glycemic variability, and improve fat metabolism. (4) I also have a book called Intuitive Fasting, if you’re interested in how you can implement fasting in a sustainable way, and all about the benefits you can get from that. 

Foods To Avoid For Type 1 Diabetes

There are certain foods you should avoid if you have type 1 diabetes: 

  • Saturated fats: cut out burgers, butter, bacon, and full-fat dairy
  • Sugars: try to avoid soda and fruit juice
  • Salt. Excess salt can raise blood pressure, and people with diabetes are more likely to be affected by high blood pressure

What About Sugar And Treats? 

The biggest issue for type 1 diabetes is carbs, which affect your blood sugar. Many sweeter foods that people consider a “treat” are full of carbs because they are sugar-filled. Keep in mind that even sugar-free foods can be carb-rich. If you’re looking for an artificial sweetener, I would caution you to be careful with your usage. 

Even with natural sweeteners like xylitol or stevia, there can be issues. Some forms of stevia are chemically altered and have additives. Xylitol can give you digestive issues. Maple syrup and raw honey can be fine in moderation, but they can affect your blood sugar balance, which is important to be aware of. 

To limit your sugar intake, think about options like low-carb treats that are lower in sugars, splitting dessert with a friend, or taking smaller serving sizes. 

READ MORE: A Functional Medicine Guide to Cutting Sugar Out of Your Diet

Tips For Enjoying A Healthy Type 1 Diabetes Diet

You should be able to enjoy a healthy type 1 diabetes diet. Here are some tips that can help you do so: 

  • Carefully inspect food labels so you know what you’re eating
  • Research restaurant menus before going out to eat so you know which options are best for you
  • Limit your servings of carbs at meals and for snacks
  • Plan ahead of time so you can meal prep and avoid snacking or convenience foods
  • Exercise regularly

Functional Medicine And Diabetes

At the Functional Medicine telehealth center, we know that regardless of whether you have type 1 diabetes or another condition, you deserve a personalized treatment plan that works with your bio-individual needs. Type 1 diabetes is autoimmune in nature, since it’s due to the body’s immune system destroying insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Autoimmune conditions are one of the most common concerns my team and I work with. Together, we can begin a journey of sustainable healing that will go beyond just managing your symptoms. 

Schedule a health consultation today! 

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References:

  1. Bell, K. J., King, B. R., Shafat, A., & Smart, C. E. (2015). The relationship between carbohydrate and the mealtime insulin dose in type 1 diabetes. Journal of diabetes and its complications, 29(8), 1323-1329.

  2. Ahola, A. J., Mutter, S., Forsblom, C., Harjutsalo, V., & Groop, P. H. (2019). Meal timing, meal frequency, and breakfast skipping in adult individuals with type 1 diabetes–associations with glycaemic control. Scientific reports, 9(1), 20063.

  3. Gardemann, C., Knowles, S., & Marquardt, T. (2023). Managing type 1 diabetes mellitus with a ketogenic diet. Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism Case Reports, 2023(3).

  4. Herz, D., Haupt, S., Zimmer, R. T., Wachsmuth, N. B., Schierbauer, J., Zimmermann, P., ... & Moser, O. (2023). Efficacy of fasting in type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus: A narrative review. Nutrients, 15(16), 3525.

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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Gut Feelings

Healing The Shame-Fueled Relationship
Between What You Eat And How You Feel