Managing Carbohydrate Intake
Maintaining a consistent carbohydrate intake throughout the day is an effective meal-planning method to help maintain your target blood glucose levels. Foods that contain carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood glucose levels compared to foods that contain primarily protein or fat. Carbohydrates in foods that contribute to blood glucose include sugars and starches. Foods containing carbohydrates are divided into groups based on similar carbohydrate content per serving. The amount of carbohydrates you consume is based on your diabetes treatment goals and carbohydrate tolerance.
Foods that contain carbohydrates include:
Grains such as breads, cereals, rice, and pasta
Starchy vegetables such as corn, potato, sweet potato, sweet peas, and winter squash
Legumes—dried peas and beans
Milk and yogurt
Fruit and fruit juices
Desserts, sweets, and snack foods
Batter, breading, and sweet sauces
Foods that contain small amounts of carbohydrates include:
Nonstarchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and leafy greens
Nuts and seeds
Foods that do not contain carbohydrates include:
Meat, poultry, and seafood (without batter, breading, or sweet sauces)
Oils and fats
What are the benefits of managing carbohydrates?
Allows flexibility in your meal plan.
Helps balance your food and medications.
Helps control food portions to support a healthy weight.
Keeps you in control of your blood glucose levels.
Setting Up Your Plate—Managing Carbohydrates
Within the carbohydrate food groups, each choice contains approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate, and they can be exchanged for each other, although serving sizes will vary. For example, in the fruit group, a serving of fresh blueberries is ¾ cup, and a serving of orange juice is ½ cup. In the starch group, a serving of cooked rice is ⅓ cup, while for potatoes it is ½ cup. In the milk group, one serving of milk is 1 cup, and a serving of low fat yogurt is ⅔ cup.
When planning meals and snacks, you can count the total number of carbohydrate grams or carbohydrate choices.
An Example Dinner Menu
Below is an example dinner menu based on the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Plate Method. For a demonstration video, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6LZijdsGu0.
Because each person's dietary needs are different, it is important to consult with a Registered Dietitian (RD), preferably a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), to determine your daily calorie needs and exactly how many carbohydrate grams or carbohydrate food choices from each of the five food groups you require at each meal and snack. Make sure to consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes in your diabetes treatment plan.
Activity: Plan a Menu
Plan a 1-day menu based on the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Plate Method. Visit the American Diabetes Association's Bookstore to view the Choose Your Foods: Food Lists for Diabetes meal-planning guide.
Use a 9-inch plate plus a small bowl and 8 oz beverage glass to place foods from each of the five food groups: lean protein, starch, nonstarchy vegetables, fruit, and milk or yogurt. Visually divide your plate into sections for nonstarchy vegetables, starch, and lean protein foods (Figure 1). Two other small bowls or cups can be used for the fruit, milk, or yogurt, or these foods can be added to other foods on the plate. The key is to select healthful foods from each of the five food groups to create your healthy meal.
Making YOUR menu.