Carbs: How Low Can You Go?

Melinda Seed writes for Twice Diabetes
Melinda Seed writes for Twice Diabetes

Way back in the dark ages, standard diabetes treatment required long-acting insulin. And you had to eat a set amount of carbs 6 times a day or you’d be hypo. Even when Actrapid and Protaphane were introduced in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, you had to feed the insulin. The 11am blood sugar crash and the overnight lows were dreadful and the only protection was carbs, good ‘ol carbs.

When a few people started talking about low carb on the internet back in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, I was horrified. Insulin needs carbs-bread and pasta were essential in avoiding the crashing lows and I absolutely needed bread and milk for supper-otherwise I’d be awake at 1am shaking and sweating and wondering where I was.  The fear was always that I wouldn’t wake up during a hypo.

A definite bonus of low-carbing.

Fast forward to the 2000s and the insulin pump has not only allowed me to reduce my basal rate from midnight to 5am to virtually eliminate overnight lows, but it has also allowed me to break my carb-dependence. Don’t get me wrong it took me awhile to feel safe without 2 slices of low-GI bread at breakfast and lunch and generous amounts of low GI pasta, noodles or bread for dinner and the obligatory hot milk before sleeping.  I’m now liberated from the physical need to ingest copious amounts of carbs at set times but breaking the habit is very hard…but I’m starting to experiment with a low carb lifestyle.

I have been trying to restrict carb intake to less than 50 gms a day.  A few things I’ve experienced so far:

Carbs are generally a quick and easy meal solution-it’s no wonder we rely on them so much. Pasta and rice are so versatile and help turn a few ingredients into a meal. When you exclude the staple carbs, meals require more thought and you seem to need to shop for fresh ingredients more frequently. I’m feeling challenged to prepare interesting meals that don’t make you feel like you’re missing something.

I have found it easier to eat fewer kilojoules when I exclude carbs.  It’s not just because I’ve almost eliminated a food group-I feel less hungry when I’ve done away with carbs. I suspect there is something addictive about carbs or perhaps it’s just that being slightly more liberal with protein and fats is more satiating than carbs alone.  I’m hoping to achieve weight loss, we’ll see how that goes.

Bacon and eggs for breakfast-need I say more.

Sugars have been much less variable and the really high highs are much rarer now with a corresponding reduction in the number of corrections and lows.

‘Cos you can’t live on bacons and eggs alone. Shame really but tuna salad is good!

Incidental carbs in vegetables like carrots and peas can add up.

Thank heavens for reduced carb bread. It’s nice to have a slice of toast occasionally and there is a reduced carb, low GI bread that only has 10gms per slice which means I don’t totally blow the carb ration for the entire day.

Can somebody please tell me how I can include wine in a low carb diet?  Don’t tell me there is low carb wine though-blurghhh.

Have you tried or do you do low-carb? I’m really interested to hear of others’ experiences and sharing meal ideas as I need to expand my repertoire. Also how low is low for you? Do you think low-carb is a bad idea? I’d also like to hear about that too. Would you never try it? Have you tried it but abandoned it?

17 thoughts on “Carbs: How Low Can You Go?

  1. HI Melinda, I do low carb but not quite as strictly as you. 50gms a day is a big goal and I really hope it works out well for you. I have collected a lot of low carb recipes for our healthy eating plan. You can see them all on my Pintrest boards – (most of the Bread Board recipes won’t work for you but there are some alternative versions there that might). Happy low carb eating 🙂

    1. Thanks Kerry I’ll check out those recipes. I always think of Singapore as a total foodie heaven-love all the food options there-must be hard to restrict intake of carbs-or anything living there.

  2. Hi Mel,inda – I hpe it goes really well for you. I stick to 100-120g per day (mostly) but I have never counted the carbs in wines. I figure if I don’t have to bolus for it, it doesn’t count. And I’ve recently lost 13kgs and 2 dress sizes by giving lollies for hypos the flick.Not chocolate, that would be too much.I use the lower carb bread for lunch – saves 10g per meal. And it tastes good.

    1. Jane that’s awesome re the weight loss-I am adopting that practice-is it dextrose that you use-those tablets or something? I think I’ll also adopt your if I don’t have to bolus for it it doesn’t count-sounds like the go to me. I’m ok with not eating chocolate-it’s crackers that I hanker for-with a little dip or cheese or something on them. It’s early days-I’ll see how I go.

  3. I’m on 30g of carbs a day. Switching over did prove enlightening as I found I have to bolus for salad. Also protein. I find I am so sensitive to the carbs that for me there is no such thing as free foods. Worth it for the improved control though.

    1. Good question Annie. I’m obviously not a health professional etc etc but for me I couldn’t do low carb when I was on Protaphane. I went onto the pump before the better basal insulins such as Lantus and Levemir were available-so my personal experience was that I needed the pump to go low carb. I imagine these non-peaky insulins would allow low-carb but as always consult your health-care provider 🙂 I do know some people used to do low carb on the older insulins-so maybe anything’s possible. Cheers.

  4. Hi Melinda, good luck I’ve thought about it for over a year now but just can’t commit lol.

    For recipes there are paleo cookbooks available on Kindle free pretty often plus Facebook groups and pine rest. Also has a really good recipe section not to mention quire a few diabetics that have been on it a few years.

    The Diet Doctor appears to my uneducated self a decent site on the facts behinds lchf and some interesting videos.

    1. Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about those too-they are good. They’re a good “reduced carb” & low GI food-excellent for salad wraps and can also make a sort of fajita with them too. I think they’re somewhere around the 10gms of carb too from memory, I’ll have to check.

  5. Hi Melinda! I’ve been doing LCHF, 60g of carbs a day, for over a year now. No pump, on Levemir twice a day, and one shot of Novolog at breakfast. Working out well for me, and have lost weight, very pleased about that. BGs more stable, so don’t need to test as often. Must admit, I do miss pasta! It is tough to maintain this diet as it limits the grains and potatoes we are so used to eating.
    Thoughts about wine: there may be carb differences between dry and sweet wines. I prefer dry wines, so never have to count carbs for that. A sweeter wine may have countable carbs. Mead, a wine made from honey, does have carbs which I count for. It does have a sweeter flavor than a dry red wine like Merlot or Cabernet. Cheers!

    1. Raspberries are a good low carb fruit – about 12g per punnet. Strawberries are probably the same.

    2. Thanks for the advice & encouragement. I found something that satisfies the pasta cravings-I thought it would be yuk but it was really good-zucchini tagliatelli. You just peel and then grate full length slices of zucchini into pasta-like strips-it’s all in getting the thickness right. Fry them for no more than about a minute in a little butter-sprinkle with parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper-its’ really nice-indulgent ‘cos of the dairy but carb-free. I’ve even used the zucchini strips with a bolognese sauce and it wasn’t too bad either.

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