by Suzanne Havala, M.S., R.D.
HYPOGLYCEMIA AND VEGETARIAN DIETS
QUESTION:I have recently been diagnosed as hypoglycemic. My doctor asked me to follow a diet which is basically this: No sugar, eat three meals and three snacks per day (each of which is to include 1 to 2 ounces protein), limit fruits to one small fruit WITH a meal. As a vegetarian, I have always enjoyed a wide variety of foods and have never worried about the amount of protein I was consuming. I'm sure my meals contain plenty of protein, but how can I get protein into my snacks? I'm getting tired of nuts and crackers with peanut butter for every snack. Can you give me more ideas? J.M., CA
ANSWER: Concentrate on including foods rich in complex carbohydrates and don't worry about increasing the protein content of your snacks. (Vegetarians and vegans eating varied diets containing vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds rarely have any difficulty getting enough protein as long as their diet contains enough energy [calories] to maintain weight.) Foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates include breads and cereals, dried beans and peas, and other vegetables especially the starchy ones such as potatoes, peas, squash, corn and others.
Some snack ideas that would work well are lowfat, whole grain crackers, breads, muffins, and cereals as well as bagels. Soup cups - the "add water and heat in the microwave type" - that include lots of rice, beans, lentils and vegetables are also convenient. Or have a baked potato, baked sweet potato, or bowl of stir-fried vegetables with rice - leftovers from last night's supper, for instance.
The primary points to keep in mind if you are controlling hypoglycemia by diet are to 1) eat frequently - every two or three hours, rather than going for long stretches of time between meals; 2) avoid sweets, and if you do eat something sweet, eat it with a meal rather than as a snack by itself; 3) avoid caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee and tea, which can accentuate symptoms of hypoglycemia; and 4) make sure that between-meal snacks contain complex carbohydrates. A piece of fruit all by itself, or a glass of fruit juice, is mostly simple sugar and doesn't have as much "staying power" as do starchy foods or foods that are high in protein.