During my diabetes rotation, I was struck by how many people thought they weren’t supposed to eat carbs—at all! Many others believed that they were forbidden from consuming sweet treats ever again (not that that stopped many folks) and even healthy foods like bananas because of the high sugar content. It was during this rotation that I really started to learn how to explain the concept of “in moderation.”
The thing is, everyone needs carbohydrates, and while it is important to limit carbs (especially refined carbs) when you have diabetes, they still have their place in the diet. The trick is to space them out over the course of the day to keep blood sugar levels stable—and to check your blood sugar at regular intervals. Grains, fruit, vegetables (especially the starchy veggies) and dairy all contain some form of carbohydrate, whether it’s glucose, fructose or lactose, so creating meals and snacks that combine these foods with protein helps keep you going without experiencing sharp peaks or dips in blood glucose levels.
As explained in a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, Amy Campbell, manager of the clinical education programs at Joslin Diabetes Center, a research organization affiliated with Harvard Medical School, nutritionally dense carbs such as veggies and whole grains are a great choice, as they offer more vitamins, minerals and fiber than their refined counterparts. Fruits and dairy products such as milk and yogurt are also nutritious options. Most diabetics should consume between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrate per meal (about 2-4 servings) and between 15 and 30 at a snack.
What does that look like on the plate? This is the handout we give out at the hospital to many of our patients, including those with diabetes.
When it comes to making room for a treat, there are a few ways to do so. Forgoing a less exciting carb at dinner to make room for a small portion dessert is one way to have your cake and eat it too when you have diabetes. Exercise is another, as it can lower blood glucose levels for many hours afterwards. Just make sure to check your blood sugar and adjust your insulin as needed.
Do you have diabetes or know anyone who has it? How do you make room for treats?