Diabetes & Diet: Control Your Blood Sugar with Mini-Meals

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 3:06pm

By Megan Porter, RD/LD

True or false? If you are diabetic, you will reach your blood sugar goals more efficiently if you eat 6 mini-meals throughout the day rather than 3 large ones.

True. You do not have to starve in-between meals to reach your blood sugar goals. Research shows that people who eat frequently, roughly every 3 to 5 hours, reach their goals much more successfully than those who do not. Frequent small meals spread over the day help control both your hunger and your calorie intake, which leads to better blood glucose control and weight loss. This habit may also lower your blood cholesterol levels.

Carbohydrates raise blood sugars

Carbohydrate-rich foods raise blood sugar levels. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin your body needs to lower blood sugars. Moreover, your body can only make a limited amount of insulin, an effect that cannot be compensated for with diabetes pills. As a result, when you eat too much food at once, your blood sugars can rise too high, resulting in:

  • Blurred vision
  • Thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Added strain on cardiovascular system and kidneys.

Mini-meals control blood glucose

You can avoid these effects by dividing your food into several small mini-meals. By eating mini-meals, your blood sugars will stay lower and more even, resulting in better blood glucose control. The hard part is making sure the mini-meals do not contain extra calories or carbohydrates. If they do, you will sabotage your health goals. Spread your 3 regular meals out into 6 meals, and avoid overeating at a particular meal.

How to incorporate mini-meals in your diet

The easiest way to start eating mini-meals is to take the meals you are already eating and divide them into several smaller ones. Then, eat the food every 2 to 3 hours. For example, eat your sandwich and fruit for lunch, but save your yogurt and nuts for later. Keep the mini-meals low in calories with a balanced mixture of carbohydrates, protein, and a little fat. In this way, each meal will hold you over to your next meal. Make sure to add vegetables for flavor, color, and taste.

Mini-meal suggestions

  • Sliced apple with thin slices of low-fat cheese and lunch meat
  • ⅛ cup nuts mixed with ⅛ cup raisins
  • Cut up vegetables with ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese and fresh fruit
  • 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk and ½ turkey sandwich
  • Hummus and 1 whole-wheat pita.
  • Whole-wheat toast or crackers with tomato slices and melted mozzarella cheese
  • Homemade oat bran muffin
  • Lentil soup and ½ cup Waldorf salad
  • Tabouli with grilled chicken
  • Turkey or chicken wrap using string cheese and vegetables
  • A small microwaved potato or sweet potato with salsa and steamed broccoli
  • 1 cup of vegetable soup with whole-wheat bread or crackers
  • Whole-wheat English muffin with pasta sauce and melted low-fat cheese
  • Baked tortilla chips with low-fat chili and salsa.

Decrease risk for diabetes complications

In many countries, the mini-meal approach to eating is a way of life. Think of tapas from Spain, mezze in Turkey and Greece, or spuntino in Italy. Regardless of your time commitments and constraints, if your goal is to decrease your risks for diabetes-related complications, find the time to make changes to your diet.

It is easy to find ways to work on adding mini-meals into your meal schedule. And once you start, you may find that you are less hungry and have more energy throughout the day. But remember: Do not add more food to your diet; instead, split up and spread out the food you are already eating.