Product Review: Arctic Zero Frozen Desserts

Disclosure: I received complimentary frozen desserts for review. All opinions are my own.

Ice-cream is our frenemy. It tastes so good, especially on a warm summer day. V loves it. There are many gluten-free varieties and it’s a dessert we can say “yes” to. And yet, ice-cream is rather evil. It may be Celiac friendly but it is definitely not diabetes friendly. We carefully weigh and measure it, give the correct bolus, extend the bolus, give extra insulin, but no matter what we do it always wins. Invariably, V’s BG goes up and stays high. Since oftentimes V likes to have ice-cream after dinner, we end up correcting highs in the middle of the night.

Sugar-free ice-cream, you say? Thanks but no thanks. We try to avoid sugar substitutes in our household. While we allow V to have a diet beverage when we are eating out, we don’t keep any diet products at our home. But it is possible to have your ice-cream and eat it too, so to speak?

Arctic Zero makes it possible! It is a local company making low-glycemic frozen dessert treats. They use non-GMO, real ingredients without diet products nonsense. It is free of several other things: lactose-free, fat-free and gluten-free. When I see all this “free” labeling, I wonder right away if it is also taste-free, so we were really excited to sample some of the desserts and see for ourselves.

We received a six-pack of pints: orange cream, simply strawberry, cool mint chip, buttery pecan, vanilla maple and cookie shake. V immediately tore into the cookie shake pint. It’s been two years since she was able to have that flavor and yes, Arctic Zero has a gluten-free version of it. She loved it. Over the course of a couple of weeks we slowly ate through all the flavors. V loved all of them except for orange cream. Interestingly, orange cream was my favorite, along with simply strawberry and cool mint chip.

If you are expecting a true ice-cream substitute, you may be disappointed. Arctic Zero has a consistency and texture that is more similar to sorbet, and is also a little frothy when melted. I personally am not a big fan of the frothiness, but in fruit flavor desserts it did not bother me. In other flavors, I found the texture to be a turn-off. V did not seem to care one bit about texture, and no one minded less sweetness. The only reason V did not like orange cream flavor was because to her it tasted like “orange peels”, which is her complaint about all orange-flavored ice-creams. All the other desserts were a huge hit.

Yummy!

Yummy!

V is smiling for two reasons. First, yummy! Second, she got a full cup of ice-cream. Normally, she gets only half a cup, as regular ice-cream averages 25g of carbs per half a cup. And it’s enough to wreak havoc with her BG. Average sorbet has close to 30g of carbs per half a cup. Arctic Frozen desserts are only 7-10g of carbs per half a cup, so we felt OK saying yes to a full cup. And guess what? Her BG was a beauty.

BG of 90 after ice-cream? Yes, it is possible!

BG of 90 after ice-cream? Yes, it is possible!

You may be wondering about how expensive this product is, since is full of so many magical ingredients. I wondered the same thing. You can buy a 6-pack directly from website and it will arrive to your doorstep lovingly packed in dry ice, for a cool price of $46.02 including delivery. That’s about $7.66 per pint, not cheap. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to find it in a local supermarket, although flavor options may be very limited. On the website, you can plug in your zip code and it will tell you if any nearby stores carry it. There are several stores around us that cary Arctic Zero. I stopped at one that is closest to us, and it tends to run on a more expensive side, and the pints there were selling for $5.29, on par with other brands of ice-cream. Now, it is still rather pricey, and honestly who buys pints for a family? However, as a special treat I think it is reasonable, and we are happy to have found a diabetes-friendly frozen treat option. It may not be a true ice-cream substitute, but it is good enough.

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She blinded me with science

When Katy commented on my review of Genteel lancing device, she asked a very important question: are blood glucose readings from alternate test sites reliable and accurate? Is there any special magic to finger blood?

I confess: it crossed my mind before but I was avoiding this question. Blood is blood, so it should all be good, right? Besides, I confess that I did not want to find out, after getting really comfortable with alternate sites testing, that it was not as good as finger testing. Alas, Katy’s question sprung me into action. Naturally, first thing I did was consult with Dr. Google. It directed me to several reputable (or reputable-appearing?) diabetes websites that told me in unison that there is, indeed, magic to finger blood because it reaches fingertips quickly. Alternate testing sites can produce blood sugar readings 20-30 minutes old. When BG is relatively stable, it should not be an issue. However, when it is going up or down rapidly, such as during exercise and after eating, and when a low blood sugar is suspected, we should only test on fingers.

I did not like the sound of it at all. How useful is testing on alternate sites if we can’t do it most of the time? How often are a child’s BG levels stable? Almost never, that’s how often. My kids are active, they are constantly in motion, and they are also constantly eating.

Just another day of V's blood sugars. Do you see a lot of stability? Neither do I.

Just another day of V’s blood sugars. Do you see a lot of stability? Neither do I.

There was only one way to find out if the internet was right. Fortunately V was game for it, and in the name of science we began our experiment of comparing BG readings from alternate sites to BG readings from finger pokes. If I were a real scientist, I would meticulously check BG both ways every time I tested. However, I really did not want to subject poor V to poking herself twice as often (she already tests 8-10 times a day), nor do I have an unlimited budget for test strips, nor can I actually remember to poke her twice every time. Instead, we tested a few times for several days, making sure that we do it under different circumstances. Behold our (almost) scientific results!

Day 1

11:45 AM: We’ve been at the amusement park since 10 AM; V says she is feeling low. Finger = 72; Above knee = 95. Hmm, maybe Dr. Google was right? While the difference is not that significant per se, when it comes to suspected lows it is a big difference and suggests a different course of action. We are more likely to treat for 72 and more likely to leave things alone for 95.

7:05 PM: Dexcom alarms indicating a low (set to alarm at 75 and below). This is also within 1 hour of eating, and since we totally guessed carbs for dinner I suspect that I over-bolused her. Finger = 60; Arm = 59. Hey, that’s spot on!

11:00 PM: V had been asleep for about an hour and I am testing her before my bedtime. Finger = 133; Arm = 130. Score!

Day 2

6:00 PM: Testing after V just got out of an hour-long intense swim practice. Finger = 111; Above knee = 109. 

10:15 PM: Dexcom sounds a low alarm. Finger = 80; Above knee = 84. (Gotta love those false alarms! NOT.)

11:45 PM: Testing again because at about 11 PM V had a low for real and I treated her with two glucose tabs. Finger = 111; Above knee = 111. BULLS EYE!

All three readings are very close despite very different circumstances and lack of BG stability in all of them.

Day 3

1:30 PM: Testing V after she spent 2 hrs jumping in a trampoline park. Finger = 67; Arm = 67. Aha!

10:30 PM: Dexcom indicates that BG has been inching up, and it’s not surprising as there was ice-cream for dessert. Finger = 235; Arm = 261. Wait, this does not make sense. If BG from the arm site is delayed, how come it is higher than BG in the finger, given the upwards trend? And anyway, these readings are not terribly far from one another.

Day 4

7:10 PM: Testing before dinner and one hour after administering a correction for high BG. Finger  = 215; Arm = 248. At least this makes more sense if the delayed readings theory is right. Still, the readings are not that terribly far apart and we could easily test twice on fingers and get the same results. In fact, I can test BG twice from the same finger poke and get a difference of about 20 points.

10:45 PM: Testing before my bedtime. Dexcom graph is showing a very slow upward trend. Finger = 168; Above knee = 150. This is pretty close.

Day 5

4:30 PM: Testing within an hour of giving insulin for a snack, with Dexcom indicating an upwards trend. Finger = 295; Arm = 284. Very close.

So what do I make of this data, be it limited and not particularly methodical? In my opinion, there is no special magic to finger blood. I find readings from alternate sites close enough to finger poke readings and now I feel a lot more comfortable about alternate sites testing under any circumstances.

What do you think about our little experiment?

Product Review: Genteel Lancing Device

Disclosure: I received a complementary Genteel lancing device for review. All opinions are my own. 

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A lancing device that is painless and can be used on body sites other than fingers, for a cool $129? Yeah, right. And, no way.

Lancing devices are really cheap, typically under $15. Many of them come free with meters. V does not find lancing painful or has a fear of needles. Besides, our trusty lancing device is cute, little and super easy and convenient to use. So why in the world would we spend all this money on a device double the size of ours, costs a gallon worth of premium blood, and is something we don’t really need in the first place?

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Our old lancing device vs. Genteel

Thus, when I agreed to review Genteel, I approached it with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, truth be told, I was also very intrigued. Can it deliver what it promises?  Is it really pain free? Even more so, can it really be used to accurately test BG using other body sites? After two years of poking her fingers 8-10 times a day, V’s little fingertips are like pin cushions. While she does not find lancing painful per se, she does feel the pricks, and it can be uncomfortable. She tends to over-use some fingers, and it would be really convenient to use alternate testing sites to give her fingers a break. With that in mind, V and I eagerly took to test-driving Genteel, with the goal of giving it a thorough workout.

I won’t bore you with the details on how Genteel works, what it comes with, or other specs. The product website has all of this useful information and more. I’m going to jump straight to our experience with this device.

There was definitely a learning curve at first with assembling the device and figuring out how to use it properly. I had to remember to push the activation button long enough and then to release it before breaking contact with skin. I also had to remind myself to keep my fingers off of the push cap. After I felt comfortable using Genteel and could vouch to V that I really did not feel any pricking, it was time for her to try it. (Please note: Genteel is designed for single user only. Because I’m a rebel, I broke the rules and used it for both of us. I made sure to carefully clean and disinfect nozzles and contact tips before testing my daughter.)  She enthusiastically took to the task and I have to admit that she learned to use Genteel a lot quicker than me. Happily, she declared it to be pain-free! We stuffed it into V’s OmniPod case and began using it as our main lancing device.

Does it fulfill its promise of painless lancing? In our experience, yes. We both tested BG on fingers, arms, shoulders, above the knee, and on other body sites, with good success. There is a catch, however. Unlike regular lancing devices that have a dial to change the strength and depth of lancing, Genteel uses different contact tips that need to be fitted on a nozzle. It is definitely trickier and it is not practical to change the tips back and forth. You need to figure out which contact tip works best. The blue tip, the most gentle one, worked great on fingers. However, it was not strong enough to draw blood on alternate sites. The green contact tip painlessly drew enough blood on alternate sites but was not painless on fingers. It was not exactly painful, but it felt more or less like a regular finger prick. Genteel does come with two nozzles, so you can put a different tip on each nozzle and change nozzles when needed, which is a lot easier than changing contact tips. Still, we are so used to the ease of turning a dial that carrying a different nozzle and having to change it depending on where we want to test was unappealing to us. So we came up with a compromise: V settled on a green contact tip, given that our main objective was to use Genteel on alternate sites. We still carry our regular lancing device if we want to test on fingers, although we can also use Genteel but not expect it to be completely painless. Also, pro tip for you: do not use Genteel without a contact tip. Because OMG OUCH!

Technically, Genteel is supposed to work with any square-shaft lancets. However, the website provides a list of lancet brands that work best as well as those that are not compatible or do not work as well. We did get good results when using lancets recommended by the company. When we tried to use Abbott brand lancets, even though they fit properly, we could not draw blood reliably, so we tossed them and are sticking with the One Touch brand.

Speaking of tossing the lancets… Genteel does not have a function to eject used lancets. I am not a big fan of manually pulling lancets out and for the life of me I can never keep the little round lancet tips that you are supposed to put back on before pulling lancet out. They end up on the floor or just magically grow legs and run away. With our regular lancing device we are were pretty diligent about changing lancets right away. With Genteel, pretty quickly we decided it was not going to happen. I change the lancet about once a day now, even in our old device. Eh, if you can’t beat them, join them, right? As long as the lancet is working well, we are not going to worry about it too much.

We've gone to the dark side and we are not coming back
We’ve gone to the dark side and we are not coming back

Another thing I found myself doing at least once a day is rinsing nozzles and contact tips. Blood smearing on the inside of nozzles and contact tips is inevitable. Instructions purport that if you use Genteel properly it won’t happen. Ha, welcome to the real world! Sometimes our technique is not perfect. Other times we think it’s perfect but blood smears still happen. The nozzles are clear so you can see right away if there is blood on the inside. It does not present any safety issues or affect function, so it’s more about how grossed out you will get.

We hope Genteel holds up for a while. We are not gentle with our gadgets, and I would expect it to withstand all kinds of abuse if it’s meant to be used for and by kids. Within the first few days V did something to it and it literally fell apart. Nothing was broken, my husband was able to put it back together, and it’s been fine ever since. The company offers a 120-day money back guarantee for any reason, and a manufacturer’s limited 5-year warranty after that.

All the shortcomings notwithstanding, we grew rather fond of our Genteel after only two weeks of using it. Yes it’s bigger, but it is still small enough to fit in V’s pump case. Yes it’s a little different and awkward at first, but we got used to it quickly. Yes it’s expensive, but we think it’s worth it. It is painless, which is awesome. Even more awesome is our newfound freedom to use alternate lancing sites. We test V’s fingers only a couple of times a day now, at most. And the convenience of being able to draw blood easily and painlessly from other body sites can’t be beat. We love it at the park, where V’s fingers get completely filthy but her tummy is nice and clean. We love it at the beach, where fingers are always sandy and wet, but we can just wipe off a little spot above the knee or on the arm.

Sandy, wet fingers are not ideal for BG testing

I also love it for nighttime checks because I no longer have to dig out little fingers from underneath a pillow or ten layers of covers. I even totally replicated the idyllic experience depicted on a website photo, where a Mom is testing her unsuspecting soundly asleep child by lancing her shoulder.

Image credit: mygenteel.com
Idyllic night-time BG check. Image credit: mygenteel.com
Our more realistic version of a night-time BG check. Less idyllic, more frazzled and tired. No gigantic stuffed animals have been harmed during this photo shoot.
Our more realistic version of a night-time BG check. Less idyllic, more frazzled and tired. No gigantic stuffed animals were harmed during this photo shoot.

Now that it’s been warmly accepted into our diabetes gadgets family, perhaps it’s time for V to decorate her Genteel with stickers it came with.

P.S. Do you have any questions about Genteel that my review did not cover? Please ask in comments. I could not possibly fit all the info I wanted to include in this post, as it’s already quite a beast in length.

Alarms

The other day I was setting an alarm when I thought about how I have four of them on my phone. It got me thinking about their purpose and how I feel about them. Let’s take it from the bottom.

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3:00 PM: School Pick-up, Tuesday.

About a year ago I started working at a new office on Tuesdays. It’s a little farther from home and kids’ school, so I need to leave work promptly at 3 PM to pick up my two kids and two more kids from our carpool. One lovely Tuesday, shortly after my start at the new office and in the beginning of the school year, I lost track of time at work. I was plowing through tasks, felt accomplished and got a lot done. On my way out I stopped at a colleague’s office to say bye. “Aren’t you late, she asked?” “No, I’m exactly on time, it’s 3.” “Umm… No, it’s 4,” she said. I looked at her wall clock. “No way, it can’t be 4, you clock is wrong.” Then I looked at my phone. “OMG it is 4!” “What time do you have to pick up?” “3:45!!!”

To make a long story short, I made a few frantic phone calls and got someone else to pick up the kids. They were second to last to be picked up and they were not pleased, though a little amused. I was mortified. Ever since I have a recurring alarm at 3 PM on Tuesdays so that I am never ever late for school pick up again.

5:55 AM: STFU and Run!

This alarm is my favorite. A couple of years ago a friend of mine made a comment about how, when she was in the Marines, if they were too tired to run, they were told to do this nice and easy thing: STFU and run. The phrase instantly became my running motto, so much so that I had it written with a sharpie on my arm for the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon.

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Saturdays have been my sacred running days for a number of years now. Saturday mornings I get up and run. I usually meet my running group at 7 AM, but even if I’m running solo I still wake up early and get going. It’s rarely an easy task to get myself up on a Saturday morning, when my family is peacefully sleeping. But I’ve never regretted forcing myself out of bed and lacing up my running shoes. STFU and Run!

3:58 AM: Alarm

I have no idea what this alarm is about. Obviously I used it at some point. It may have been to test V’s BG, or it may have been for travel. I don’t know why I haven’t deleted it – I guess you never know when you can use another alarm, right?

At this point, you may be wondering why I’m writing about all these alarms in the blog about diabetes and Celiac. This brings us to the 2:00 AM alarm. In our family, we don’t do Midnight, Three and Six. In fact, we don’t routinely get up in the middle of the night to test V. When we do, we roll with Eleven, Two and Five. I usually test V before my bedtime at 11 PM. She may need a correction or a change in a temp basal rate. Sometimes we are battling highs or lows because of illness, change in activity, or what she had for dinner. If we determine that a middle-of-the-night check is needed, we set the alarm for 3 hours later, at 2 AM. My husband is up at 5 AM to get ready for work, so he can check on V then. I am usually up for the day at 7 AM for further follow-up. It works out quite nicely and we share the 2 AM duty so that we can take turns getting a night of uninterrupted sleep. We have it all worked out, and yet I hate this stupid 2 AM alarm, aptly named “Diabetes-related sleep disturbance.”

I hate the 2 AM wake-up. I hate that diabetes disturbs our sleep and our peace. I hate that I tend to wake up to it even if it’s not my turn to be up. I hate that my body is so accustomed to it that I tend to wake up at 2 AM even if we don’t have to set the alarm. I hate that diabetes, while manageable, is also so serious that there are times each week we need to be up in the middle of the night to make sure V’s numbers are in an acceptable range. I hate that sometimes us being up is not enough, as we have to also wake V if we need to treat her low BG. And I hate that at some point, sooner than later, we have to pass the torch to V. For now we completely take over her diabetes care at night. She sleeps soundly through all alarms and vast majority of finger pokes. As she gets older and becomes more responsible for her care, it will have to change. She will have to set her own alarm to wake up and test in the middle of the night, and we will have to step back and learn to trust that she will act responsibly.

I am also hopeful that, as diabetes technology continues to improve, more tools to improve nighttime safety and ease the burden of management will soon become available. It would be so great if no one has to set an alarm in the middle of the night to deal with diabetes. And it would be so great to delete the 2:00 AM alarm from my phone for good.