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Diabetes Food Tricks and What I Really Eat

By Adam Brown

How I learned to make low-carb food tasty, doable, portable, and fun. Plus, cool new diabetes food experiments I’ve been testing!

I’m used to some quizzical looks at checkout counters, airports, and in restaurants:

“Why all the nuts and seeds – do you have birds at home?”

“Wait, you want the burger, but without a bun?”

“No rice with your Chicken Ka Prow? Can we even serve you?”

For those used to eating a “typical” diet, a low-carb, higher-fat approach to eating can seem strange. But in reality, I find it tasty, filling, and worth any confused looks – I see more in-range blood sugars, fewer extreme lows and highs, simpler insulin dosing, and far lower diabetes burden.

Below, you’ll find a list of foods and recipes I actually eat, taken right from my book, Bright Spots & Landmines (free PDF here or get it on Amazon for $6). As a bonus for this online version, I’ve added links to recipes and specific products. And if you’ve read the book already, this article starts with some brand new food tricks and experiments I’ve been testing out. Bon appétit!

New Food Tricks and Experiments

1. Tinkering with chia pudding: I continue to eat chia pudding for breakfast every day but have been working to solve sticking points for diaTribe readers. Coconut oil is a big one that trips people up, and I was glad to find that shredded unsweetened coconut flakes or coconut chips work great as a substitute. They are also more portable for bringing chia pudding when I travel. Many readers have also shared they add dark chocolate chips, cacao nibs, or chocolate protein powder to bump the flavor and encourage their kids to eat it (very tasty indeed!). For those finding the texture difficult, I recommend trying: (i) almond or coconut milk instead of water; (ii) varying the ratio of water to seeds to make the pudding thicker (less water); (iii) going heavier on the toppings; or (iv) soaking the seeds overnight. The variation with chia pudding is truly endless, and it’s worth finding a method you like for the blood sugar benefits, speed of prep, and cost. I encourage you to keep tinkering or be in touch with me!

2. Almond flour baked goods: We bought an awesome Dash Mini single-use waffle maker ($14.99), which makes killer almond flour waffles – recipe here (leave out the honey) and picture below. I find these waffles need just a bit of insulin (1-2 units, depending on how many), and the dose can be taken right at the meal start.

3. “Broccoli rice”: I talk in Bright Spots & Landmines about “cauliflower rice,” which is simply a blended head of cauliflower with the consistency of rice. We just tried “broccoli rice” for the first time and found it even better. Trader Joe’s sells both options pre-blended, meaning they can be dropped in a frying pan and made in minutes. We made the Asian-inspired version below a few nights ago.

4. KNOW foods: This company makes a whole line of grain-free baked goods that pass my tests in most cases: minimal impact on blood sugar, few grams of sugar and carbs, high fiber, and recognizable ingredients. Some parents have told me KNOW’s products are a breakfast game-changer for their young picky eaters. The one downside is they can be expensive, and having them on-hand and already prepared means I’m apt to overeat them (they are delicious).

5. Ground turkey zucchini burgers/meatballs: The biggest problem with ground turkey is it ends up dry and tasting bland. This recipe solves that, and also builds vegetables right in. Incredible!

6. Kelp noodles: I’ve never seen a good low-carb noodle option until I stumbled on Kelp noodles at my local corner market. They have 1 gram of carbs per serving and a great crunch to them. Like almond flour baking, they are not a perfect substitute, but they are better than no pasta at all – and without a big blood sugar spike and large insulin dose. We made this tasty Dan Dan version a month ago:

7. Quest Bar protein bars: I’ve been eating these more often lately as a snack on-the-go from airports and convenience stores; they provide a good break from nuts/seeds, are quite filling, and don’t have a major impact on blood sugar like most other “bars.” Like KNOW foods, however, these are easy to overeat!

8. Glucolift subscription plan for glucose tabs ($12+ every two months): If you’ve read Bright Spots & Landmines, you know what helps me avoid hypoglycemia binges – having a go-to, automatic correction like glucose tabs for lows. With this Glucolift subscription plan, I always have tabs on hand and have one less thing to think about. The tabs taste good and don’t have a bunch of preservatives and chemicals. Plus, a person with diabetes (Chris Angell) founded the company!

Breakfast Examples

  • Chia seed pudding: 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1/2 cup water (warm or cold), hearty amount of cinnamon, 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil, topped with nuts, seeds, and frozen raspberries. Stir it for a minute, let it sit for a minute or two, and then enjoy! Read more on this recipe here and see the paragraph above.

  • Three-egg veggie scramble. For a more filling option, I add an avocado and a low-carb, high-fiber, whole wheat tortilla made by La Tortilla Factory – each tortilla has 11 grams of carbs, with 8 of those grams from fiber, translating to little impact on blood glucose levels. These tortillas are also awesome for replacing bread and making quesadillas. They are available at both big and small grocery stores.

  • “Nut/Seed Cereal”: peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds (shelled), and/or pumpkin seeds, topped with shredded coconut (unsweetened), cinnamon, and a splash of milk
  • Uncured turkey bacon (no nitrates/nitrites added, except those naturally in salt and celery). Make sure to check the package’s ingredient list before buying.
  • Almond flour or coconut flour baked goods: pancakes, waffles, bread, or bagels (do not add sugar, syrup, or honey)

Lunch Examples

  • Giant salad with mixed greens, spinach, kale, or romaine; nuts or seeds; chicken, steak, or fish; parmesan cheese; dressing of choice (usually olive oil + red wine vinegar or Green Goddess)

  • Lentils with a bunch of veggies: 1/2 cup dry lentils, 1.5 cups water cooks a nice single serving

  • Snack foods (see upcoming section) when I’m short on time, which seems to happen fairly often!
  • Egg scramble with veggies
  • Roasted quarter chicken with veggies
  • Turkey wrap with a low-carb tortilla, veggies, slice of cheese and a side salad
  • Burger without the bun (or a lettuce bun) with a side salad

Dinner Examples

Half plate of vegetables + Main Course:

Half plate of vegetables: sautéed on stove top with olive oil and garlic; steamed on the stove top or in the microwave; oven roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper; and topped with a bit of parmesan cheese, soy sauce, or various spices

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Bell peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Brussels sprouts

Main Course

  • Chicken thighs, breasts, or tenderloins (sautéed on stove top in olive oil or oven baked)
  • Ground beef or turkey cooked in a stir fry, chili, burgers without the bun, meatballs (no bread crumbs or use almond flour)       
  • Steak
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Calamari (no breading)
  • Fajitas: sautéed chicken thighs, bell peppers, onions, guacamole, low-carb, high-fiber tortillas

  • “Cauliflower rice” or “Broccoli Rice” with veggies, scrambled eggs, soy sauce (great low-carb version of fried rice) – Trader Joe’s sells fantastic options that are pre-riced and ready-to-cook. 

  • Ratatouille – recipe here
  • Caprese salad (mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, drizzle of balsamic vinegar)
  • Zucchini (“zoodle”) pasta or lasagna
  • Spaghetti squash roasted in the oven and sautéed (a good pasta substitute)

Snack Examples

  • Peanuts, almonds, pecans, mixed nuts, macadamias
  • Sunflower seeds (shelled), pumpkin seeds (in shell)
  • Quesadilla with melted cheese in a low-carb tortilla
  • Steamed vegetables with parmesan cheese or soy sauce
  • Quest Bar protein bars (occasional treat; no sugar and 70% of the carbs are from fiber)

Hypoglycemia Corrections

(See the Food Landmine later in the book.)

  • Glucose tablets
  • Smarties
  • Mini apples

Dessert Examples

  • Raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries (frozen or fresh; sugar should not be added)
  • Small piece of 90% dark chocolate (occasional treat)
  • Frozen mango chunks (occasional treat)

Drink Examples

  • Plain or sparkling water flavored with a fresh lemon or lime – We buy the generic Trader Joe’s brand of sparkling water
  • Loose leaf green tea – this Japanese Sencha is my all-time favorite from Upton Tea
  • Hot water with unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder (optional peppermint tea for a zero-sugar “mint chocolate chip” drink) – I like this one
  • Black coffee

This article was taken from Bright Spots & Landmines: The Diabetes Guide I Wish Someone Had Handed Me, a new book by Adam Brown. The book is full of actionable advice to help you with your diabetes. Get your copy of Bright Spots & Landmines here as a free/name-your-own-price download. You can also purchase it on Amazon in paperback ($6.29) and Kindle ($1.99). The print book is priced at cost to ensure widespread access, and 100% of proceeds from digital downloads benefit The diaTribe Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Also, if you’ve benefitted from Bright Spots & Landmines, could you take a few minutes to write a one-sentence Amazon review sharing your experience? We are trying to get to 100+ reviews ASAP and we’re nearly there!