Carb counting and diabetes:
Carbohydrates are the main kind of food that raises blood sugar levels. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the amount of carbohydrates you eat. Simple carbohydrates, or sugar, will begin to raise blood sugar very soon after you eat them. Complex carbohydrates, or starchy foods, take longer for the body to change into sugar but will eventually be changed completely to sugar. Protein and fat have little effect on blood sugar levels.
Carbohydrate (or “carb”) counting can help you:
- Manage your blood sugar
- Be more flexible in your choice of foods and at mealtimes
- Eat more foods that you enjoy
To count carbs, you need to:
- Know which foods contain carbs and find out how many
- Read food labels and use measuring tools, such as measuring cups, spoons, or a food scale
- Work with your diabetes care team to decide how to divide your carbs among your meals and snacks
Many foods contain carbs. The foods that contain the most carbs are:
- Starches–all bread, cereal, crackers, grains, rice, pasta
- Starchy vegetables–potatoes, corn, peas, beans
- All fruits and fruit juices
- All milk and yogurt
- Sugary foods–candy, regular sodapop, jelly
- Sweets—cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream, sugar-free treats
In fact, the only food groups that generally don’t contain carbs are:
- Meats and meat substitutes, such as eggs and cheese
- Fats and oils
Because carbs raise blood sugar more than they nutrients, you may wonder why you should eat them all. You need to eat foods with carbs because they provide your body with energy, along with many vitamins and minerals. Sweets are okay to include in your meal plan once in a while. But keep in mind that sweets often contain a lot of carb, calories, and fat, with very little nutritional value.
Sugar alcohols are one kind of reduced-calorie sweetener. They include sweeteners like maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and isomalt. Sugar alcohols are used in some sugar-free candy, gum, and desserts. Despite their name, sugar alcohols do not contain alcohol. Products containing sugar alcohols are not always low in carbs or calories. So be sure to check the label on any of these products. The effect of sugar alcohols on your blood sugar can vary (i.e. pass gas).
Work with your dietician or another member of your diabetes care team to find the number of carbs you need in our meal plan. That’s the number that you should aim for each day. Your dietician or diabetes educator can help you easily divide your carbs among your meals and snacks. If you take diabetes pills or 1 to 2 injections of insulin a day, try to eat the same amount of carbs at the same meals and snacks each day. If you take 3 or more insulin injections, you may have more flexibility with your meal plan.
Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar, especially if you take insulin. If you include snacks in your meal plan, count the carbs!
Keep in mind that in the food lists, 1 carb unit equals 15 grams of carbohydrate. For example, a cranberry juice cocktail should be counted as 1 carb. That means that 1/2 cup of cranberry juice cocktail has about 15 carbs.
For foods that come in packages, the best place to find the carb count is on the Nutrition Facts label. The grams of total carbohydrate on the label are the key to carb counting. Don’t worry about counting the sugar and fiber grams. They are included in the total carb number. Check serving size. Information on the label is based on the serving size. See how many grams of carb are in each serving. Decide whether the food fits in your meal plan. Also, check the sugars on each food item and sugar alcohols on sugar-free sweets.
To create your plate, split your plate down the middle. Then divide one of the halves into two. Put nonstarchy vegetables (i.e. spinach or broccoli) in the big half. Put starchy foods (i.e. potatoes or rice) in one of the small sections. Put meat or meat substitute (i.e. eggs or tofu) in the other small section. Add an 8-ounce glass of fat-free milk or low-fat milk and a piece of fruit.
The goals of your meal plan are to help you:
- Keep your blood sugar within your goal range
- Manage your weight
- Manage blood cholesterol and blood fat levels
- Manage blood pressure
Ask your diabetes care team to refer you to a registered dietitian (RD) if there is not already one on your team. This person can help you make a meal plan. You want to have the right balance of food, medicine, and activity.
It’s also important to include fiber in your meals. Fiber:
- Helps control blood sugar levels
- Lowers blood cholesterol levels
- Reduces blood pressure
- Helps with weight loss
- Helps prevent constipation and diarrhea
The American Diabetes Association recommends that you eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day.
Good sources of fiber include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans, peas, and other legumes
- Grains and whole-grain products
Remember that foods high in fiber also may contain a large amount of total carbohydrate, which can raise your blood sugar.
Using Exchange Lists for Meal Planning
Exchange lists can be used to count carbs. They can be used to count calories too. Each list has foods that have about the same amount of carbs. They have about the same amount of calories, protein, and fat too. So you can exchange, or switch, one food from a list with another food from that list. Let’s say your breakfast plan calls for 1 serving from the fruit list. You can choose 1/2 grapefruit, 1/2 banana, or 1 serving of a different fruit from the list.
Check the introduction to each food group. See how many carb grams the servings in that group have.
The exchange lists come in these groups:
- Sweets, desserts, and other carbohydrates
- Nonstarchy vegetables
- Meat and meat substitutes
For foods without a label, such as fruits and vegetables, you can use the food exchange lists in this booklet to find the carb counts.
For example, your goal is to have 60 to 75 carbs for breakfast. You can have:
- 1 1/2 cups of cereal (1 1/2 servings)=36 carbs (Check the Nutrition Facts label)
- 1 cup of skim milk=12 carbs
- 1/2 banana=15 carbs
Portion Sizes Count!
It’s not just about right types of foods, it’s also about the portion size. For example, a small 4-ounce apple (the size of a small fist) has about 15 carbs. A large apple has about 30 grams.
To make sure your portions are right, you need to weigh and measure your foods after they are cooked. You don’t have to do this every time you eat. However, it’s helpful if you weigh and measure your foods when you first start carb counting. It’s also helpful to continue weighing and measuring your foods every once in a while, just to make sure your portions haven’t grown over time.
Advanced Carb Counting
Advanced carb counting helps you manage your blood sugar better. The goal is this kind of counting is to try to to match the amount of fast-acting insulin you take with the amount of carbs you eat. You use an insulin-to-carb ration to do this. Each person responds in a different way to insulin. So, each person has a different ratio. You may need different ratios for different meals or times of the day, too.
Your insulin-to-carb ration is made just for you. An RD (registered dietician) can help you find it. He or she can teach you how to do advanced carb counting, too. If you don’t have an RD or a diabetes care team, ask your team to refer you to one.
It is extremely important to stay healthy. To manage your diabetes, you’ll want to:
- Eat a variety of foods in proper amounts
- Be sure to check food labels for calories, carbohydrate, total fat, and sodium amounts
- Eat regularly
- Match how much you eat with your activity level
- Eat fewer foods high in calories, cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium
You don’t need to ban any foods from your meal plan, but you may need to limit the amounts you eat or how often you eat some of them.
Good diabetes self-care means following your meal plan, being active, and taking your medication as directed. Your meal plan should:
- include a wide variety of foods so that you get needed nutrients
- include many of your favorite foods so that you enjoy what you eat
- be easy to follow
For more information on diabetes, go to this link: https://www.cornerstones4care.com/
I think people should make low-carb or sugar-free recipes of:
- tootsie pops
- chocolate covered Croissants
- sugary cereal
- juice and other sugary beverages
- bagel bites
Look up recipes for each item:
- Spanish-style rice
- Buffalo chicken salad wrap
- Chicken and coleslaw wrap
- Wild rice and baked chicken with tarragon and onion
- Caribbean red beans and brown rice