Small meals vs. fasting for weight and diabetes management

In my experience with diabetes, “grazing” helps manage my blood sugar. 3 small meals with 30 g carbohydrates plus 2-3 snacks with 15 g carbohydrates works for me; but, for many people, this regimen is daunting. We have all heard that small, frequent meals/snacks is recommended for a healthy weight and diabetes, but why?

The blood sugar changes quickly. For those of us with diabetes, our bodies don’t handle the change as well as those who don’t, making dietary consistency important. The blood sugar spike is largely based on how much carb we eat and when we eat them. Let’s take a look at what happens to the blood sugar with different eating patterns.


Typically, when we skip meals, our body compensates for Calories missed; so, we feel hungrier and eat more than the body can handle at once. We may not eat more total Calories during the day; but, packing the same number of carbs into 1 or 2 meals vs spread throughout the day causes bigger blood sugar spikes, making it harder for the body to bring them down.

Grazing on fewer carbs with each snack/meal gives the body plenty of time to bring the blood sugar down, and since we don’t eat as much carb per sitting, the blood sugar shouldn’t get as high as it does with big meals.

Something else to note is that the blood sugar actually dips low when we skip meals. When this happens, the body craves simple sugar for energy. So, we feel hungrier, we eat more, AND we crave “fast carbs” rather than more complex, high-fiber carbs that stabilize blood sugar and appetite. Not a great combo for managing diabetes or weight!

I know, I know: grazing may not be realistic for everyone. We are busy, making it hard to even remember to eat at all sometimes. But remember, food doesn’t have to be fancy and meals don’t have to be big! As long as you pair protein and carbohydrate (fiber) together, your metabolism, appetite, and blood sugar will stay stable.

Need some quick meal/snack ideas? Here are 10 of my favorites!
1) low-fat cheese stick (string cheese) with a small apple
2) small banana with 2 tbl natural peanut butter
3) celery sticks with salsa and 1 hardboiled egg
4) 10 wheat thins with 1/4 cup 1% fat cottage cheese
5) 1/2 cup whole wheat cereal and 1/2 cup skim milk
6) deli sandwich (whole wheat bread, 4 slices of meat, 1 slice of cheese, mustard, lettuce).
7) carrots and humus
8) low-fat yogurt (I put mine in the freezer sometimes for a frozen yogurt treat after dinner.)
9) DIY granola bars or any protein and fiber bar (look for at least 5 g protein and 3 g fiber in the bar)
10) 3 cups of popcorn (low salt and low-fat)

Mix and match the protein and carb from any of these snacks for a little variety and sub different fruits and vegetables to get more vitamins and minerals and keep you from “burn out”. What is your usual eating pattern and how realistic is it for you to eat more regularly throughout the day?


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