Carbohydrates are usually thought of as anything with grains: pasta, bread, cereals, etc. But there are sneaky sources of carbs hiding in foods we might initially think belong in a different category.
The reason why carbohydrates should be monitored by people with diabetes is that your body breaks them down into sugars — mostly glucose — which raises blood sugar. Even though foods high in carbs don’t always necessarily taste sweet, that’s how your body reacts to them.
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all eating plan for everyone. Studies have found improvements in blood sugar levels when carbs were restricted to 20 grams or less per day, while the general recommendation is between 135 to 230 grams per day.
MAIN TAKEAWAY Anywhere from 20–90 grams of carbs daily might be healthy for someone with diabetes. To determine the right amount for you, the most important thing is to track your carb- and fiber-intake and then test your blood sugar two hours after eating. Then work with your medical team to decide what’s best for your body.
Additionally, foods that are naturally sweet, like fruit, can contain carbs in high numbers. A small piece of fruit or a half cup of frozen or canned fruit can contain about 15 grams of carbs.
“A fruit smoothie (such as Jamba Juice) has over 100 grams of carbs, but it’s in a liquid form. It has the same amount of carbs as five pieces of fruit and a glass of milk. I don’t know if I could eat five pieces of fruit, but it’s pretty easy to drink down a smoothie,” Evert says.
That’s a good reason to be mindful of the nutrients you’re putting into your body.
Other sneaky sources of carbs
- Milk has a surprisingly high-carbohydrate content, meaning that tempting iced cafe mocha could have nearly 40 grams of carbs.
- Starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and corn are sources of carbohydrates.
Because carbs quickly break down into sugar, one way to delay their digestion and absorption is to increase fiber intake — depending on the type of fiber.
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. When it comes to helping people with diabetes, look for soluble fiber.
Foods that are high in soluble fiber include:
- black beans
Managing carbs and coming up with a well-balanced meal plan is easier when using the Plate Method. Visualize a dinner plate. Fill half with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with a protein, and the remaining quarter with a starch.
So, what goes on your plate?
Non-starchy vegetables (50 percent of your plate) are anything green: spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, and chard. Also, look for cauliflower, carrots, fennel, and radishes, or salad greens like romaine, arugula, or watercress.
Smart protein choices (25 percent of your plate) include: lean meats such as chicken or turkey breast, or fatty fish like salmon, shrimp, and whitefish (rockfish and halibut). Try to limit red meat or overly fatty meats like bacon or sausage.
Starches and things that should be counted as carbs (25 percent of your plate) include: peas, beans like kidney, chickpea, or black, and whole grains like barley, farro, buckwheat, or quinoa.
What about dessert?
When it comes to things like dessert, Evert says to think in moderation.
Shoot for fresh berries, dark chocolate, or single-serving items in order to curb temptation. Greek yogurt is a good option, as it’s usually lower in carbs and sugar than many other types of yogurt.
Remember, as Evert says “Rome was not built in a day.” If you’re into trying meal planning, start with a couple of meals per week and work up.
“No one can go from eating out all the time to making all their own meals,” she says.