Packing meals for outdoor day trips can be a challenge, and like with everything else, even more so when doing it with Type 1 Diabetes. The food and container have to be able to withstand temperature fluctuations, provide energy in the form of slow-release carbohydrates, and tasty sustenance for our bodies as well as our soul.
Hands down, preparing your own meals is the best way to predict how your diabetes will behave around mealtimes. You control the ingredients, so you can have the exact carbohydrate calculation, and if not, a much better idea of how to estimate the carbohydrates. Hidden sugar content is a real problem with restaurant and store-prepared food and can seriously dampen a diabetic’s good time.
There are an infinite amount of recipes online with new ones being concocted every day. Thankfully, a fully balanced meal consists of just a handful of things, and having these elements in mind is a great starting point in discovering and creating meals that work for you, fit your preferences, dietary needs, and regional accessibility.
So when planning your next day adventure, consider packing a balanced meal that consists of these five elements:
- Low-carb base
Us T1Ds can eat whatever we want, but it’s no surprise that slower acting and lower carbohydrate foods are easier for us to digest with minimal insulin. I have found that replacing the base of my meals with hearty vegetables like shredded spaghetti squash, lightly roasted broccoli or zucchini, and dark greens (rather than a complex carbohydrate like potatoes or rice) is so much easier to predict and calculate for. Alternatively, beans and legumes provide a similar carbohydrate base with added vitamins, minerals, and protein to slow the glycemic impact, making it slightly easier to time insulin injections.
Fiber is necessary for slowing the glycemic load and lowering the overall net carbohydrate. I don’t usually notice the difference of the total carbohydrate count is ever enough to adjust my insulin requirement, but it does delay and sometimes negate a postprandial rise. Shaved carrots, roasted or raw broccoli, shredded cabbage dressed in lime juice and salt – it really doesn’t take much to turn a few raw ingredients into a delicious and fibrous addition to the dish.
Protein is arguably the most important aspect of daily nutrition as the building blocks of bodies. From tofu to deli slices, there’s no wrong way to go when building hiking-friendly meals. Substantial protein can also be found in hard cheese, legumes, beans, and seeds, and should be considered in the overall protein content of the meal. Stick to basics that don’t spoil quickly, such as chicken thighs, lean pork, and cured meat.
To top off most meals, I usually finish with a generous squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive or avocado oil, and a sprinkle of seeds. The acid and fat balance out everything and pull the entire dish together, not to mention provides necessary puzzle pieces our bodies require to properly digest everything. Vegetables are packed with carotenoids that act as antioxidants and have cancer fighting properties, and studies are finding that we absorb more of these phytonutrients from plants with the aid of fat. Considering that, if I can, I love to include an avocado with every meal. It’s also my favorite standalone snack – full of healthy fat, fiber, and FLAVOR. Lastly, a sprinkle of seeds packed with protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals is just the extra bit of zest I need in my life.
With these building blocks in mind, assembling simple meals that are delicious, nutritious, and the perfect accompaniment to a hike or day trip should be a breeze. The considerate ratios of our glucose levels should be to your satisfaction as well.
This article was contributed by Jackie Talbott, DRC Volunteer, who has had T1D for 23 years.