Why count carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are foods that turn into blood glucose when they are processed by the body. To maintain target blood glucose levels, there should be a balance between carbohydrates and insulin (which is made by pancreas or taken by injection). Counting carbohydrates is a way to plan the amount of carbohydrates you eat, make the best food choices, and set goals for managing diabetes. Taking the time to learn the basics of carbohydrate counting is vital to controlling blood sugar levels.
Which foods contain carbohydrates?
Carbohydrate- rich foods include: Whole grains, breads, cereals and dried beans. Starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and peas. Fruits, milk, yogurt and of course sweets and desserts. Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and peppers contain a few carbohydrates, but they will not affect blood glucose unless eaten in large amounts.
How many carbohydrates are in one serving?
One carbohydrate choice has about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Foods with less than 20 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates are considered “free” foods. These include sugar free sodas and beverages, sugar substitutes, broth, spices and seasonings. A general rule of thumb: Women should have 3-4 carbohydrate choices (45-60) grams) at each meal, men should have 4- 5 carbohydrate choices (60-75 grams) at each meal. Snacks should include no more than 1-2 carbohydrate choices (15 – 30 grams) depending on a person’s size and activity level. Remember, the same number of carbohydrates from any food has the same effect on blood glucose. For example, one serving of fruit has the same effect on blood sugar as one serving of pasta.
Deciphering food labels:
Food labels can provide a wealth of information about a particular food…if you know how to interpret them. Here are a few tips to help you decipher your food labels:
- Look at the serving
- Review the total carbohydrate in one serving. Sugars are included in this number, so you do not have to count them separately.
- Compare the serving size to the portion you typically grab. How does it measure up?
- Calculate the amount of carbohydrates (either in grams or carbohydrate choices) in your portion.
If you would like more information on how to better control your diabetes, please contact your Lower Sioux Diabetes Program Dietitian, Stacy Hammer at 697-6193 to schedule an individualized diabetes education appointment!