From Caveman to Caving in: Understanding Why We Eat

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Caterina Florissi and Dr. Francine Kaufman

How do our brains and bodies motivate us to eat? What makes us eat past the point of hunger? And how we can develop healthier eating habits?

Thousands of years ago, some of our ancestors, as hunters and gatherers, roamed vast savannas searching for food. Traveling long distances, men scavenged for meat, speared fish, and hunted down animals. Women foraged for nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Their work was demanding, tiring, and relentless. It was also necessary for survival.

To keep them going on their essential search, our ancestors evolved not one, but two, systems to motivate them to eat. One encouraged them to eat when they needed energy. The other led them to see food as a gratifying and fulfilling reward.

Fast-forward to the present day, and the hardwiring that drives us to eat remains the same. Yet, our food environment has changed substantially. Developing a deeper understanding of our drives, the advantages they once served, and the challenges they now pose can help guide us on a path to a healthier lifestyle.

Two drives to eat

Traditionally, researchers have identified two drives that motivate us to eat: one ensures we consume enough calories to survive (known as “homeostatic”); the other encourages us to eat for pleasure (known as “hedonic”).

Homeostatic drive (from ‘homeo-’ and ‘-stasis,’ meaning staying the same)

Our homeostatic drive works to maintain our body’s energy reserves. To do so, careful bodily systems diligently manage our intake, storage, and use of nutrients.

Short-term monitoring takes place at the level of a meal or snack. As food moves down the digestive tract, receptors in the stomach and intestines detect expansion. Additional receptors also recognize the presence of proteins, carbs, and fats. This information is relayed to the brain, which determines whether we should feel hungry or full.

Longer-term, tissues and organs release chemical signals – natural hormones – based on the state of their energy stores. When reserves are running low, for instance, fat tissues reduce release of the hormone leptin (which signals fullness) while the stomach increases release of the hormone ghrelin (which signals hunger). Together, falling levels of leptin and rising levels of ghrelin act on the brain to stimulate appetite and eating behaviors. Similarly, dips and peaks in levels of insulin (which also signals fullness) can increase or decrease hunger, respectively.

Hedonic drive (from ‘hedonism,’ meaning pleasure)

In contrast, our hedonic drive is motivated by pleasure and reward. To ensure we kept looking for sources of energy, our ancestors evolved to crave foods high in fat and sugar. Today, our brains remain engineered to both like and want these foods.

Liking refers to the emotional state of enjoying food. When we eat meals or snacks, we appreciate different scents, flavors, and textures. Sweet and high-fat foods, in particular, bring us intense feelings of pleasure. They’re even believed to trigger the release of natural opioids, molecules whose effects include pain management and euphoria.

Separately, wanting refers to the motivation or need to eat more of something. This need can persist, even if we do not enjoy the taste or already feel full from what we’ve consumed. The difference between liking and wanting can be understood in terms of a drug addiction – a person may dislike, but still intensely crave a drug. The same brain pathways that regulate drug addiction are also involved in the consumption of food. As expected, foods that combine both fat and sugar have been found to be especially addictive.

The two systems underlying our homeostatic and hedonic drives do interact with one another. Notably, our hedonic system can override homeostatic signals of fullness, leading us to continue eating. At some point, however, we become full enough to turn away even the tastiest of treats.

From caveman to caving in

While our homeostatic and hedonic drives served us well in our early days, they have not aged well in our current environment. Rather, our modern landscape is saturated with processed, high-carb and sweetened foods. These foods have made it difficult for our homeostatic system to detect when the body has sufficient energy stores and have kicked our hedonic system into overdrive.

On the homeostatic front, the same signals our ancestors relied on fall short when processing today’s foods. Their inadequacy can be understood through the changing nutrient profiles of our meals. Living in hunter-gatherer societies, our ancestors routinely consumed foods rich in protein, fiber, and complex carbs. These nutrients took time to digest, giving the body more time to send the brain signals of feeling full. Today, the food industry produces nutrient-poor products that are quickly digested and leave us less satisfied.

In our current environment, the abundance of products that are high in carbs and added sugars also poses another problem. More often than not, packaged foods and beverages are prepared with excess amounts of both sugar and fat. These properties exploit our hedonic system, dangerously increasing their addictive properties and leading us to overeat.

Tips for healthier eating

So, what can we do to lead healthier lives?

1) Practice mindful eating – With time and the right diet, we can learn to recognize, follow, and trust our homeostatic signals of feeling full. Before reaching for food, take a moment to notice whether you’re physically hungry, or whether you may be responding to another feeling instead (e.g., stress or boredom). Eat at meal times and, if desired, have a healthy snack to avoid grazing throughout the day.

2) Choose filling foods – When preparing meals, look for foods high in protein and fiber. These nutrients will help you feel and stay full, lowering the hedonic temptation to keep eating. Eggs, fish, avocados, and leafy greens are a few great options.

3) Avoid sugary and processed products – While cheap, tasty, and convenient, processed and high-carb foods are readily liked and wanted. They also lead to rapid increases in glucose, which cause insulin levels to rise and fall more quickly than usual. As your glucose and insulin levels drop, your body will feel hungrier sooner. Instead, opt for ‘real’ foods, such as fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, or seeds, that do not have the same addictive properties. Cooking at home can make for great opportunities to incorporate more ‘real ingredients’ in your meals. Check out Catherine Newman’s recipes for inspiration.

4) Skip the juice and soda – When in doubt, stick with the drink of our ancestors: water. Other beverages tend to contain large amounts of sugar. These not only trick the homeostatic system into feeling hungrier, but also activate the hedonic urge to continue drinking for pleasure.

As they were in our ancestors, our homeostatic and hedonic systems remain fixed within us. By keeping these tips in mind, we can aim to channel our ancestral drives into eating habits that help us stay healthy today.


10 Healthy Foods to Look For at Target

Target has become the one-stop shop for all things needed for my family and for my health. Whether it is clothing, vitamins, decor, or snacks, I am always sure to come home with more than I need. Having a store like Target means fewer errands and knowing I can pick up healthy foods and snacks for my family makes this trip worthwhile every time.

Luckily Target takes the health of their customers seriously and has increased their healthy options double-fold over the last few years. Some of our favorite brands within the diabetes online community, such as Perfect Bar and Skinny Dipped Peanuts, are stocked plentiful so be sure to look for these food items on your next visit.

Quest 4 Cheese Thin Crust Pizza

Quest 4-Cheese Thin Crust Pizza

This is a great option for you and your busy family. Having a healthy pizza readily available will help you to avoid the last-minute take out which often is loaded with calories and carbs. This pizza tastes delicious and is packed with protein coming in at 27 grams per serving and 6 grams net carbs per serving. It will be sure to taste great and keep you full for hours.

Healthy Choice Frozen Power Bowls Chicken Marinara With Cauliflower Rice

Healthy Choice Frozen Power Bowls Chicken Marinara With Cauliflower Rice

Healthy Choice Power Bowls are a great option for a quick meal that offers a ton of protein. They offer an assortment of meals but this is one of my favorite and won’t mess with your blood sugars since it contains only 10 grams of carbs. With only 210 calories and 19 grams of protein, this is a great dinner option that tastes great too.

Apple Gate Natural No Sugar Chicken and Herb Breakfast Sausage

AppleGate Naturals No Sugar Chicken & Herb Breakfast Sausage

This gluten-free breakfast sausage is a great and wholesome choice for your children and yourself. Each serving contains no carbohydrates, 10 grams of protein and is full of flavor, making it a great option for breakfast or for any time of the day. The best part is that it won’t impact your blood sugars much at all, even if you do dose insulin for protein.

Two Good Vanilla Greek Style Yogurt

Two Good Vanilla Greek Style Yogurt

I have not liked Greek yogurt until I tried Two Good yogurt. I absolutely love this yogurt and it has quickly become a staple in my home. I choose the vanilla so I can add dark chocolate chips or strawberries. This yogurt only contains 3 grams of carbs and has 12 grams of protein per serving, making this a great choice at all times of the day. I highly recommend trying out some of their other flavors as well.

Good and Gather Asiago Kale Salad Kit

Good & Gather Asiago Kale Salad Kit

This salad can make for a delicious lunch, post-gym snack, or a side dish for your favorite dish. The Asiago Kale salad kit includes kale, radicchio, Brussel sprouts, Focaccia crumbles, and Asiago cheese and comes with a tasty lemon garlic vinaigrette. Containing 11 grams of carbs, this is a tasty salad that I highly recommend picking up on your next Target trip.

Skinny Dipped Almonds

Skinny Dipped Almonds

I tried Skinny Dipped Almonds a few years back and reviewed it for Diabetes Daily. It has since been something I grab on every target trip. This naturally gluten-free snack has an assortment of flavors and has 5 grams of protein and 11 grams of carbs per serving. The flavor is rich and satisfies my sweet tooth!

Green Giant Riced Veggies Cauliflower Risotto Medley

Green Giant Riced Veggies Cauliflower Risotto Medley

This gluten-free, low-carb, and low-calorie alternative to rice and pasta is absolutely delicious and can make you forget all about those starchy sides. Coming in at 4 grams of carbs and 20 calories per serving, this is a great and healthy choice that your blood sugars will also thank you for.

Mission Carb Balance Whole Wheat Soft Tacos

Mission Carb Balance Whole Wheat Soft Tacos

I am so glad I stumbled across these during one of my many shopping trips to Target. They quickly became my go-to for lunch wraps and Taco Tuesdays. Coming in at only 3 grams net carbs and 5 grams of protein per serving, these won’t spike your blood sugars and they taste great, too.

Perfect Bites

Perfect Bites

This organic, gluten-free snack is great on-the-go and full of flavor. The chocolate tastes rich and decadent and this snack only comes in at 11 grams of carbs and contains 7 grams of protein. This line is kid-friendly and diabetes-friendly so be sure to check out all their products. I also reviewed the Perfect Bar for Diabetes Daily a few years back and enjoyed them a great deal!

Health Warriors Chia Bars Chocolate Peanut Butter

Health Warriors Chia Bars Chocolate Peanut Butter

This gluten-free bar contains only 3 grams of sugar making this a great snack that won’t mess with your blood sugars. It comes in a variety of flavors so there is sure to be one for you. It can be a great and delicious choice for kids, too!

Target is a great place for you to pick up all your household needs. Knowing that there are healthy meal and snack options for me and my family gives me yet another excuse to head to Target. I am sure I’ll come home with more than just the things on this list!

Have you found good healthy finds at Target? Share and comment below!


Comfort Without the Carbs: Dishes to Warm and Restore

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Catherine Newman

In the most unusual of times, we bring you low-carb comfort food for good days, bad days, cold days, and everything in between – these recipes will warm you right up and make you feel like things are okay in the world

These dishes are the fleece blankets of the dinner world. They’re so warm and cozy that they’ll give you a kind of “bring it on” feeling about both life and cold weather. They cook forever and smell fantastic while they’re in the oven or on the stovetop, and they look great by candlelight even if they don’t all photograph that well. And, yes, most of them are not exactly light – they’re more like stick-to-your-ribs fare, made to be eaten before you go ice skating in the dark or, even, before you curl up to watch whatever show it is you’re binge watching.

Low-carb comfort food might sound like an oxymoron – where’s the pasta? the potatoes? – but trust me when I tell you that these hit all of the same notes as the classics. They’re long-cooked and aromatic and totally like what your grandma used to make, if your grandma made the kind of meal you’d order at an American diner. Plus, they’re unfancy crowd pleasers, and the leftovers always heat up well. While none of them are going to win any prizes in, say, the salad category, they do all offer way more in vegetable matter than their carbier cousins, which means loads of bonus nutrition in every bite. So, hunker down, give in to the cozy, and enjoy.

1. Baked Zucchatoni

Warm dish

Image source: Catherine Newman

This is like a cross between an unfussy lasagna and a baked ziti: cheesy, rich, and deeply satisfying, despite the actual absence of noodles. Even my daughter, who tends to be totally skeptical about “fake vegetable pasta dishes,” loves it. Don’t be daunted by the ribboning of the zucchini with a vegetable peeler: it honestly doesn’t take that long, and the resulting strands are thinner and wider and just generally more noodle-like than what you’d get with a spiralizer. That said, if you want to start with a pound of zoodles, go ahead – just be sure to salt and drain them really, really well or the resulting dish will be watery. One last thing: if you’d prefer a meat sauce, go ahead and brown a pound of ground beef after you sauté the onions and before you add the tomatoes – and expect the dish to feed more people that way.

View the recipe.

2. Best-Ever Beef Stew

Warm dish

Image source: Catherine Newman

This classic stew should be the mascot of your winter kitchen. It’s completely delicious, and it smells fabulous during its long stint in the oven, filling the house with warmth and promise. I love mushrooms, and the fact that they’re healthy, but if you don’t like them or don’t have any, just leave them out. This stew takes a long time to make, but honestly, after the rigorous and somewhat tedious browning of the meat, the oven does most of the work. Serve it with Creamy Mashed Cauliflower and a nice sharply-dressed green salad.

View the recipe.

3. Chicken (Sort of) Noodle Soup

Warm dish

Image source: Catherine Newman

This recipe is designed around the chicken-eating habits of your household: if you love rotisserie chicken, but favor one kind of meat over the other, then just enjoy your favorite parts, and make soup with the rest of it! Or feel free to devote the whole chicken to the soup—just pull off your favorite meat and dice it, then add it back at the end once the soup is cooked. Please note that you don’t have to use all of the noodle-like ingredients (of course). The zucchini strands are tender; the mushrooms are chewy; the cabbage is strand-like and toothsome – but omit any that you don’t like or don’t have.

View the recipe.

4. Cottage Pie

Warm dish

Image source: Catherine Newman

If your own mum isn’t English, then maybe you don’t know the difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie – but I do! Shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb; cottage pie usually means beef. But just use whatever meat – and whatever name – you prefer. This is homey comfort food at its best, even with cauliflower swapped in for the usual mashed potatoes.

View the recipe.

More comfort food recipes on diaTribe:

Cauliflower “Mac and Cheese”

Chicken Parmesan

Tomato Soup

Enchilada Zucchini

Creamy Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

Long-Roasted Chicken Thighs

Two-Bean Beef Chili

Creamy Mashed Cauliflower

Baked Chicken Fingers

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Her book “How to Be A Person” was published in 2020. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]


The Keto Diet Isn’t for Everyone: A Type 1 Diabetes Perspective

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Christel Oerum

I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as a “Diabetic Diet,” but that we each need to find the best diet for our bodies and mental happiness.

In the search for the diet that’s right for me, I tried the keto diet, and this is what happened.

Why I Decided to Try the Keto Diet

I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes since 1997 and didn’t pay much attention to my diet or followed any specific nutrition regime for the first 17 years. I just ate and adjusted my insulin to my food. And you know what, that worked pretty well for me.

Then in 2014, I started preparing for my first bodybuilding competition and I really had to focus on my diet in a way I never had before. Back then, my coach had me on a high protein, medium/low-carb, and very low-fat diet.

After that experience, I became fascinated with different nutrition approaches and I’ve tried out quite a few diets in the name of research and just plain curiosity.

What is so fascinating about nutrition is that every approach has its die-hard followers and I’m always curious to see if I’ll love it as much as they do.

So, in the name of research, I set out to try the keto diet on my own body.

How I Implemented the Keto Diet

The keto diet restricts the amount of carbohydrates and protein consumed, which means that you primarily rely on fats for your daily energy. The goal is to consume very few carbohydrates (~5% of your daily calorie consumption, or 20-50 grams max), thereby forcing your body to burn fat for fuel.

Fans of the keto diet usually like the approach because it supposedly helps with blood sugar management as well as weight management. And let’s face it, if you’re into bacon and cheese, it sounds very alluring.

Many say that they’ve seen weight loss even though they don’t pay attention to calories, simply because a diet high in fat is very satiating, making them feel full quickly so they eat less.

Based on all of this, I decided to eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day (including veggie carbs/fibers), about 80 grams of protein, and as much fat I needed to feel full without keeping a track of my calorie intake.

My Experience Following the Keto Diet


Image source: Beyond Type 1

At first, my experience was great. I enjoyed the cheese, nuts, seeds, and avocado that my diet predominantly consisted of.

When it came to my diabetes management, I saw a flatter blood sugar profile with fewer spikes on my Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that I often see when I eat a more carb-heavy diet (which is not surprising since carb are what gets converted into glucose the fastest in the bloodstream).

But my experiment quickly went south. I started to become increasingly insulin resistant after only about a week, which meant that I needed more and more insulin to manage my blood sugars, even though I was eating very few carbs.

I still wasn’t seeing any major spikes in my blood sugars, but since fat slows down the release of glucose into the bloodstream, my blood sugar would continue to slowly creep up. To keep my blood sugars in-range, I had to increase my long-acting insulin significantly while micro-dosing my rapid-acting insulin more often.

The reason for the micro-doses rather than doing larger doses was to adjust my blood sugar without ending up with low blood sugar.

Not only did I become more insulin resistant and had a harder time managing my blood sugars, I also started to have a lot of digestive issues and was gaining weight at an alarming rate.

None of the last two issues are really a surprise.

  1. My digestive issue was most likely related to my diet being low in fibers and volume
  2. And when it comes to my weight gain, fats are very calorie-dense compared to protein and carbs and since I wasn’t monitoring my calorie intake, I was eating too many calories for my needs. I have a healthy appetite and fats alone were just not satiating enough to make me feel full quickly.

After about a month of sticking to the keto diet, I switched back to my moderate/low-carb way of eating. At that point I didn’t feel good, I was constantly bloated, couldn’t fit in my clothes, and my endo was not impressed with how negatively it was impacting my diabetes management.

If you only take one thing away from this post, I hope that it will be this: that you can (and should) try things out, and if they don’t work for you, then “cut your losses.”

It’s Not a Failure, It’s Just an Approach That Doesn’t Work for You

So maybe the keto diet intrigues you, or the Paleo or Vegan diet sounds more appealing. My recommendation would be to research the diet, talk to others who have tried it, assess if it might trigger any unwanted eating patterns, and then try it out if you like.

There are thousands of people with diabetes who follow any of the three diets I mention above with great results so they clearly work for a lot of people – they just don’t work for all people. It may take some experimentation to find the diet that works for you.

If you’re interested in trying the keto diet, you can find a keto meal plan with recipes on Diabetes Strong.


Review: Enlightened Low-Carb, High-Protein, Guiltless Ice Cream

If you are looking for a guilt-free substitution for your favorite ice cream, Enlightened is the brand for you. While some of its competitors’ products lack flavor and the creaminess that I know ice cream to be, Enlightened delivers amazing taste and rich, creamy consistency that will make you think you are eating the real thing. And with it being low-carb and high-protein, you can indulge without worrying about a blood sugar rollercoaster ride.

Who Are They

When Michael Shoretz’s father was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Michael became very educated on the topic of nutrition and went on to study health policy and become a certified personal trainer.

He noticed many of his clients would confess to eating ice cream which would only sabotage their efforts and they were desperately seeking a better alternative. Michael noticed that with all the products offered, you would have to sacrifice one thing for another. For example, if the ice cream was low-sugar, it was often filled with artificial ingredients. Michael sought out to create a product that was low-calorie, low-sugar, and high in protein, all without sacrificing taste. And in 2012, the first Enlightened ice cream bars hit the stores and the brand has grown quite a bit since.

What Is It Made Of and How Does It Taste?

All of the Enlightened products, both bars and pints, are sweetened with monk fruit and erythritol, which are all-natural, zero-carb sweeteners. I find these both to be gentler on my stomach than some of their competitors.

The keto collection is made with real cream and zero-carb sweeteners. They come out to 1 g net carb once you factor in their high fiber content. They all were rich and creamy and the bits of flavor were plentiful and always a delicious surprise inside each bite. My favorites were the Peanut Butter Fudge, Mint Chocolate Chunk and P.B. Cookie Dough. I was able to enjoy this dessert before bed and not have an overnight rollercoaster ride with my blood sugars.

Photo credit: Enlightened

I was sent their keto variety pack which consisted of:

  1. P.B. Cookie & Brownie Dough (NEW!)
  2. Caramel Chocolate Double Dough (NEW!)
  3. Red Velvet
  4. Chocolate Glazed Donut
  5. Peanut Butter Fudge
  6. Mint Chocolate Chunk
  7. Butter Pecan
  8. Coffee & Cream
  9. Chocolate Peanut Butter

The dairy-free line is perfect for anyone with stomach issues or who prefers to eat vegan. Many people with celiac also prefer this line as many of the flavors are gluten-free. Check out each flavor from all the lines as many of their products are gluten-free. I received the Monkey Business and Chocolate PB, both of which were delicious and I would have never known they didn’t contain any dairy.

Also, be sure to check out their low-calorie line for those of you who are counting your calories. Each serving from this collection ranges from only 70-100 calories!

How Much Does It Cost and Where Can I Purchase?

Enlighted has thankfully gone more mainstream and is now offered in many grocery and specialty stores around the country. Make sure to enter your zip code to find the closest location to you.

The prices range depending on product type and product line but they offer many different options and offer incentives, including free shipping, if you are unable to find your favorites in your local store.


I have tried many different low-carb ice creams and Enlightened continues to hold the number one spot for me. I always look forward to this guiltless pleasure and enjoy knowing that my blood sugars won’t get out of whack.  With a great variety of product lines and flavors, there is something for everyone. I highly recommend giving Enlightened products a try.


Legendary Low-Carb Toaster Pastry

It is often very hard to find healthy food that also meets my expectations taste-wise. Many of the products offered boast great flavor but wind up falling short. Add in finding foods that don’t mess with your blood sugars and it isn’t an easy feat! Thankfully, Legendary Foods has some fantastic-tasting options that appeal to all ages!

Their latest Low-Carb Toaster Pastry does not disappoint! Not only is it a great snack for busy adults on the go, but it is also a healthy option for growing children as well.


At Legendary Foods, they believe nutritious foods are important but they also believe great taste matters, too. Co-founders Mike and Ron noticed that it was a challenge to find healthy food that also satisfied their taste buds.  They started Legendary Foods to create good-tasting food that could also help to keep people on track with their nutritional and health goals.

What are Low-Carb Toaster Pastries and What are They Made Out Of?

Legendary successfully attempted to recreate a very well-loved snack that is typically full of sugar by using almond flour and erythritol as its two main ingredients. With only 3 g net carbs and 170 calories, compared to a regular toaster pastry at 35 g net carbs and 210 calories, this is a great breakfast or snack option for someone who is health-conscious and who wants to avoid blood sugar spikes. It also is packed with 9 grams of protein, which you can’t get from any other kind of morning pastry!

How Do They Taste?

I wasn’t sure what to expect since this is a type of food that would normally taste very sweet. It was the perfect mix of sweet and the flavorful filling (cinnamon/strawberry) and was perfectly moist with just the right amount of bite to it. The cinnamon filling was better than I expected and tasted very rich and not artificial at all. I am less of a strawberry fan, in general, but found this one to be very tasty and it was popular amongst my friends. The icing on top could have been the sugar-laden kind, I would not have noticed the difference — that is how natural it tasted!

Where Can You Purchase?

Legendary Foods can be purchased on their website. They also offer much more than their latest toaster pastries. You can find an assortment of low-carb, keto-friendly nut butter and nut snacks as well and Diabetes Daily has reviewed these products in the past. If you are interested in checking out the reviews before purchasing, you will see the large amount of reviews each product has, which I think is a testament to this great company and their delicious products!


I am a big fan of Legendary Foods because they offer low-carb options that also taste great. It is very hard to find a low-carb breakfast option, which for me is extra important since I am extremely insulin resistant in the mornings and my blood sugar goes up before I even eat or drink anything. The toaster pastries come individually packed and make for a very easy and healthy meal on the go!


Sugar Summit Backcountry Offers Carb-Conscious Options for Outdoor Adventure

For everyone, and especially for people with diabetes, consistently making healthy food choices is vital to feeling good and staying healthy. This can be especially difficult when spending many hours or days out in nature. Unfortunately, many temperature-stable foods that are marketed for campers, hikers, and alike are often full of preservatives, artificial ingredients and sugar.

Enter Sugar Summit Backcountry, a company focused on delivering healthier and carb-conscious foods to support your outdoor adventures. I received some products to try at no charge for the review and all opinions are my own.

Who They Are

The company was founded by a husband and wife team, Christine and Kevin, and inspired by Christine’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis. The couple had always enjoyed adventuring in nature, but Christine found that there were few carb-conscious options available that she could easily bring along on their trips. So, they aspired to create products that are nutrient-dense, healthy options and are both shelf-stable and delicious:

“We make delicious, nutrient-packed meals for camping, backpacking, or wherever the trail takes you.  We create small-batch, carbohydrate-conscious and high-protein meals adaptable for omnivores and vegans alike, and support sustainable and local ingredients whenever possible.”

Available Products

The company has several different products, including trail mix and cereal, as well as larger meals, like curry chicken, sweet potato stew, and vegan chili.

I sampled the Chia Crunch “Cereal,” Torreys Trail Mix (which is vegan and gluten-free), as well as the Golden Cliffs Curry Chicken.

My favorite product was the trail mix. With only nine all-natural ingredients and plenty of fiber, it was a great combination of sweet and salty, and the high protein and fat content can help in maintaining energy levels during long-duration exercise.

I also really liked the Curry Chicken meal. It was easy to prepare (requiring only hot water to reconstitute) and contains just four wholesome ingredients (plus seasonings). It is low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, and packed with plant-based protein to keep you going. I thought the spice level was perfect and both my husband and three-year-old daughter enjoyed it (OK, she just picked out the peas, but that is a big win in the toddler book)!

Also, the serving sizes were very generous, and I thought the pricing was very reasonable, given the high quality of the ingredients.

You can find the full product page and pricing information here.


I highly recommend checking out these products if you’re in search of lower-carb and more wholesome options to bring on your next outdoor adventure. Many of these products will appeal to vegetarians and vegans or anyone looking to incorporate more plant-based meals and snacks. Most products are gluten-free as well, so are also a great option for those with sensitivity to gluten and Celiac disease.

As the camping and hiking season kicks off across the country, why not try something new that is both delicious and good for you!

Have you tried this line of foods? Please let us know what you think in the comments below and happy adventuring!


Traveling Abroad with Diabetes: Have Your Dolce and Eat It Too!

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Maria Horner

Maria shares her experiences and strategies for managing blood sugar levels while studying abroad

Like many young adults, I love to travel and will take any excuse to do so. Going into college, I knew that I wanted to study abroad; the moment I learned about my university’s semester program at their Rome campus, I was ready to go. However, traveling with diabetes isn’t always easy. The longer the trip, the more complicated it can be, and especially a trip to Italy, a country known for all of its carbohydrates!

What’s someone with diabetes to do about managing their diabetes while living in Italy?

Preparation is key!

One of the most important things I did to ensure my trip went well was put a lot of time into preparation. This means figuring out the quantity of diabetes supplies you’ll need, ordering them in advance, and finding space to pack it all. On my blog, I created a handy spreadsheet that helps you calculate exactly how much of each item you’ll need. You should start refilling your prescriptions as frequently as possible months before you travel, to make sure you stockpile enough supplies to last the whole trip. When I was preparing to go to Italy, my insurance only allowed me to order three months of supplies at one time, so I had to wait a few weeks before refilling my prescription. If you’re short on time, ask your healthcare professional if they can help you order extra supplies.

Preparation also means making back-up plans in case anything goes wrong, like talking through solutions to possible challenges. I have a great team of people that support me at home, including my parents, friends, and healthcare professionals, so before I left, I made sure I had several ways to contact them while abroad. Once I arrived in Rome, my host family, my friends, and the staff at my school became the people who could help me if I needed assistance.

Here are some things to talk about with your support team before you travel:

  • If I run out of a diabetes supply, what will I do? Can I get this supply abroad? Is having it shipped to me an option, considering what can be sent through the mail, what is allowed through customs, and the reliability of the mail system?
  • If I need to see a doctor or go to the hospital, can I find English-speaking doctors? Where is the closest hospital?
  • How does insurance work? Do I need to get special insurance while I am abroad?
  • How can I get in contact with my doctor? Can someone from my support team contact my doctor if I can’t?

Here’s a little story about how back-up supplies and my support team saved the day while I was in Rome:

About halfway through my semester, I was returning from Venice on an overnight trip and I arrived back in Rome early in the morning. I must have been sleep deprived, because I left my phone on the train! To anyone else, that would be very frustrating but manageable; most of the things people use their phones for, like email and messages, can be done on a computer. For me, it felt like a disaster, because my Dexcom G5 continuous glucose monitor (CGM) was tied to my phone. I love being able to check my blood sugar with just a glance at my phone, but without my phone, I couldn’t use my CGM. Because I’m used to constantly knowing my blood sugar, not having readings for an extended period of time was hard. Long story short, it was two days before I could get my phone back, and only with help from my support team in Rome. Thankfully, I had plenty of test strips and a blood glucose meter (BGM), so my back-up supplies came to the rescue.

Enjoy new foods, but do so in moderation.

After all my preparation, living in Rome still brought different challenges my way. Even though I wanted to experience all that Rome had to offer, I still had to keep blood sugar management in the back of my mind, especially during mealtime. Italian cuisine is full of carb-heavy foods, from pastries for breakfast to sandwiches, pizza, and pasta for lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, all these unknown carbs can make it hard to keep one’s blood sugar in range.

I didn’t want to deny myself all of the delicious, yet carb-rich, Italian foods. But I also didn’t want to drive my blood sugars out of my target range. I found that my best option was to eat these foods in moderation (just one or two bites), and fill myself up with delicious lower carb options, like vegetables and meat.

To prepare for a meal that may contain many carbs, make sure to dose extra insulin before the meal. If you end up eating more carbs than expected (which can easily happen with Italian food), the sooner you’re able to dose additional insulin – even if it means stopping in the middle of the meal to take insulin – the more quickly your blood sugars will respond.

Do some research and know what to order at restaurants.

When eating out at a restaurant, a good tactic is to order a meat, seafood, or vegetable-based dish as your main entree. Before you’re faced with ordering low-carb food in a foreign country, it’s helpful to know what you can expect from a local menu. Here’s what I learned in Italy:

  • Italian meals consist of several courses, including antipasto (appetizer), primi (the first course, typically pasta), secondi (the second course, usually meat or seafood), contorni (a side dish, usually a vegetable), and dolci (dessert).
  • Most people order either a primi or secondi as their main dish.
  • You can find the best low-carb options in the antipasti, secondi, or contorni sections of the menu.
  • If you have diabetes, ignore the primi section – it won’t be helpful for keeping your blood sugars in range.

One more tip: when you’re not sure what something is on the menu, it never hurts to ask the server or look up a picture online. This was important for me in Italy, since some of the meat dishes are breaded. I’ve included a list of my favorite low-carb Italian orders at the end of this article.

Share food with friends and family!

If you don’t want to miss out on experiencing all the pizza and pasta, get your friends to help you out. If they order a high-carb dish, ask if you can trade a few bites of your food for theirs – that way, you get to taste some pizza or pasta, while still keeping your meal low-carb. The same thing can apply to desserts, like gelato: ask a friend for a few bites, or offer to split one.

No matter what you decide to eat, just make sure you watch your blood sugars carefully, especially when trying new foods and guessing on insulin doses. Don’t let your diabetes stop you from exploring all the wonders of a new cuisine and culture, but also, don’t let impulsive food choices throw your blood sugars off. That balance can be hard to find, but do the best you can and enjoy the experience. Mangia bene (eat well)!

For more details, tips, and advice on studying abroad with diabetes, visit my blog, Winging It.

Here are some of my favorite low-carb Italian food orders, classified by course.

Antipasti (appetizers):

  • Insalata caprese (mozzarella, tomato, basil salad) – if you’re lucky, they’ll use fresh mozzarella di bufala, the most delicious cheese I’ve ever tasted!
  • Verdure grigliate misti (mixed grilled vegetables)
  • Affettato misto or salumi misti (mixed cold cuts)
  • Prosciutto (ham)

Secondi (entrees):

  • Tagliata/bistecca/filetto di manzo (beef)
  • Salsiccia (sausage)
  • Petto di pollo (chicken breast)
  • Vitella (veal)
  • Bollito alla picchiapo (beef stew in tomato sauce)

Contorni (side dishes):

  • Carciofo alla romana (roman artichoke)
  • Peperone (bell peppers)
  • Spinaci (spinach)
  • Insalata (salad)
maria horner

Image source: diaTribe

Maria Horner is a college student from Northern Virginia. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age seven, but she hasn’t let that hold her back! She had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Rome during the fall of 2018, and recently started a blog about her experiences, to help and encourage other people with diabetes that are interested in studying abroad. When she’s not in class, you can find her taking a dance course or trying out a new recipe in the kitchen. She also loves travelling and going on adventures, one of her most recent adventures being skydiving!


Keto Mock “Little Debbie Be My Valentine Snack Cakes”

This content originally appeared on Caroline’s Keto Kitchen. Republished with permission.

I don’t know what it is about these little cakes that scream Valentine’s Day to me. They must have been at eye level at every store I went to with my mom as a kid or something, because seriously, these are the first things I picture when I think of Valentine’s Day. So when it was time to create a Valentine’s Day dessert, you bet I was going to recreate the Little Debbie Be My Valentine Snack Cakes!

For those of you who don’t know what these are, they’re basically a 2-layer vanilla cake with frosting between the layers and a pink white chocolate coating with a white chocolate drizzle. It does take a bit of work considering there’s a cake step, an icing step, and a white chocolate coating step, but I promise, it’s worth it, and none of the steps are hard.

Keto Mock "Little Debbie Be My Valentine Snack Cakes"

Share the love this Valentine's Day with this heart-shaped vanilla cake. Coated with white chocolate, this dessert is low-carb, filling, and delicious.


  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup granular Swerve
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup psyllium husk powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 stick salted butter (melted)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp monk fruit juice concentrate
  • 1/2 cup sour cream


  • 1 stick salted butter (softened)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered Swerve

White Chocolate Coating

  • 7 oz cocoa butter
  • 1/3 cup solid coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream powder (I used the Nekstella brand)
  • 1/2 cup powdered Swerve
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • food coloring
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together all dry cake ingredients (almond flour, coconut flour, Swerve, baking powder, baking soda, psyllium husk powder).
  3. Add in all wet ingredients (eggs, melted butter, vanilla, monk fruit, sour cream), and stir well.
  4. Line a cookie sheet that has edges with parchment paper. (Mine was roughly 13″ x 18″).
  5. Spread the cake batter evenly on the parchment paper. (You can wet your hands with a bit of water to help spread it more easily.)
  6. Bake for around 16 minutes or until cooked. (The edges may start turning a little bit golden at this point).
  7. While the cake is in the oven, begin making your icing by mixing the softened butter with the vanilla and powdered Swerve until smooth.
  8. Remove cake from oven, and let cool completely.
  9. Using a heart cookie cutter, cut as many hearts as you can out of the cake. (I had a big heart cookie cutter (~3.5″), so mine only made 18 hearts.)
  10. Put icing between the hearts to make 2-layer heart “sandwiches.”
  11. Now it’s time for the white chocolate coating. In a large saucepan, melt the cocoa butter and coconut oil on a very low heat.
  12. Remove from heat and add the heavy whipping cream powder, powdered Swerve, vanilla and salt. Stir until smooth.
  13. Spoon some of the mixture into an icing bag (this will be the white drizzle, so you need to put some aside before you turn the rest of the white chocolate coating pink).
  14. Add pink food coloring to the white chocolate coating mixture and stir until smooth.
  15. Dunk each cake into the pink white chocolate coating. Place on wax paper after dunk and allow coat to settle (you can speed this up by refrigerating it). Once settled, repeat, dipping each cake 2-3 times total.
  16. Once final pink layer is solidified, cut the tip of the icing bag and drizzle the white chocolate on top of each cake.

The nutrition facts depend on your specific ingredients and how big your cookie cutter is. My cookie cutter was quite large (~3.5″), so each cake was 2 servings at least (very filling!).

Keto Mock “Little Debbie Be My Valentine Snack Cakes” Recipe


Recipe Roundup: Food for Luck and Fortune in 2020

They say that what you eat on January 1 can shape how your year is going to unfold. Whether you believe in this superstition or you’re just looking for low-carb New Year meal ideas, here are some of your lucky — and diabetes-friendly — options. 

Peanut Chicken Zucchini Noodles

low-carb New Year food

Photo credit: Lisa MarcAurele

In China, people eat noodles on New Year’s Day for longer life. People with diabetes can still follow this practice without worrying about blood sugar spikes with this Thai-inspired zucchini recipe from Lisa of Low-Carb Yum. This dish is easy to prepare, loaded with vegetables, and quite tasty. Try to keep the zucchini as long as possible. As believed, the longer the noodles (zoodles), the longer the life. 

Crock Pot Cabbage Roll Soup

cabbage roll soup

Photo credit: Brenda Bennett

Eating cabbage on New Year’s Day is considered lucky in many parts of Eastern Europe. This vegetable signifies paper money, so consuming it on the first day of the year will help attract prosperity into your life. If you’re a person with diabetes who wishes financial blessings in 2020, check out this low-carb recipe from Brenda of Sugar-Free Mom. Brenda said this “is a comforting, hearty, but keto, low carb meal you can make any weeknight.”

Cuban Pork Tenderloin

Cuban Pork Tenderloin

Photo credit: Lisa Marshall

Another food associated with wealth is pork. Fortunately, it has zero carbohydrates, and you can find plenty of low-carb pork recipes on the web. One of which is this recipe from Lisa of 24/7 Low-Carb Diner. It is easy to prepare, although you need about 6-8 hours of marinade time. “This pork tenderloin is delicious–tender, yet it still holds together in slices,” Lisa said. 

Cornbread Muffins

Cornbread Muffins

Photo credit: Jennifer Shun

They say that cornbread symbolizes gold, so making it part of your New Year celebration may draw in financial abundance in 2020. If you worry about the high carbs, Jennifer of For Good Measure has got you covered. Her delicious cornbread muffins contain only 6g of carbs each. “My northern-inspired cornbread is denser, less cake-like, and not at all sweet. The perfect accompaniment to a savory soup or hearty salad,” she said. 

Does your family have any New Year food traditions? Please share it with us in the comments. 

Recipe Roundup_ Food for Luck and Fortune in 2020 (1)


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