I’ve just been diagnosed with type II diabetes and I can’t grasp the whole blood sugar thing. It seems like everything has carbs in it – what the heck can I eat?
Great question. Many foods contain carbohydrates but that doesn’t mean you can’t have them. Forget everything you’ve heard about completely avoiding carbs and remember this one thing: healthy carbs are good in moderation. What is most important is that you control the amount of food you eat at any given time – aka – portion control. This is good advice for everyone, not just diabetics.
So what foods have carbs in them? Fats and proteins do not have carbs – things like meat, eggs, seafood, cheese, nuts, oils, butter – but these things do:
Grains – bread, pasta, cereal, and whole grains like quinoa, barley, oats, etc.
Fruit – some are higher on the glycemic index than others, but all fruits have carbs
Dairy – milk, yogurt (especially when sweetened!)
Sweets – doughnuts, pastries, candy, cake, cookies, baked goods and anything sugary
Starchy Veggies – potatoes, corn, peas, lentils, beans
Unlike fats and proteins, carbs are responsible for raising your blood sugar, which is why it is important for diabetics to control the amount of carbs they eat. In addition to portion control, choosing minimally processed foods that contain fiber will also help to keep your blood sugar regulated. Foods that are closest to their natural state will always be the healthier choice.
How many carbs can I eat?
For women, I recommend somewhere between 30-45g per meal and 15-30g per snack. For men, I recommend between 45-60g per meal and 15-30g per snack. If you are checking your blood sugars you will want to determine (through trial and error) which levels work best for you. To determine how many carbs your meal has, commit this simplified version of the exchange system to memory:
The following portions contain 15g carbohydrate:
1/2 cup grain, starchy vegetable, or legume
1 cup milk or plain/unsweetened yogurt
1/2 cup or 1 small piece of fruit (fruits are huge these days! Choose smaller sizes)
It is difficult to determine the amount of carbs in pastries and other sweets without food labels (unless you know the recipe and can analyze the nutrients). In this case, go small. Keep the portion to the size of your palm.
Let’s say you’re a female whose blood sugars do best when you eat no more than 45g of carb per meal:
1 cup brown rice = 30g
4 oz salmon = 0g
Spinach salad with 1/2 cup strawberries, bell peppers, olives and feta cheese = 15g (from the strawberries; non-starchy vegetables and cheese have minimal carbs so don’t worry about counting these)
Total carbs= 45g
This is a simplified version of eating healthy with diabetes. If you need additional assistance and would like to set up a web-based session with me, contact me here and I would be more than happy to further discuss this topic and set you up with a meal plan.
As always, keep the good questions coming 🙂