by Danielle Maguire, RDN, Nutrition Program Director
What foods you eat can be a powerful tool in managing diabetes, it’s all about balance! Carbohydrates are often labeled as “bad” but they are NOT the enemy! Our bodies need carbohydrates (or “carbs”) – whether you have diabetes or not – throughout the day to keep that balance, as they impact your blood glucose.
So what foods have carbohydrates? Foods that contain carbohydrates are grains or grain-based foods like rice, bread, oatmeal, pasta, and crackers; starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas, beans, and corn; fruit and juice; milk and yogurt; and sweets and snack foods like soda, cookies, candy and chips. There are many sources of carbohydrates so we want to make them count when it comes to managing diabetes!
Focus on fruits without added sugars, whole grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, and non- or low-fat dairy products like milk and yogurt. Limit the less healthy carbs such as soda and other sugary drinks, refined grain foods such as white bread, pastries, sugary cereals, chips, pretzels, and high-sugar desserts. Our taste buds are often drawn to sugar – so it’s okay to give in to a craving here and there, just be sure to watch your portion sizes!
Your doctor or dietitian may have told you to eat a specific amount of carbohydrates per meal. Most people need about 45-75 grams of carbohydrates, or 3-5 “carbohydrate choices” per meal, depending on your body, to maintain an adequate blood glucose. A simple way to count carbs is by counting “carbohydrate choices” where one “choice” equals about 15 grams of carbs. Most recommended serving sizes of grains, fruit, and vegetables contain about 15 grams of carb or 1 carb choice (for example: 1 piece of bread, or ½ cup of corn) which makes it easier to count on-the-fly without having to look up the exact number.
You can also apply this method to the Nutrition Facts labels on foods. For example, 1 serving of Frosted Flakes is 33 grams of Total Carbohydrates – we can count that as 2 carb choices. Or 1 serving of chicken noodle soup where the Total Carbohydrate is 13 grams – we can count that as 1 carb choice. By using this method, you can easily add up 3-5 carb choices to help you stay within an appropriate range for your individual needs. Foods with little-no carbohydrates like proteins or non-starchy vegetables, are considered “free” foods.
Senior Services will be making the transition to count carbohydrate choices on our menu by indicating 15 grams of Carbohydrates with a star (*).
If there are no stars, there is little-no carbs in that food item. We will start this on the Winter Menu in December.
* = 15 grams carbohydrates
Example 1: Baked Spaghetti 29 will now look like Baked Spaghetti.**
Example 2 (“free” food with no star): Bourbon Chicken 2 will now look like Bourbon Chicken.
When it comes to managing diabetes, the carbohydrates you eat impact your blood glucose, so balance is key. You can start managing your blood sugars by making small changes and sticking to them – even small changes can have huge results!