Diabetes. The definition of diabetes (according to Medline Plus) is a disease in which your blood glucose, or sugar, levels are too high. When the pancreas decreases or stops the amount of insulin produced, the result if high blood sugars. Some people have to inject insulin or take an oral pill to help control sugar levels. In my line of work, I educate so many people on the diabetic diet on a weekly basis that I could do it in my sleep. I hear questions like, “How do I know how many carbohydrates I can have?” or I hear comments like, “I was told that I can’t eat white bread.” In the past, doctors and other health authorities advised diabetic patients to avoid “white” products like bread, pasta and rice. Nowadays, the carbohydrate counting method, or carb counting, is used as the preferred portion controlled diet.
I know several of you may have diabetes or know someone with diabetes but you can follow these guidelines as well. In my opinion, a diabetic diet is what we should all be following, with the exception of sugar-free or no sugar added products. We still want to moderate our intake of artificial sweeteners.
Carbohydrates, or starches some say, have either sucrose, fructose or lactose. These are the components that cause blood sugar to rise. Foods include bread, pasta and rice; starchy vegetables such as squash, green peas, potatoes and corn; milk and yogurt; beans and legumes; crackers, chips and other grains; fruits and juices; sweets and table sugar; and not to mention the slew of sugary beverages available to the public.
Ever hear anyone say “I’m counting carbs” or “How many carbs does Michelob Ultra have?”? These people are, in essence, using the carb counting method. Each “carb” is defined as having 15 grams of carbohydrates. When you look at a nutrition food label, say, of 1 bag of Orville Redenbacher’s Kettle Korn (my fav!), you will see that there are 40 grams of carbohydrates. If you were to break it down, there are 16 grams in a serving of popcorn which is 5 cups (popped). I divide 40 by 15 (40/15) and I know there are 2.6 carbs in a bag. I would advise a patient to round that up to a total of 3 carbs. An average person can have between 3 and 5 servings of carbs per meal (or no more than 12-15 per day) and be able to say they are portion controlling their carbs. A 5 foot person may adhere to 9-12 servings per day whereas a 6 foot tall person may need 15-18 servings per day. Here is a link to help you choose appropriate portion sizes: Diabetes Exchange List.
Okay. Here are a few questions for you. Is it probably a better idea to eat wheat bread than white bread? Is it probably a better idea to eat fruit rather than ice cream for dessert? Shouldn’t you avoid drinking regular soda and drink water instead? Just because there is a way to fit some of your favorite foods and beverages into a diabetic diet doesn’t mean you should throw the rule book out of the window. Think about this way. If you’ve got $20 a day to spend on food, is it a good idea to spend it on junk food or buy something worthwhile for your body to be nourished with? Save a dollar or two every week and treat yourself.
Remember, you’re not perfect. We’re all human. I tell my patients this. Life is for the living and if you love food as much as I do, life can be pretty boring without it. Learn to eat (and drink) ALL foods in moderation. Dieting is rarely successful because it’s a hard habit to keep for the rest of your life. Make small changes everyday and you’ll eventually get there.