Diabetic Low Carb Snacks for the Food-Allergic
Diabetics following a low carbohydrate way of eating in order to control their blood sugar have an extra challenge ahead of them if they are allergic or sensitive to some of the foods that are core parts of the diet - like milk, nuts, eggs, pork, and such.
Many low-carb diets encourage the intake of fat, protein, and non starchy vegetables. An allergy to any food staple in these categories can cause a devastating reduction in choices. Dairy is one of the most frequently cited - and if you're allergic to both dairy and nuts, you're in trouble, because those are two convenience foods ideal in a low-carb regimen.
I'm in this very situation - having both diabetic and food tolerance problems and trying to eat a low-carb diet. This article details my strategies for dealing with the dilemma.
Are Food Sensitivities and Allergies Making Low-Carb Difficult?
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I'm a Prediabetic
As a pre-diabetic, I already have insulin resistance, as evidenced by an HgbA1c of 5.8 mg/dl in 2011. (It has since come down to non-diabetic levels on a low-carb diet). I had gestational diabetes and am at high risk of developing full-blown diabetes. However, even before diagnosis, I had complications - peripheral neuropathy, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, connective tissue injuries, IBS, and a number of other symptoms which can be attributed to chronically high blood sugar levels. I come by it honestly, too. It's in the family.
I Changed My Diet
Since I was already eating the kind of whole-grain diet recommended for diabetics, I knew I had to change something - the established advice just wasn't working. In early spring 2012, I began to reduce my carbohydrates. I tested using a blood glucose meter regularly until I understood the effects of different meals on my blood sugar. I altered my diet, shrinking my carb intake to sometimes as low as 30 grams a day, sometimes as high as 100 grams a day.
My Health Improved
I can't say anything for the future. But I had the following results:
- I lost, and have kept off, 70 pounds over the course of the last few years.
- My cholesterol went back to normal levels.
- My blood pressure became normal.
- My HgbA1c became non-prediabetic.
- I stopped getting blood-sugar-associated headaches.
- My energy levels have soared.
- My digestion improved greatly.
I've been shocked by how well going on a low-carb diet has worked for me in terms of managing my diabetes risks.
The One Problem
The diet itself was not hard. My hardest challenge has not been eating low carb, which is delicious, with lots of great choices - IF you have no food allergies. My challenge was my food tolerance issues. Tuns out it's rather difficult to stick to a low carb diet when you have multiple food allergies and sensitivities. Some foods give me true allergic responses. Some foods merely give me awful skin eczema (atopic dermatitis). Others give me migraines. The list goes on.
I used to list my restrictions here, but they keep changing. They've included:
- Food additives
- Pollen Allergy Syndrome fruits and vegetables
- Food seeds (like flax seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
- Dairy foods
Low Carb Snacks to the Rescue
I can't stay on a diabetic diet that makes me feel deprived or takes away my pleasure in food. So over the course of discovering new food sensitivities and trying new foods, I've put together a small but valuable list of low carb snacks that have helped me maintain this way of eating. These are some of the things that have helped me. Many are nut free, dairy free, egg free, MSG-free, and other-stuff-free. I hope you can find some low carb ideas that help you.
Pemmican can provide a great alternative to a convenience snack if you're going dairy-free. Pemmican, defined, sounds icky - powdered beef jerky mixed with beef tallow and salt - an old Native American survival food. (No cherries in ours, due to allergies).
I ordered pemmican online and then it sat in our freezer for almost two years because I was afraid to try it. One day, feeling like a snack but at a loss, I remembered the pemmican. It's from grass-fed cows, I told myself, which means it has a nice, healthful ratio of omega 3 to omega 6. I looked at a bar and saw it was just a month short of reaching its expiration date. I really should rescue it before it goes bad...but...beef and beef fat. Eew.
I took a bite, expecting umami slime. And it was good! Actually tasty. A little weird. But subtly salty and smoky and with that nice powdery, chewy texture I used to like in candy bars. And I felt completely satisfied after eating it.
Homemade Chocolate Recipe, Low Carb Style
If you can't eat dairy, soy, nuts, or seeds, you'll know how hard it is to find chocolate that's friendly to diabetics and also is free of worrisome allergens. Plus it has to be low carb. I found a great source of such chocolate that I feel confident is currently free of these items, but I wasn't satisfied with leaving it alone. I wanted a bittersweet chocolate that didn't have soy lecithin or nonfat milk powder or vanilla or anything else. So I make it myself.
This is what I do. I buy unsweetened baking chocolate - those squares that have no sugar or additives, and are just chocolate. The baking chocolate I buy is the Vermont Nut Free baking chocolate. It's expensive. If you can use regular unsweetened baking chocolate, go for it. It might be cheaper.
I put a whole lot of the unsweetened chocolate into a heavy-bottomed pot. I add a lesser amount of sweetened Enjoy Life Chunky Chocolate Chips. These have three ingredients - evaporated cane juice, chocolate liquor, and non-dairy cocoa butter. No soy, no cow's milk, no peanuts or nuts or whatever. (They do have exposure to pumpkin seeds, according to the manufacturer.)
Then I add some vanilla. You can use powder or extract - watch it if the vanilla has sugar. Alternatively, try peppermint extract for a "peppermint patty" taste or spearmint extract for an Andes Mint kind of flavor.
Add other things if you want some chew, crunch, and flavor bursts - nuts if you are not allergic to them, shredded unsweetened coconut, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries that have been chopped into small pieces - using just a few, they will give a tart taste without adding a lot of carbs.
You can even experiment with "coconut cream concentrate" in small quantities - this is a heavily concentrated coconut milk/oil product that will mimic "nonfat milk powder" and give the chocolate a more milk-chocolate taste. I liked it, but don't think I can handle coconut right now, so I had to remove it, and the recipe is still good.
After I have all the ingredients in the pot, I slowly melt it over low heat, stirring constantly with a heat-safe silicone spatula. When it's all melted, I pour it into a shallow baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread it about. Then I cover it with plastic wrap and pop it into the refrigerator for at least half an hour. Then I take it out and slice it or break it into smaller pieces and stash them in a food safe bag in the fridge until I want to eat them.
This is a relatively low carb and healthful snack. To figure out the exact carb count:
- Add up the carbohydrate count in grams of the ingredients you use.
- Slice the chocolate just after it begins to firm up into regular sized pieces.
- Divide by the total carb count. That's your per-piece number of carb grams.
Easy Cheese Crisps With Only One Ingredient
This snack is great for those who want low-carb crackers and can tolerate dairy but not high salicylate foods like green vegetables and coconut:
Dice small, inch-sized cubes of cheese and place them a few inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until they are browned in many spots and spread out. They will crisp up further when you take them out of the oven.
Easy Fresh Coconut
Fresh coconut was my savior before I stopped tolerating it. Since it's quite unusual to have an intolerance to coconut (even if you have nut allergies), I thought I should include this low-carb idea.
Fresh coconut is sweet but not too sweet and very satisfying, with lots of fiber and good fat.
This is how I processed the coconut:
I bought fresh coconuts and processed them within a day or two, because they go bad quickly.
I took a coconut and put it in three layers of plastic grocery bags, tied up. Then I went outside and smashed the coconut in the bags on the sidewalk until it broke into several pieces and coconut water splattered everywhere (usually mostly inside the bags - thus the utilization of three bags instead of just one, as they tend to break with such activity). I looked around nervously to make sure the neighbors weren't panicking from my loud bangs.
Then I took the dripping mess into the kitchen and washed off the coconut pieces, tasting just a bit of the juice before I washed it off to make sure the coconut hadn't gone moldy. Any sign of visual discoloration on the coconut and I threw it all away. If the juice tasted sweet, and the flesh tasted sweet, I kept it and continued to process it.
I put the coconut pieces on a baking sheet, flesh facing up, and baked at a low heat (about 275) for about 30 minutes, or until the coconut flesh was easily pried out of the shell. Then I let it all cool and froze the coconut pieces that I wasn't going to use in the next few days (they don't last long). Then I snacked on them whenever.
Other Fatty Vegetables
Avocados and olives are simple foods that, if you don't have sensitivities to them (such as an allergy to avocado or a histamine intolerance), are low in carbs and high in fat and can fill you up quickly as a snack.
Does a Low-Carb Diet Help You Manage Your Blood Sugar Problems?
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Disclaimer, Disclosure, Disapproval
Please know that I am not a healthcare professional in any way, shape, or form. If you choose to try to treat yourself without the advice of physician, please do so with care and caution and sense.
I would also like to disclose that I make my living as a writer and may earn commissions on items bought from Amazon.com or other places via links from this article. I do not promote any item that I don't believe in - and that means I don't promote a lot of items that I could, because I think most stuff out there is overpriced junk I'm embarrassed to have bought in the first place.
I kind of just wanted a third "dis" word to round out this section nicely. But since it's here..if you find that you disapprove of stuff in my article - the low-carb way of eating, the idea of treating one's diabetes with diet, or anything else - your comments are still very much appreciated. After all, there's a lot I disapprove of, and I like to be able to blab to my heart's content, so it wouldn't be fair not to allow others the same chance. Try to be polite and respectful and not a troll, and let's have a good, constructive conversation.
What Is Your Most Annoying Food Allergy?
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