My good friend Natalie and I started our vegetarian restaurant tour on Thursday this week. Stop one was an organic-vegan-raw-gluten free restaurant called Ecopolitan in Minneapolis.
Why a Vegetarian restaurant tour?
A few reasons. I have not liked meat much my whole life. But.. I have always eaten meat because of what we are told about it being good for our health and that as someone living with Type 1 diabetes, it is especially critical to keep our blood sugars balanced and keep us healthy. The extent of my meat protein consumption for many years has come from organic free-range chicken and turkey and very occasionally beef. I have always had to disconnect from the meat I was eating to actually be able to eat it (I really love animals a LOT!).
This past month, the last few times I ate meat, I experienced stomach aches and high blood sugars that were very resistant to insulin. Along with always feeling so vibrant and healthy when I eat a meal full of fresh yummy organic vegetables and fruits, I figured this was a great time to experiment with getting my protein from sources other than meat. I will still be eating organic eggs, cheese and butter and occasionally other dairy too—a vegetarian diet. This is different from vegan which does not consume any animal products including honey (which is something that I find works very well for me to bake with and keep my sugars balanced).
Is a Vegetarian diet something I recommend for everyone?
Most certainly not. Everyone is entitled to make the choices best for their individual health and in a way that allows them to thrive while living with diabetes. Monday morning I threw a question out to the Diabetes Light Facebook community asking community members to share their experiences with a vegetarian diet. As I posted the question at 6:30 am, I was not expecting much of a response back—also knowing this way of eating may not be as typical or common. Over 60 comments later, I found out our community members had a lot to say! One member, Susan, stated that after she quit being vegan for one year her A1c and daily amount of insulin both dropped remarkably. For her, the positive change came by implementing the Paleo diet in her life—quite the opposite of a meatless diet!
Community member and fellow Type 1 friend Brenda also had a wealth of information to share. Brenda has been a vegetarian for 15 years, gluten free vegan for almost 6 years and raw vegan for over 2 years. She feels a lot better eating this way and experiences much less insulin resistance. She has now trained to be a raw vegan chef and consultant and started, The Raw B in NYC, a great Facebook page (check it out!) where she encourages others to “Improve your health one bite at a time.” She has been helping me out a lot by answering general random questions I have as there is so much to learn. Thanks Brenda!! 🙂
Eating vegetarian is certainly not for everyone nor does it seem to help people in the same way. I am just sharing my experiences with you as I explore this new path. It might help someone out there who has been on the fence their whole life about meat as well or desiring better blood sugars.
Although it’s only been 5 days on this no-meat diet, my 7 day blood sugar average on my meter has already dropped over 30 points. And besides instances of user-error—miscalculated carbs, forgetting to bolus, etc (you have these moments too, right?), many of my blood sugars have stayed entirely “in the box” on my Dexcom CGM. So far, the evidence can’t be beat! I have had to lower all of my basal rates, cut back on my Symlin and lower my insulin amounts with meals too. And I am still having lows! The lows are not healthy or fun but are a sign my diabetes control is moving in the right direction. If someone can help me understand the phenomena happening in my body right now, I will be very grateful to have some understanding of this positive madness! 🙂
Is eating Vegetarian something I will do the rest of my life?
At this point, I’m not sure. If my blood sugars remain easier to manage bringing me a lower A1c, I am using less insulin and overall feeling better—these are definitely positive things I will feel good about and will weigh in my decision to stick with it. However, if my overall health declines despite health consultation with experts in the field, I would consider adding meat protein back into my diet.
Why am I sharing about this on Diabetes Light?
In the event it can help someone else. That is my sole intent for all of my writing—helping others and possibly letting you know about things from a Type 1 diabetes perspective that your doctors most likely are not mentioning to you. And I believe whether or not we implement a full vegetarian lifestyle ourselves, there are things we can learn from dietary lifestyles other than our own that can help improve our lives with diabetes—as you will see below with their idea of what to make a wrap sandwich with. Ingenious!
Now on to the Restaurant Tour!
The restaurant is very quaint and cozy which you can see in the picture above. A great place for catching up with a friend. I really love the beautiful color of blue paint on the walls. As soon as we entered, we could smell an aroma of healthy food and fresh vegetables (cucumber specifically) and it got us really excited about what we would soon be eating.
Lunch was amazing!! We both loved it. We started our meal off with this trio sampler containing olive tapenade, hummus & pesto served with flax crackers for dipping. I was not able to eat the pesto as it’s made with walnuts but I loved the other two. The hummus is made from zucchini and the crackers are dehydrated from various vegetables—fabulous and I love crackers! Especially ones that do not touch my blood sugars!
For my entree I had a falafel wrap sandwich with kale salad. Guess what my sandwich was wrapped in?
A collard leaf! How creative and super D-friendly! (diabetes-friendly). I will definitely be using this idea again at home for my wraps. Not only is it low carb, but extremely healthy! It had been nearly 5 years or longer since I had enjoyed a wrap sandwich due to my multiple food allergies (gluten, corn and most nuts) and the brown rice tortillas I buy tend to crumble and break apart if rolled up like this. Plus, most restaurants do not offer a gluten AND corn free wrap.
I finished my meal with a piece of this awesome coconut cream pie made completely free of all sweetener/sugar yet soooo delicious. Every other dessert was made from nuts so I was thankful to be able to eat one that did not. We would have stayed for hot tea which the restaurant offered a wide assortment of, but unfortunately ran out of time. I got the pie in a to-go container as I was planning to only eat a few bites and eat the rest later (which yes, I did do).
I left the restaurant with a blood glucose of 104. That’s after a lunch out! It’s always a good sign when your blood sugars are better when you leave a restaurant than when you came in! In my experience, this is NOT very common! (The high before lunch was a miscalculation of insulin & carbs on my part from some trail mix I ate in the morning).
I’m not sure my husband will be as crazy about the organic-raw-vegan-gluten free menu as me but I can’t wait to go back! They have tons of fresh juices and smoothies too. One smoothie that I am looking forward to trying is made from banana, almonds, dates and vanilla! They even have special markings on the menu for items that can be made nut-free. The server stated that the restaurant has been around for 12 years. I can see why. Great healthy food and friendly kind and knowledgeable service always score big in my book! And, Ecopolitan is a block away from my favorite natural foods co-op (The Wedge) so I can easily stop in again real soon for a nutritious bite to eat! Yay! 🙂
Have you eaten at a vegetarian or vegan restaurant before? What was your experience? I’d love to hear about any D-friendly tips you learned!
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