What can I eat

When I am working with someone diagnosed with diabetes, their questions usually are focused around “What can I eat?” So this month, let’s have a quick review of three frequently asked nutritional questions on diabetes.

The questions are: Why is breakfast so important, why should I eat small frequent meals and why is my blood glucose reading so high in the morning after a long night of fasting?

As for breakfast, your body needs energy when you start the day. Look at the word; you are “breaking the fast” from the night.

Research shows that people who eat breakfast consume fewer overall daily calories than someone who skips breakfast and then compensates by continually eating as the day progresses.

For easy breakfast ideas, whole grain cereal with fruit and milk can jump-start your day, yogurt with granola, eggs or my personal favorite, a toasted English muffin topped with a slice of melted Swiss cheese.

If the thought of eating when you get up is unappealing, compromise and eat something within two hours of rising to still reap the benefits of breakfast.

Make yourself a priority. Prepare a healthy start to your day and take control of your diabetes.

Small frequent meals enhance glucose control by providing a continual source of nutrition. Think of putting a small log on a bonfire at regular intervals — you can keep the fire efficiently burning without sky-high flames or having to rekindle the embers. Every 3-4 hours, try to eat something that is not laden with empty calories and health-threatening fat.

By consuming whole grains and unprocessed foods, your body slowly will extract nutritional components from the food that you eat and your glucose levels will rise slowly instead of rapidly spiking from processed foods. As an added benefit, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you are full, so eating small frequent meals will help to rein in your appetite to prevent overeating at mealtime.

Eating a bedtime snack almost seems to be out of step with controlling your blood sugar levels, so let’s discuss it. Our body is using glucose constantly whether we are awake or asleep.

Let’s set the stage: You proudly do not eat anything after your evening meal and you go to sleep. During the night, your blood glucose level drops, your brain detects the low glucose level and releases hormones to trigger the liver to release stored glucose. When you wake up, your glucose reading is higher than when you went to bed! This is known as the Somogyi effect.

If you want to check this theory, set your alarm for 3 a.m. to see if your blood glucose reading is low. A more palatable solution is to eat a small bedtime snack to provide a slow source of glucose to prevent low blood sugar during the night. Snack suggestions are an apple with peanut butter, string cheese with a few crackers or cottage cheese with fruit.

Dealing with diabetes can be very frustrating since everyone responds differently to foods, activity and medication. But you can make huge strides to control your diabetes by making a habit of eating a healthy breakfast every morning, having small frequent meals and savoring a small bedtime snack. Bon appetit!

Susan Sorensen is a registered nurse who does diabetes education in the community and can be reached at

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