5 tips for eating out abroad when you have diabetes

Having just returned from a trip away, I know how important it can be to plan ahead when eating. Here are some great tips from our guest blogger Patrice Lewis.

Planning a holiday when you have medical conditions can be tricky. There’s packing the right medications, concerns like eating out and finding an insurance package which will actually cover your condition. For those with diabetes, there’s no need for it to be a barrier to enjoying your overseas holiday. Here are five tips for helping you enjoy the cuisines of other countries:

1. Research the restaurants at your destination location

do your research

Just like eating out at home there’s no real way to know the exact ingredients of every dish placed before you when you’re on holiday. However, it’s possible to use the internet to have a browse of the local eateries before you travel. This allows you to get a sense of what food will be on offer, before you commit to your holiday plans. If the destination only has high carb, and high sugar offerings, it might not be the best place to eat out every night. There will nearly always be somewhere, though, where you can find food to complement your diet.

2. Use forums, blogs, and ask questions

Websites and blogs like the one you’re currently reading and others have a wealth of information for those with diabetes. Search for diabetes forums and you’ll probably find that plenty of people have already asked the questions you need the answers to. If not, there’s normally a friendly community you can join to ask about eating out at your preferred destination. Use the experience of others, and when you return from holiday, you’ll be able to share your own experiences and advice.

3. Consider how much exercise you’ve had that day

exercise

You might have a pretty strict diet at home, and be completely on top of managing your blood sugar levels. It’s worth remembering, though, that when you’re on holiday you might exercise a lot more than on a standard day at home. Swimming, hiking, walking on the beach and even souvenir shopping can all cause your blood sugar to drop to lower levels than you might be used to. Glucose tablets can be a real help with this, as detailed in this blog entry about eating out when on cruise ships. Consider your level of activity when thinking about how often you need to be sitting down to eat, and what sort of food you should be eating.

4. Plan your day out to include plenty of food stops

If you are out and about all day, have a think about how often you’ll need to stop and refuel to keep your blood sugar levels where they need to be. If you’re planning a whole day out in the back of beyond, you might struggle unless you carry loads of provisions. Check what restaurants and cafes there are along your route, and take advantage of them accordingly.

5. Mention your condition to restaurant staff

Don’t be afraid to tell the staff that you have diabetes. What looks like something very savoury might actually be full of hidden sugars that you will want to properly cover with insulin. Discussing this with staff could stop you from getting a very nasty surprise indeed!

To learn more about making your vacation memorable, see more tips on our travel page.

Six Tricks to Enjoy Halloween with diabetes.

trick or treating with diabetes
from Charles Schultz

It is that time of year again, time to get ready for the Great Pumpkin and all of the fun…and anxiety that Halloween can bring many parents. For those families dealing with diabetes for the first time, the stress of trick or treating with diabetes can be greater than dealing with the challenges of Christmas.

Children are invited to Halloween parties.  There are Halloween events at school and there is the inevitable night of trick or treating.  What do you do with all of that sugar?? Well here are a few things that have helped some parents get through.

Eat while they walk

Its okay to let your child eat candy while he/she is out trick or treating. In fact, go ahead and encourage it (as long as usual Halloween safety rules are applied of course–Mom/Dad checks candy or it is from the home of a good family friend).  All of the walking, running and general excitement will most likely lead to some serious low blood sugars.  You can help to avoid this by letting your child eat the bars, rockets (Smarties for my US friends) and other treats. Your child will feel “normal” and it will be a fun way to keep blood glucose levels in range.

Halloween treats are great from treating lows when you have diabetes

Halloween is the perfect time to stock up on low supplies. It offers fabulous 15-gram packs of sugar just perfect to carry in your bag and treat lows. In fact, even if your child doesn’t take part in Halloween events, you may want to head to the grocery store during this time to grab a few bags of low treats and save a few dollars! They tend to be a lot cheaper than buying glucose tablets from the grocery store.

halloween treats at mealsMake Halloween treats part of a meal

If you like to stick to a set meal plan, you can still add in some of your child’s Halloween treats. A bag of chips is equivalent to a bread exchange. A snack-sized chocolate bar is the equivalent of a fruit exchange.  For a treat, allow your child to have one of their Halloween items as part of a meal or snack.

Buy the candy back

Some families offer their children cash for their candy.  The children can then take the money that they earned collecting candy to purchase a book, game or favourite toy.  Mom and Dad can take the candy to work or save it to enjoy during some downtime when the kids are in bed!

The Great Pumpkin

Have the Great Pumpkin or Halloween witch come to visit.  Much like buying the candy, parents will exchange the candy while the child sleeps.  In place of their loot, the child will receive a movie pass, book or other treats that don’t involve food.

Donate it

Yet another way for our children to learn care and compassion is to take their candy to a local hospital or hostel. Have them share their candy with children who are unable to go out for Halloween.

Halloween is often a fun time for children. Remember that children with diabetes are children first.  Use some of the tips above to ensure that your child has a fun and memorable Halloween or let us know what works for you in the comments!

The WAG King

“Did you bolus for that?”

“No its Christmas. I am not bolusing for Christmas. I decided that I need a vacation.”

“Funny…NOT. How much are you going to bolus for that? Do you even know how much you ate?”

“I am thinking that 60 sounds good. I like it. I think I will bolus 60.”

“Have you actually totaled what you ate to get to that number?”

“No. It just sounds good.”

At this point I mentally groan and begin to do the calculations….”You had potatoes, dressing, some carrot, a glass of milk, and then there was the pie.”

“Don’t count the pie. I just bolused the pie. The pie is covered.”

“Okay so your main meal.  That would be about 58g CHO.”

“See I told you 60!”

Darn, he still has it. He can still make a complete guess on a meal and manage to come within grams of what I would think the carb count for the meal would be.  The WAG King holds his throne for another day.

IMG_0090
No this wasn’t his 60 CHO meal honestly 🙂

The realities of carb counting with a teen with diabetes

bolusworthy baking

With Christmas only a few days away,  I decided to do some serious Christmas baking today. You know, making double batches of things. Making more than one recipe per day. Actually having food leftover at the end of the day that my two young men have not devoured. That kind of serious.

I didn’t go overboard. I made some sugar cookies (that I actually iced!) and whipped up a cake mix that became cupcakes. All in all it did make me look like a bit of a domestic goddess. Well, in my mind at least!

As I was icing my cupcakes, I began to estimate carb counts.  Most likely the cupcakes would run around 25 grams a piece.  The cookies would depend on which shape he chose. I had used Splenda for part of the sugar.  That would change things a bit too. 

Ideally he would weigh every baked item

Now a “good” diabetes mom would make sure that their son weighed each cookie.  She would have the carb factor out (which is listed on my recipe) and we would know exactly how many carbohydrates were in each cookie.  

This is the advice that I have given to many parents.  It’s much easier and more accurate carb count than WAG’ing (wild a$$ guessing) each piece of food. 

The realities of teen carb counting are that he will weigh a few if I nag him

However, I am actually “slacker” diabetes mom who lives with a teen boy who eats for more hours than I am awake. I know that unless I stand over all pieces of food and shove a scale in my son’s face, that WAG is going to cover way more carbs than any exact measurement.  

The cookie that is eaten as I am making supper will have a proper carb count because I will see him and yell out “WEIGH THAT!”  before he has a chance to stuff it completely in his mouth.  The cupcakes that he has after supper will also have a correct count because I will again have cleared my throat as he sat down, asking him where the scale is. After that? The realities of teen carb counting say that all bets are off. With a small bit of luck, he will use the accurate measures as his guide for guessing the next dozen cookies that he eats.  

If he is off, he will most likely be high.  This would freak out the “good” diabetes mom but she is busy banging her head against the wall of her bedroom. You see her son has already told her that being 16 mmol (288 mgdl) all day long is really no big deal and certainly not worth an injection or a new site.  

Bring on the eggnog to help me through!!

Merry Christmas and Good Blood Glucose Levels to all!