People with diabetes have difficulty properly metabolizing carbohydrate. Monitoring how much carbohydrate you eat is critical for blood sugar control. Different meal planning tools include carbohydrate counting, the plate method and the glycemic index. If you use insulin, calculating how much carbohydrate you eat helps you administer the right dose. Choosing appropriate portion sizes also helps control blood sugar. **Check with your doctor or nutritionist to determine the best diet for your health needs.**
The Diabetic Diet
Carbohydrate breaks down into glucose, which raises blood sugar. **Carbohydrate counting** is a common diabetic diet method and monitors portions of foods with carbohydrate including grains, potatoes, peas, corn, rice, bread, crackers, pasta, fruit, milk, beans, soy, candy, cookies and soda. The American Diabetes Association recommends **45 to 60 grams of carbohydrate at each meal**, or three to four servings. Another approach to a diabetic diet is the **plate method**. For this diet, divide your plate in half. In one half, fill your plate with nonstarchy vegetables. In the other half, divide it in half again and use one side for protein and the other for carbohydrate. Include a side of fruit and dairy. When filling the plate, select foods with low or medium glycemic indexes. The **glycemic index** focuses on how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar.
Your liver helps regulate your blood sugar. During fasting, it will produce glucose, which can cause your blood sugar to rise. **If you're diabetic, breakfast is an extremely important meal** to help break your overnight fast and prevent the liver from producing glucose. Using carbohydrate counting, one breakfast menu includes a piece of whole-grain toast (15 grams of carbohydrate) with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 1 small banana (30 grams of carbohydrate). A create-a-plate breakfast could be 1 cup of cereal with 8 ounces of milk, one or two eggs, sautéed mushrooms and peppers and a small orange. A breakfast based on the glycemic index could include 1 cup of rolled or steel-cut oatmeal with a sprinkle of raisins and a slice of cheese.
A carbohydrate-counting meal idea could be a lunch meat and cheese sandwich made with whole grain bread (two slices would be 30 grams), small apple (15 grams) and 1 cup of carrot sticks (5 grams). Another idea is 1 cup of chili (30 grams) with five saltine crackers (15 grams). A 6-inch tortilla wrap (15 grams) with 1/3 cup of hummus (15 grams), 1 cup of sliced peppers (5 grams) and chicken strips and a piece of fruit (15 grams) is also a good lunch. A create-a-plate lunch could be half a plate of salad and a pork tenderloin open-faced sandwich with a piece of fruit and plain yogurt. Lunch that would have low glycemic index foods would contain 100 percent stone-ground whole wheat, beans and nonstarchy vegetables.
Diabetics should **space their meals throughout the day** rather than eat one or two large meals. Large meals will cause your blood sugar to spike, while smaller meals spaced throughout the day can help keep it stable. Meals based on carbohydrate counting could be 1 cup of lasagna (30 grams) with 1 cup of cooked green beans (10 grams) and a slice of bread (15 grams). A create-a-plate dinner could be baked chicken, a small baked potato, half a plate of asparagus or another vegetable, an 8-ounce glass of milk and a piece of fruit. Foods with low glycemic index include sweet potatoes, pasta and 100 percent stone-ground whole-wheat bread.
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Meal Plans and a Healthy Diet
- American Diabetes Association: Carbohydrate Counting
- American Diabetes Association: Create Your Plate
- American Diabetes Association: Glycemic Index and Diabetes
- Comprehensive Physiology: Energy Metabolism in the Liver
- Lilly Diabetes: My Carbohydrate Guide
- Diabetes Care Plan: Planning a Diabetes Diet- Spacing of Meals & Food Exchanges