Eating regularly throughout the day is imperative to keeping your diabetes under control. However, simply eating every three to four hours is not nearly enough to keep your system running smoothly. Following a meal plan is one of the basic methods diabetics use to keep their blood sugar at acceptable levels throughout the day. There are a number of methods used for diabetic meal planning, but one of the most common methods is counting carbohydrates.
The Carbohydrate Counting Method of Diabetic Meal Planning
Counting carbohydrates is the most common meal plan for diabetics. When following the carbohydrate meal plan, it is often recommended to include 45 – 60 grams of carbohydrates in each meal. Please keep in mind that your needs may vary slightly, and that the plan you and your health care professionals develop should be specific to your needs.
The carbohydrate counting method requires that you learn to what to look for when choosing foods. In order to make smart dietary decisions, you will need to learn which foods have carbs, what you need to look for on the food label, and how to determine a serving size of carbs when there is no food label to reference. After you have learned how to determine serving size and the number of carbs in foods, keeping track of your carb intake becomes simple and effective.
So What Are Carb Foods
Knowing your carb intake is the cornerstone of a diabetic’s battle against the disease. When using carb counting as the basis of your diabetic meal plan knowing which food types fall under the carbohydrate foods category is imperative to keeping track of your carbs. The foods to be on the lookout for are:
- Starches – Starches consist of breads, rice, cereal and crackers.
- Fruits and fruit juices
- Legumes – dried beans and products containing soy will be rich in carbs.
- Some Veggies – vegetables with a lot of starch, such as potatoes and corn.
- Junk Food – candies, sweets, and most snack foods all contain a significant amount of carbs.
When looking at food labels there two main things you need to be looking for. The first thing to keep an eye on is the serving size. Even if the food is packaged in a container reminiscent of a single serving size, it is common for packages to contain multiple servings. Knowing the correct serving size is the only way you can calculate the number of carbs you have ingested.
The other important item on food labels is the total carbohydrates contained in each serving. The listing for total carbohydrates will often be broken down further into carbs from fiber and carbs from dietary sugar. While the number you need to pay attention to is the total carbohydrates, it is often best for diabetics to eat foods that are high in fiber when possible. Sugar from fiber-rich foods takes longer for the body to process and enters the bloodstream at a slower and more continuous rate. Foods high in dietary sugar are absorbed into the bloodstream at a rapid rate and can be responsible for sharp increases in blood sugar followed by a rapid drop in glucose. Avoiding major fluctuations in blood glucose levels is the cornerstone principle of the carbohydrate counting method and eating fiber-rich foods contributes to a stable release of sugar into your system.
On occasion, a food label is unavailable. When you find yourself having to guess at serving sizes and carb counts, you will have to rely on memory and intuition. It is a good idea for diabetics to have a working knowledge of the serving size of basic foods and the total carbohydrates found in each serving. The American Dietetic Exchange is a good place to start your research on serving sizes and carb counts.
Basing your eating on a diabetic meal plan is one of the most effective steps you can take to control your blood sugar levels. At first, meal planning may be a confusing pain in the rear, but by basing your diet plan around the carbohydrate counting method, planning your meals will be easier, and making smart food decisions on the fly will become second nature.