Dietary Changes That Significantly Lowered My Husband’s A1C in 3 Months (From 8.1 to 6.3)

Dietary Changes That Significantly Lowered My Husband's A1C in 3 Months (From 8.1 to 6.3)

I know this isn’t my usual fashion and shopping content but I’m back to share some helpful dietary changes and tips that lowered my husband’s A1C from 8.1 in July to 6.3 in October, demonstrating a significant improvement in his average blood glucose levels over the past 2-3 months. The A1C test measures the average blood glucose levels over the past 2-3 months. While this is a significant improvement from the dietary changes alone I remind my husband that regular exercise is equally important. Despite getting plenty of steps at his job, incorporating dedicated daily exercise could further contribute to improving his A1C when he retests in another 3 months.

Disclaimer: Individual responses to food can vary. Monitoring blood sugar levels and finding the right balance of nutrients through various eating patterns is crucial for optimal glucose control. You should consult your healthcare professional and/or a registered dietitian for personalized guidance. I’m sharing what worked for my husband in this post in case it’s helpful for some people.

BACKGROUND

My husband’s A1C has been in the pre-diabetic range for the last few years. At the end of July his primary care physician (PCP) gave him 3 months to change his diet in order to lower the A1C from 8.1 to 7. Failing significant improvement, his PCP would recommend a medication to manage his blood glucose. It was a long 3 months but we were relieved that his A1C is finally headed in the right direction since his A1C dropped from 8.1 to 6.3 in the latest blood work at the end of October.

I recommended scheduling an appointment with a nutritionist, recognizing the potential benefits for both of us in understanding proper nutrition. This decision led us to discover the crucial role of fiber in blood sugar control. Before consulting a nutritionist, my husband’s diet included an excessive amount of protein, and our typical food choices lacked sufficient fiber. I now measure the cooked protein using a digital kitchen scale and he eats 4 ounces of chicken per meal for lunch and dinner. Previously he used to eat a lot simple carbs– pizza and pasta being his favorite foods. My husband could easily eat four slices of Trader Joe’s San Francisco style sourdough bread and the equivalent of 3-4 servings of white rice/pasta for lunch and dinner. Lastly, he used to make fast food runs for breakfast and/or lunch because he wasn’t making time to eat properly when he was working in a more stressful environment.

My husband already cut back on snacking on sugary treats such as bubble tea, cookies, chips, ice cream based on his previous years’ blood work which had been trending in the pre-diabetic range. However, there was a period when he would indulge in bubble tea, smoothies or a drink from Starbucks every day and he would also pick up cookies and/or eat the free candy and chips from the snack room at work. Despite his efforts to cut back on sugary snacks, his blood glucose levels remained high due to the continued high intake of simple carbs.

DIETARY CHANGES & WHAT MY HUSBAND CURRENTLY EATS EVERY DAY

My husband committed to a balanced diet under the guidance of a registered dietitian (RD) for a little over three months, with two virtual consultations to fine-tune his dietary adjustments based on his latest October labs. I’ve consistently prepared salads for his lunch and dinner, and we’ve significantly reduced dining out since the end of July when we both embarked on this drastic dietary change. The one week we spent visiting our families in mid-October had me anxious with his upcoming blood test (scheduled for the Tuesday after our return). Fortunately, my husband demonstrated considerable restraint, and our families ensured there were healthy options on the table aligned with his dietary needs. Honeygrow was our favorite place to grab a healthy salad that week. 

Here is a breakdown of my husband’s typical daily meals, and we attribute this diet to the notable reduction in his A1C from 8.1 in July to 6.3 in October. The registered dietitian (RD) advised an 1800-calorie diet suitable for his height (5’11”) and build. However, my husband typically consumes around 2,500 total calories per day. Despite exceeding the recommended calorie intake, he has successfully shed over 15 pounds in the last three months and is currently hovering close to 200 pounds. We anticipate that he will reach or dip below the 200-pound mark soon.

Breakfast foods/ingredients:

1 extra large egg (56 grams)
1 serving (40 grams) of Nature’s Path Organic Heritage Flakes ($3.69 at Trader Joe’s)
2 slices of Food For Life’s 4:9 Sesame Sprouted Whole Grain Bread ($4.99 at Trader Joe’s)
2 tablespoons of Trader Joe’s No Salt Organic Peanut Butter (made with Valencia peanuts)
1% low fat milk (lactose free)

For a savory breakfast (between 7-8AM) he makes an omelette with 1 extra large egg mixed with some frozen sweet peppers and frozen spinach cooked with extra virgin olive oil. He also has 2 slices of Ezekiel bread with peanut butter and 1 serving of high fiber cereal with sliced almonds, a handful of fresh blueberries and enough 1% milk to cover the cereal. Refer to this guide by the Glucose Goddess for more savory breakfast ideas.

Dietary Changes That Significantly Lowered My Husband's A1C in 3 Months (From 8.1 to 6.3) - Lunch SaladLunch: Salad and 1 serving of fruit and nuts

For lunch around 12-1PM and dinner around 5-6PM he eats a salad. Initially I packed broccoli, carrots and chicken for his lunch but he actually prefers salads. He currently eats a lot of salad so it was very important to find a low calorie salad dressing with no sugar added that he enjoys. We both like Trader Joe’s Cilantro Salad Dressing which is 50 calories for 1 serving (2 tablespoons).

Lunch salad ingredients:

80 grams Organic Spring Mix
2 sweet peppers thinly sliced and sauteed with pink Himalayan salt and minced garlic
9-10 cherry tomatoes (depends on the size)
1 mini cucumber
1 serving (2 tablespoons) of Trader Joe’s Cilantro Salad Dressing
1/4 of a lemon for additional natural flavoring
4 ounces of chicken breast tenders (cooked weight)
3 ounces of Trader Joe’s Great Northern Beans (weight after washing and draining the salt water)

Dietary Changes That Significantly Lowered My Husband's A1C in 3 Months (From 8.1 to 6.3) - Avocado oil, seasoning blends and chicken breast tenders

I pan fry the chicken breast tenders with Avocado oil and I season them with Trader Joe’s Salmon Rub and Trader Joe’s Green Goddess seasoning blend. Cooking oils contain a lot of calories (120 calories for 1 tablespoon of Avocado oil) so be careful not to use too much oil.

Dietary Changes That Significantly Lowered My Husband's A1C in 3 Months (From 8.1 to 6.3) - Chicken breast tenders

He also has one serving (1 cup) of fruit (a mix of fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, kiwi, clementine, or watermelon) and nuts (3 Brazil nuts, 10 almonds and 15 grams of raw pumpkin seeds) with his lunch.

Dietary Changes That Significantly Lowered My Husband's A1C in 3 Months (From 8.1 to 6.3) - Dinner Salad and plate of vegetablesDinner: Salad and plate of vegetables

For dinner (between 5-7PM) he eats the same salad as the one he eats for lunch with the addition of the following:

A handful of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 of a mini avocado

For dinner he always eats a side of vegetables first since they’re high in fiber. The plate of vegetables consist of 12-13 baby carrots, green beans, sweet peppers, cauliflower and/or broccoli sauteed with extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic and pink Himalayan salt.

Before or after dinner he will usually have another serving of cereal and 2 slices of Ezekiel bread with peanut butter. He will also have another serving of fruit after dinner usually as the final thing he eats for the night.

Dietary Changes That Significantly Lowered My Husband's A1C in 3 Months (From 8.1 to 6.3) - A look inside our fridgeFrom my Instagram stories: A look inside our fridge after I restocked it during the weekend

OTHER TIPS FOR HEALTHY EATING

1. Get rid of all unhealthy snacks, condiments and simple carbs in the house. The first thing I did was get rid of all the pasta. Once we ran out of white rice I didn’t buy any more. Pasta, vegetables and a protein was my go-to for quick and easy meals but, alas, no more! Luckily my husband loves and prefers to drink water so I didn’t have to worry about getting rid of soft drinks, juices or alcoholic beverages.

2. Eat more fiber. Incorporating enough dietary fiber is key to regulating your blood glucose. Fiber is good for your gut health and it will keeps you feeling fuller for longer. If you’re a visual learner, refer to this helpful video by Celeste Huz  about the important role of fiber, this video about insulin resistance and she also shared this video about why you should start your meals with fiber. Prior to meeting with the nutritionist we were not getting nearly enough fiber in our diet. I attribute my husband’s weight loss to the addition of fiber and cutting out simple carbs.

Fiber aids in weight loss by:

  • Increasing Fullness: It adds bulk to your diet, making you feel full and satisfied, reducing the likelihood of overeating.
  • Reducing Caloric Intake: High-fiber foods often have fewer calories for the same volume, allowing you to eat more while consuming fewer calories.
  • Slowing Digestion: Fiber slows down the digestive process, keeping you feeling full for longer and stabilizing blood sugar levels, potentially reducing cravings.

3. Fiber first. The order in which you consume foods during a meal can impact how your body processes and manages blood glucose levels. Eating fiber-rich foods first, followed by protein, and saving carbohydrates for last can have a beneficial impact on blood sugar control. Here’s an elaboration on this concept:

  •  Fiber First: Starting your meal with fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, legumes, or whole grains, can slow the digestion of other nutrients. Fiber takes longer to digest and can help slow down the absorption of sugars from other parts of the meal. This slower digestion can lead to a steadier and more controlled rise in blood sugar levels.
  • Protein Next: Following the intake of fiber with protein-rich foods, like lean meats, fish, or tofu, can further aid in managing blood sugar levels. Protein helps promote satiety and slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.
  • Carbohydrates Last: Carbohydrates, especially refined carbs or those with high glycemic index, can cause more rapid spikes in blood sugar. Eating these last in the meal, after the fiber and protein, can help mitigate their impact on blood glucose levels due to the slower digestion caused by the preceding fiber and protein.

This approach is about slowing down the rate at which nutrients are absorbed, particularly sugars, to prevent sudden spikes in blood glucose.

4. Follow the 5-to-1 Fiber rule. Choose whole grain carbohydrates with at least a 5:1 ratio of carbs to fiber. Refer to this article for a detailed explanation of the 5-to-1 Fiber rule.

5. Dress your carbs to reduce glucose spikes. Refer to this article about the importance of avoiding naked carbs to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

6. Avoid added sugars. Avoid/limit processed/prepackaged foods with added sugars. This is important for several reasons:

  • Empty Calories: Added sugars offer little to no nutritional value but contribute to the overall calorie intake, potentially leading to weight gain and related health issues.
  • Blood Sugar Spikes: They can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to energy crashes and potential long-term complications such as insulin resistance and diabetes.
  • Health Risks: Overconsumption of added sugars is associated with various health problems, including obesity, heart disease, dental issues, and an increased risk of chronic conditions.

By minimizing added sugar intake, you can better manage weight, improve overall health, and reduce the risk of developing health complications associated with excessive sugar consumption.

Every day my husband has 1 to 2 servings of Nature’s Path Organic Heritage Flakes which meets the 5-to-1 fiber ratio but each serving has 5 grams of added sugar. However, everything else he currently eats has little to no added sugars.

7. Use a digital food scale to control/measure out the correct portions and take the guess work out of portion control. I currently use this small scale for meal prep for my husband and our Shih Tzu with chronic kidney disease but I’m always looking for a better one.

8. Do not eat late. Once or twice a week my husband works closing shifts so eating late can’t be helped if he comes home hungry. Typically he tries to finish dinner and the last serving of fruit before 7PM which gives his body at least 12 hours before he breaks his fast with breakfast at 7-8AM the next morning.

9. Delete food apps (e.g. McDonald’s, Starbucks, Kung Fu Tea). My husband no longer makes excuses to grab breakfast or lunch from McDonald’s without the app on his phone. He now wakes up with enough time to make breakfast before work and I always pack his lunch and/or dinner.

HOW THE DIETARY CHANGES IMPACTED MY HEALTH

My husband and I eat the same food at home but he snacks when boredom strikes and he eats larger portions whereas I can’t be bothered to eat all my meals when I’m busy. My husband could easily eat a half bag of chips in one sitting and I will have 2-3 chips and close the bag- sometimes my snacks go stale before I ever finish them. I’ve been consciously eating smaller portions in my late 30s and now that I’m 40 my metabolism isn’t what it used to be. I’m the type that can’t relax so I’m always busy doing something. Despite a gradual increase in weight from 105 in my 20s to 120 at my heaviest, my recent A1C levels remained consistently between 4.9 and 5.0 from 2020 to 2022.

I need to test my A1C and I was surprised when the RN told me that blood work wasn’t required for annual physical this year even though I turned 40. I learned that my doctor’s office uses a software to determine if blood work is required on a case by case basis. Despite this protocol, I insisted that the RN include the labs, though I haven’t gone in for the updated test yet (but plan to soon). I’m curious if the dietary changes have any positive effects on my blood glucose levels and I intend to report back on my updated 2023 results.

Update 11/27/23: I ended up paying for an A1C test through Quest Diagnostics out of curiosity since the RN forgot to order it. Despite adopting a healthier diet, my A1C remains unchanged at 4.9. While an A1C of 4.9 is considered excellent, I thought that the dietary changes would have influenced my numbers but there was no impact.I have vastly different eating habits/schedule than my husband some days. On busy days I unintentionally intermittent fast and eat one meal a day or I eat everything within a 4-6 hour window.

My vitamin D is finally in an optimal range at 65 after switching to a D3 + K2 supplement in mid-June. The Nutricost brand I prefer with the tiny capsules is currently sold out but I hope they will restock. I switched to Bronson’s K2 (MK7) + D3 in the meantime. I take 2 capsules daily since I have POI (diagnosed in my thirties), hypothyroidism (in the past I had Graves/hyperthyroidism for years) and I have historically low vitamin D with levels in the 20-30’s despite supplementing up to 5,000-10,000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily. Thanks to Dr. Berg’s video I can vouch that K2 was the missing cofactor that helped resolve my longtime vitamin D deficiency.

I intentionally delayed getting blood work for my lipid panel until recently in order to see if the dietary changes had any impact on my results. However, the values didn’t really change much since last year except for the triglycerides which was 209 last year and 84 this year (non-fasting results both years).

My Lipid Panel 2023 results

I lost 7 pounds in the last 3 months while eating more and eating more frequently. Similar to my husband I don’t exercise daily. I work from home so I sit for 8-10 hours for my full-time job but I offset this by spending extended periods standing at night, preparing meals for the following day. For reference, I’m 5′ 2.5″ and I currently weigh 110 pounds after weighting in at 117-118 pounds for the last few years. The pandemic pounds were particularly difficult to shed and my confidence was at an all time low. While I was previously committed to regular exercise earlier this year, I fell out of the routine and struggled to get back on track. My goal is to reintegrate exercise into my routine soon, with a focus on incorporating weights for bone health.

Here’s to better time management and a dedicated commitment to better health as we navigate the aging process! Protecting our health is protecting our wealth.

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4 Comments

  1. Debbie
    November 10, 2023 / 5:59 pm

    Great job Jess – for both your husband and for you! I’ve been on a similar-ish gut health eating plan the past couple of months and I’m feeling better and dropped 5 lbs. I’m sure your blood glucose levels are great right now. Your husband is lucky to have you preparing these healthy meals for him.

    • November 14, 2023 / 1:59 pm

      Thanks Debbie! I’m glad to hear that eating better has helped you feel better and lose weight. I hope you will keep it up! My husband and I both feel so much better and now we prefer to eat at home now. Eating out is so unhealthy and expensive nowadays anyway.

  2. Okimusso
    November 10, 2023 / 9:19 pm

    My family needs to improve our nutrition and this summary is so clear and helpful!

    • November 14, 2023 / 1:57 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post and leave a comment. Wishing your family better health! The hardest part is maintaining this way of eating even after we see a change in our test results.

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