From Meat-Based Diet to Plant-Based Diet: Lindsay's Diabetes Journey

Lindsay Garcia was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2014. Motivated by the desire to control her blood glucose and improve her long-term health, she began eating a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet.

For the first few months, Lindsay saw excellent results. Her A1c dropped from 10.0% to below 6.0% and she was able to control her blood glucose with precision.

Although Lindsay's numbers looked good, she felt terrible.

Because she was maintaining a low-carbohydrate diet, she did not eat fresh fruits. Most likely as the result of low fiber intake (due to the lack of plant foods in her diet), she experienced constipation that became so serious that she resorted to taking laxatives every few days.

After a few months, she noticed that it became more difficult to control her blood glucose. Her blood glucose often spiked into the 300s for no apparent reason.

As an athlete, she wanted more energy to participate in the sports she loved, and felt that her diet was not contributing to her overall health.

Feeling frustrated and unable to control her blood glucose values, she decided to look into alternative approaches to managing her blood glucose.

It was during this time that she saw her physician and found out that she was actually living with type 1 diabetes.

She enrolled in the Mastering Diabetes Program in December of 2016, and immediately learned how to reduce her total fat intake, how to adjust her insulin timing strategy, how to manage her blood glucose before, during, and after exercise, and how to increase her intake of low-fat, plant-based, whole foods.

After just a few weeks of transitioning to a plant-based diet low in fat, her carbohydrate-to-insulin ratio increased from 9:1 to between 25-35:1.

She increased her carbohydrate intake from approximately 175 grams per day to 500 grams or more – and at the same time, significantly decreased her total insulin use.

What exactly did Lindsay eat to make this plant-based diet transition? The images below are some of her favorite plant-based meals:

plant-based diet meal 1

With the help of the Mastering Diabetes team, Lindsay has learned many tools to help support her healthy lifestyle living with type 1 diabetes. She has learned to reduce her dietary fat intake and prepare foods she loves in healthy ways.

She enjoys an active lifestyle and incorporates exercise like running and biking. She has learned effective insulin and mealtime strategies to keep her blood glucose within the normal range as much as possible.

And best of all, Lindsay's current A1c is now 5.8%.

Lindsay has also significantly improved her cardiovascular health. Her family has a history of heart disease, but thankfully, following a plant-based diet, she no longer has to worry about her risk for cardiovascular disease.

Her total cholesterol has dropped from 187 mg/dL to 126 mg/dL following a 100% plant-based diet, low in fat and complete with whole foods.

A summary of Lindsay's biomarkers is listed below, between her meat-based diet in December of 2016 and her plant-based diet in September of 2017:

Biomarker

December 2016

September 2017

Bodyweight (pounds)

145

128

Total Carbohydrate Intake (g/day)

175

500

Basal Insulin Use (U/day)

17

12

Bolus Insulin Use (U/day)

23

17

Oral Medication Use

500mg Metformin

None

Total Cholesterol (mg/dL)

183

126

HbA1c (%)

7.2%

5.8%

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About the Author

Tara Kemp is the Director of Nutrition Education at Mastering Diabetes. She has been active in the field of health and nutrition for many years, including working with Forks Over Knives, Engine 2, and Dr. Neal Barnard and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Tara has a bachelor's degree in Education from Bucknell University, a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell, and is a Certified Food For Life Instructor through the Physicians Committee.