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Understanding Food Labels and Nine Food Rules: Nutrition Wisdom for Women with T1D

If you're a midlife woman dealing with Type 1 diabetes, you're undoubtedly familiar with the hurdles of keeping your blood sugar levels in check. In recent episodes of the Type 1 In Midlife Podcast, I had the privilege of welcoming both Kitty Finklea and Mary Ellen Phipps to engage in enlightening conversations. These discussions revolved around a pivotal facet of diabetes management: the art of understanding food labels.

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Knowledge is indeed power when it comes to making informed food choices that can help you maintain stable blood sugar levels and overall health. So, let's dive into the key takeaways from these two episodes.

8 Steps To Understanding Food Labels with Kitty Finklea

In episode 16 of the Typre 1 in Midlife podcast, Decoding Nutrition Labels, we dive deep into the essentials of deciphering food labels, mastering serving sizes, and understanding carbohydrates. Our regular guest contributor and RDN, Kitty Finklea guides us through the intricacies of crafting an eating plan tailored for women managing type 1 diabetes amidst hormonal changes. Kitty underscores the power of knowledge in the realm of nutrition, arming you with the insights needed to make healthier choices.

If you've ever found yourself perplexed by serving sizes and carb counts in your favorite foods, these eight steps will clear up the mystery around ingredient lists and uncover better options, ensuring you leave your next grocery shopping trip well-informed!

1. Know the Ingredients

The first step in understanding food labels is to look at the ingredients. Remember that the first ingredient listed usually makes up the most significant portion of the product. For someone managing Type 1 diabetes, understanding what's written on marketing labels is vital. Flip the product over to the back of the label for more details.

To learn more about real ingredients, read Embracing Real Ingredients: The Key to Enjoying Nutritious and Delicious Food!

2. Consider Serving Sizes and Carbs

Always consider the serving size when purchasing a product, especially drinks. Kombucha and co-bucha, for instance, may seem healthy, but you need to factor in their carb content. Be mindful of the type and amount of carbohydrates you're consuming.

3. Be Aware of Variability

Continue to prioritize ingredients, serving size, and their impact on Type 1 diabetes management. Keep an eye on labeling factors, which can account for 10-15% variability. Balancing fat and protein is also crucial; not all carbohydrates are created equal. For example, black rice and jasmine rice can have different effects on your blood sugar levels.

4. Choose Healthier Options

When it comes to staples like rice or pasta, you have choices. Opt for healthier options like Carolina gold rice, heritage rice, or whole foods to maintain better blood sugar control.

5. Decode Pasta Labels

Make sure that the macronutrient makeup of pasta aligns closely with what's on the label. Familiarize yourself with different brands and products to choose the right ones for your dietary needs and blood sugar management.

6. Try New Foods with Confidence

It's common to have concerns about trying new foods, especially when you're worried about high blood sugar. Understanding net carbs and their impact on Type 1 diabetes can help you approach new foods with confidence.

7. Time Your Fiber and Carb Intake

Fiber, as the undigested part of plant foods, can be subtracted from the total carbs, influencing blood sugar levels. Timing your food intake and managing mixed meals, especially when using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), can be instrumental in diabetes management.

8. Be Cautious of Sugar Alcohols

Be cautious with products containing sugar alcohols, as they can lead to stomach upset. Instead, choose foods with real ingredients over sugar-free alternatives. Avoid falling into diet culture traps and prioritize a balanced approach to nutrition.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Understand food labels: Knowledge is power when managing Type 1 diabetes. Start by reading and comprehending food labels, focusing on ingredients and serving sizes.

  2. Choose wisely: Opt for healthier options like whole foods and products with real ingredients. Be mindful of the impact of different types of carbohydrates on your blood sugar.

  3. Stay balanced: Maintain a balanced approach to nutrition, and don't fear trying new foods. Prioritize the principles that work best for your diabetes management.

Mary Ellen Phipps' Nine Food Principles

In episode 19 of the Type 1 in Midlife podcast, Empowering the Diabetes Community Through Nutrition, Mary Ellen Phipps shares her experience living with Type 1 diabetes. Her journey highlights the importance of unifying the diabetes community and debunking myths about the so-called "diabetes diet."

Mary Ellen emphasizes that the diabetes diet is not a one-size-fits-all approach. She encourages prioritizing all meals and not buying into internet hype. Preventing rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels and making eating an active, intentional activity are essential principles.

She also offers practical tips for grocery shopping, advocating for lists and planning. Keeping basic ingredients on hand and incorporating healthy dessert options, such as those using almond flour and plain Greek yogurt, can make diabetes management more enjoyable.

Mary Ellen Phipps, a midlife woman successfully managing type 1 diabetes, outlined her nine guiding food principles:

  1. Stay true to yourself: Don't feel pressured to change who you are, especially when it comes to managing diabetes. Embrace your unique biology, lifestyle, and needs.

  2. Health over body size: Prioritize your health above all else. Focus on getting your blood sugar levels balanced and in range, rather than aiming for a specific body size.

  3. Eat intentionally: Make eating an intentional activity. Don't let it become a passive routine. Take the time to appreciate your meals and their emotional benefits. To learn more about intuitive eating, read: 9 Tips for Intuitive Eating with Type 1 Diabetes!

  4. Savor your food: Avoid eating too quickly. Enjoy your food and savor the flavors. Remember that food serves not only physical nourishment but emotional nourishment as well.

  5. Plan ahead: Plan your meals for the week, even if it's not an elaborate meal prep. Thinking ahead can greatly help with managing blood sugar levels and making informed choices.

  6. Listen to your body: Identify foods that don't make you feel good. While trends like going gluten-free or dairy-free may be popular, focus on what genuinely works for your body.

  7. Make all meals matter: Prioritize all your meals, not just breakfast. Each meal plays a vital role in your overall health and blood sugar management.

  8. Think critically: Don't believe everything you read or hear on the internet. Be cautious of sensationalistic claims and seek reliable sources for diabetes-related information.

  9. Be true to yourself: Whether you have diabetes or not, you deserve to savor your food and choose an eating style that suits your lifestyle. Don't feel pressured to conform to someone else's idea of the "best" way to eat. Your food choices are yours to make, and they should bring you joy and satisfaction.

Remember, you have the autonomy to make decisions about your health and well-being. Don't let external pressures dictate your choices. Trust your instincts and focus on what truly works for you.

A woman eating mindfully

Managing Type 1 diabetes as a midlife woman requires a holistic approach, including understanding food labels, making informed choices, and embracing a balanced perspective on nutrition. By applying these insights, you can better navigate your diabetes journey with confidence and improved well-being.

Knowledge is power. You've got this!

Download my Thrive with Type 1 Diabetes After 40 guide for a simple action plan to start excelling in midlife while managing diabetes!

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