The Consistent Carbohydrate Diet for Diabetics

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Your body uses carbohydrates for fuel. (Image: Design Pics/Tomas del Amo/Design Pics/Getty Images)

If you have diabetes, you're not alone. More than 25 million Americans 20 and older have the chronic condition, according to American Diabetes Association statistics. Because carbohydrates raise blood sugar more than other food components, diabetes management typically involves monitoring your carb intake. Physicians commonly recommend starting the consistent carbohydrate diet when you're diagnosed with diabetes. It's more common than the exchange meal plan and provides more flexibility.

Meal Plan Design

The consistent carbohydrate meal plan can help stabilize your carbohydrate intake by creating uniformity. The goal is for the amount of carbohydrates you eat each day and at each meal to remain the same. In this sense, the consistent carbohydrate diet is a carb-counting program. It differs from the exchange plan because you keep track of just carbohydrates instead of all food groups.

How It Works

When you create meals using the consistent carbohydrate approach, you count carbs in portion sizes referred to as carbohydrate choices. Every 15 grams of carbohydrates you eat count as one carb choice. As you build your plate, you add up the carbohydrates in your meal and convert them to carb choices. A recommended guideline is 45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal for women and 60 to 75 grams of carbs for men, according to Fletcher Allen Health Care. You may need more or less depending on how you manage your condition. Your health care provider sets individualized carb goals.

Using the Carb Choice Approach

Based on the recommended guidelines, choose three to four carb choices per meal if you're female and four to five carb choices if you're male. Any food that contains sugar or starch counts as a carbohydrate. Examples include starchy vegetables such as potatoes, fruits, fruit juices, milk, breads, cereals and pasta. A few examples of one carb choice -- portions containing 15 carbs -- include 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of pasta, 1/3 cup of of beans or 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice.

Things to Consider

Clinical data indicate the total amount of carbs you eat at each meal is more important than the type of carbohydrates you choose, according to Fletcher Allen Health Care. For this reason, the consistent carbohydrate diet doesn't restrict the type of carbohydrates you eat. But make healthy, balanced food choices. If you choose a sugary item, opt for small portions. For example, one small cookie contains about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Remain within your individualized calorie and fat intake goals.

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