Pre Diabetic Easy Food
April 21, 2019 4:23 PM   Subscribe

What are some good easy meals or snacks to have around when I'm too depressed/tired for proper meals, but which are also pre-diabetic friendly?

I just got diagnosed as pre diabetic and also have high cholesterol. My doctor's main diet suggestion is to cut down on sugar and carbs (I do have an appointment with a dietician but that's in a couple of weeks).

However, I also struggle with disordered eating habits due to depression or low energy. When I'm in one such slump (Inc when I'm sick with something else), I don't eat much even though I'm hungry because I don't have the appetite or the energy to make up something. This has gotten me in trouble before (mainly getting quite sick or losing far more weight than is healthy) so my current stopgap is to buy stuff like canned soups or readymade meals so at least I have something SUBSTANTIAL that doesn't take a lot of spoons (literal or metaphorical).

Readymade meals, however, probably aren't that pre-diabetic friendly. So I need ideas for things I can eat when I'm too tired to cook but also won't wreck havoc on my blood sugar (I am also trialling Metformin and figuring out exercise). Especially if they actually HAVE A FLAVOUR, because good god roast plain chicken breast is not enough.

I'm open to some degree of meal planning though sometimes it can be too much effort to prep so I'd like ideas that work for those situations. I eat out sometimes and knowing what general categories of things are useful/not useful is good too.
posted by divabat to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
For snacks I like nuts or cheese with fruit. If I'm really tired, dried fruit (but I have to pay more attention to make sure I don't eat too much, sugars-wise).

Things like stir fries and curries with meat or seafood in them are probably healthiest and yummiest. (In the US, I will sometimes get a chicken curry takeout and then eat it for my next several lunches and dinners. Other places probably don't overdo it enough to make that practical.) Thinking of my frozen food aisle, things like shrimp gyoza and either a bag of frozen veg or a salad with good dressing would work. Mahi mahi burgers are good. Quiche too.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:05 PM on April 21

Careful of sauces if you do stir fry. They have tons of sugar. When I had to follow a diabetic meal plan while pregnant, this made my sugar spike a few times.

The guideline they gave me was that 15 grams of carbs is one unit. Meals should have 3-4 units and snacks should have 1-2 units. I also found certain things made me test high even if I stayed within that limit with them. For me, it was pizza and cold cereal of any kind, but that would be different for every person.

When you start reading labels, it’s amazing how little switches can make a big difference. I can save half the carbs with one brand of bread over another. What I found helpful was to pre-plan 5-6 meals which I knew worked for me and just repeat them.
posted by ficbot at 5:28 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]

Cheese sticks, nuts, olives, pickles, boiled eggs, tinned fish and spicy mustard
posted by congen at 5:53 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]

I've been going through this since last Fall, and also several years ago. I went up and down with pre-diabetes and just crossed the line into diabetes last Fall.

One snack I enjoy is any kind of cheese, slices of cheddar or Brie, etc., with some Anjou pear. I buy them at the weekend and let them soften in a basket so I can slice them and eat with cheese.

The guideline I was given, and I have seen a dietician twice and just attended a full-day class two weeks ago, is for a woman, 30-45 grams of carbs per meal, and 15-20 grams of carbs per in-between snack, only if I am hungry, snacks are optional.

I hate eating breakfast, I love to go on coffee with milk and sugar, but that's bad, as skipping breakfast is bad. I do microwaved oatmeal with savory components, nutritional yeast, parm cheese, curry powder, hot sauce, microwaved turkey links (the tiny ones), an egg stirred in, and that might seem like a lot, but 1/2 cup of dried oatmeal to 1 cup of water, microwaved for 2 minutes, doesn't have that many carbs.

The way I was taught is to pair carbs with protein, and add non-carby veg to that. If you eat too little carbs, you will be weak and hungry later, and make up for it with non-healthy snacks, ymmv depending your eating habits.

So, a few crackers with peanut butter. Apple and cheese. Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, I only use 2 slices of deli turkey, 2 pieces of thin sliced Provolone, some salad greens, and a little mayo or mustard. It gets boring, but if I eat the same thing for breakfast most days and lunches, I can get creative at supper, if I want to.

I just read labels, I can have a pita bread at 34 grams of carbs, with a protein (turkey, etc.), and any non-carb veg, and add 1/2 an avocado, to make a sort of California sandwich, and that's fine.

A nice breakfast smoothie is Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries, 1/2 a banana, and a few walnuts or a TBS of peanut butter. The blueberries are very low in carbs, the banana adds sweetness and some carbs, and dairy has a little bit of carbs, and the nuts or PB add fat and some protein. You can also mix it up in a bowl if you prefer crunchy stuff, but frozen blueberries will make it like a shake (I will do it in summer, but not winter, and do oatmeal when it's cold out).

The one nurse I talked to years ago told me it takes about one year to make the lifestyle changes, and to give yourself time to make them, do it a little bit at a time, especially if you are pre-diabetes and not experiencing super high blood sugars. I found the class helpful, I had taken one years ago, but this last one, the class members were very knowledgable themselves, and they brought in a motivational fitness trainer, as well as a diabetes nurse specialist, who explained the workings of the human body, and then a nutritionist, who had us do silly exercises making up fake meals using cutout food photos, and then tested us on our lunches (that we brought with us or bought at the cafeteria), and how to measure things in soups and desserts, etc.

I was sick due to low thyroid, which didn't help. I was too tired to move much, and when I finally got the meds for that, my blood sugars had crept back up. Metabolic syndrome, yay. But now my thyroid meds are at a good level, and I feel more up to doing daily tasks, and paying attention to my diet (I also take 5,000 IU of Vitamin D a day, as I was low on that too). I also suffer from winter depression, and am just starting to feel like I can take on physical tasks.

It can be really overwhelming at first, but you will eventually get a handle on it, and become more confident as time goes on. I reversed my blood sugar levels once, and then life happened and I gained weight and they crept up again, partly due to lifestyle, partly due to genetics, but don't feel bad and just take it one day at a time. You will mess up and you will get it right, and you'll learn and grow and it will even out. The more support you get, from nutritionists and peers, the better off you will be, I promise you. Feel free to MeMail me if you ever need extra support.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:54 PM on April 21 [8 favorites]

Do poke around keto and paleo sites to see if anything piques your interest. A really critical part of how I keep things going on busy/low days is to meal prep every week and keep a moderate stash of frozen meals made in bulk.

Today is a cooking day, and I've made:
- a pair of instant pot freezer cilantro-lime chicken meals (frozen raw to toss into the IP on the day, it's ready in about an hour or you can put them in the crock pot to slow cook )
- a giant vegetable lasagna that I mostly improvised: pre-roasted cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant layered with a meat sauce, shred mozzarella, and a ricotta-egg mixture (no pasta); this will make 4 large servings to eat this week and another 4 in the freezer
- crustless breakfast casserole - this freezes okay if you microwave it on a paper towel as the eggs give off some water. Other people really love egg muffins (made in muffin pan) but I hate cleaning muffin pans and it sticks even in the silicone ones, so I just do one big thing in a casserole dish and cut it up. There are a million recipes out there.
- keto clafoutis (half a container of raspberries about to go bad and a handful of terrible flavorless strawberries I'm hoping will improve in the oven), which I've never frozen but I'll bet it's fine, and I often just make it entirely with almond or unsweetened coconut milk and it's fine.
- the instant pot butter chicken recipe that went viral a while back, and I always have half a dozen steamer bags of frozen cauliflower rice on hand to go with it

I keep salami and pepperoni in the fridge for snacks, cans of tuna/salmon/sardines in the pantry for salad (which I eat on some combo of celery, cucumber slices, and pork rinds). For Christmas I got myself this electric grill-griddle and for my depression/work stress it has been as big a game-changer as the Instant Pot. I always have a bunch of sausages in the fridge that stick to 1-2 net carbs per link, frozen fish fillets, frozen burger patties, and I can just stick a couple on the grill and set a timer to come back and check on them in a bit, throw a steamer bag of frozen vegetables into the microwave (or not, some days), and get hot food into me without having to think real hard. You can throw fresh zucchini, broccoli, brussels sprouts etc on it while you pan fry or broil a protein, as well. My husband doesn't really like to cook but can do basics on it, and nothing takes more than maybe 15 minutes.

If you can afford meal service, Freshly has a bunch of low-carb menu options, and honestly the prices - given that my time has a dollar value too - aren't that bad, and the food's really good. They don't always freeze well though, so you kind of need to plan to eat as many as you order each week.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:04 PM on April 21 [9 favorites]

Postscript: purge and refresh your spice cabinet and condiments, especially hot sauces, mustards, vinegars. This will help elevate relatively plain food with little to no effort.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:27 PM on April 21

It's good you have an appointment with a dietician. My aunt was diagnosed pre-diabetic and she has disordered eating, lives alone, and hates to cook, and talking to a dietician helped her a lot. They determined she wasn't eating enough protein, so they helped her figure out quick and easy things she could eat to get her protein up without overloading her on carbs or sugars.

If you have a microwave, you can cook eggs very easily. They are a good high-protein, low carb snack.

A handful of almonds is high protein, low carb, and high in good nutrients.

Hummus with carrot or celery sticks for dipping is also good.

Plain yogurt with berries is easy and good.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:52 PM on April 21

Oh, I forgot something else she tried that she liked a lot and was easy: cottage cheese. It has lots of protein. I think she mostly eats it plain with a little salt, but you could stir in berries if you like it sweet rather than savoury.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:54 PM on April 21

Seconding looking to Keto for food/recipe ideas (Reddit is uncharacteristically great for this.) I have had major blood sugar issues that lazy Keto 100% fixed, which were made worse by eating carbs (even those '15g unit' guidelines listed above. I dont know how nutritionists can push this outdated info, but it's very frustrating to see it repeated here.) I know Keto gets a bad rap here on Metafilter, but in my community it has completely reversed people's diabetes. At worst you'll get some helpful food ideas that absolutely wont spike your blood sugar.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:04 PM on April 21 [6 favorites]

What you could do would be to prepare some meals in large quantities and freeze them, then when the time comes just defrost and cook in the microwave. Not sure which meals would work for this, maybe hearty soups, stews, curry, chilli con carne etc
posted by EatMyHat at 8:36 PM on April 21

Glad you are seeing a dietician soon. I hope they aren't going by the scientifcally outdated advice to eat low fat. I have recently lost 20 pounds and I eat a lot tastier foods than plain roasted chicken breast.

Very low-carb diets were invented to address diabetes. They are not just low-carb, they require high fat and moderate protein. Some of the names they have carried over the years include Atkins and keto. In general, the less processed food you eat, the lower your blood sugar will be.

Therefore, any snack that has minimal carbs and also keeps your blood sugar from spiking is what you want to be eating. Nuts and olives are great examples, as upthread. Dry sausages like sopressata may or may not fit your bill exactly. A jar of natural, unsweetened peanut butter is good for a few dips of the spoon with few carbs and little to no spike in blood sugar. Half an avocado can be eaten with a spoon. A hunk of hard cheese is very satisfying. An omelet is good--or make up a batch of egg salad to dip into while standing at the kitchen counter.

If you are able to do meal prep once a week so that you end up with individually portioned meals to select for microwaving later, then you'll find a wealth of good news by searching for phrases like "easy keto meal prep."
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:46 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

Hi, many similar things for me. A tip I got was to make sure every meal or snack includes protein - it helps buffer any carbs in the meal.

For processed meals, my dietician and a doctor at my primary care practice came up with a rule for evaluating processed foods that is easy to do in the grocery store, and pretty effective.

For breakfast, I go for Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, sometimes with some berries. (If you want other mixins, olives, cucumber, or dill all work on the savory end.)

For lunch, I'm currently doing bento-box style small amounts of several different things and snacking my way through them (dietician's guidelines were 'one protein, one vegetable, one vegetable based fat, and then one or two other things depending on your needs' Vegetable based fats include olives, hummus and other beans )

For dinners, I do the same, alternately some frozen meals (my default grocery shopping is Trader Joe's, which has a number of options that work) or doing foil packets with protein (usually chicken), vegetables, and some kind of dressing/etc. (picking options with less sugar.)

I can't do the same meal multiple days in a row, and freezing is hit or miss for me (my body decides a thing is no longer food, thanks) but mixing it up from things that don't require a lot of prep helps a lot. I usually end up having one day, generally on a weekend, where I do a bit more cooking.

My workplace is a nut-free zone, otherwise nuts would be a significantly more prominent part of my diet than they currently are, especially for snacking. I rely heavily on cheese, instead.
posted by jenettsilver at 7:08 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

I'm in Australia so Trader Joe's and Freshly don't exist here, alas
posted by divabat at 4:28 PM on April 22

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