Disclaimer!: This is a general guide. There are important differences between individual diabetics and diets. Insulin therapy should be carefully monitored together with a diabetic health care team. In case of doubts always refer to that specialist team for (ongoing) advice.
So if you choose to have a dessert you might want to consider the amount in your meal. Depending on where you are and your body, intake is generally limited to roughly 40 - 60 grams per meal.
Meals high in starches and flour have a high energy content. Moderation in anything is key. Carbohydrate counting or the amount allowed, however, is still a subject heavily discussed.
One of the reasons is the difficulty of matching an insulin peak with the glucose peak. Some MD's propose an amount as low 12 g of carbohydrates per meal. That's considered very low.
How much carbohydrates are allowed exactly depends on your activity level, medication, weight and blood glucose. For guidance refer to your diabetes care team.
Ways of Carbohydrate Counting
all carbohydrate (the total) types mentioned on the label. Not just
the sugar amount.
can be handy when you have no scale or food labels to work with.
These can be tables or visual guides such as illustrations or
photographs showed in portions. Each visualized portion corresponds
with an amount of carbs.
food books and websites
websites and books can take the tediousness out of carb counting.
These bundled recipes range from ordinary (grandma's) to the more
refined dishes. There's a lot on the market these days, free or
days restaurants promote their business through a website. Many of
them list nutritional information with each menu so as to accomodate
health conscious customers. Do keep in mind the information is
indicative as dishes may vary in size and ingredients.
Fast and Slow Carbs
Some diabetics feel plagued by the thought of carbohydrate counting every day. Which is understandable.
There are foods with a high GI but are allowed as long as the portion size is right. Or higher portions are ok as long as the GL is within the range.
Things can be complicated sometimes. That's where tables and applications come in to make life simpler.
Over time however you will grow into the habit, memorize and estimate portion-to-carb ratios almost by automation.
A rule of thumb:
Sticking to slow carbohydrates and controlling portions goes a long way. Just like common sense.
The process can be tedious in the beginning.
It helps if you know:
- What slow / fast carbs are.
- Which foods have a low glycemic index.
- The glycemic load.
- That fats and proteins lower the glycemic index.
This of course comes with experience.
Slow carbs are good for everyone. Not just diabetics. They often have fibres which makes you feel full longer after a meal. You'd less likely have a snack inbetween meals.
To give you an idea between slow and fast carbohydrate foods here's a comparison:
Whole wheat bread
The Problem with
the Glycemic Index
Controlling how fast blood sugar raises and drops is were the GI is your guide. Low GI foods let it raise slowly followed by a slow drop.
This has certain advantages like limiting the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The only problem is, how do you determine the exact GI number when it's influenced by temperature, ripeness of a fruit, combination with other ingredients, the addition of water and so on?!
The answer is, you don't unless you're a scientist doing research!
Boiled potatoes and vegetables for example have a lower Glycemic Index than when you mash them.
It does help if you simply stick to foods that are known to have a low GI no matter the external influence on them.
Carbs are King
Carbohydrate counting takes a prime place in a diabetic's glucose management.
Because glucose levels depend greatly on the amount eaten then on the type.
Since they are that critical they came up with the glycemic load of foods to indirectly proportionate carbs.
The GL is a measure for the load of carbs per meal. How much it will affect you as a diabetic.
The beginnings of carb counting can be a little tedious but once mastered it becomes second nature.
It helps a great deal in managing your blood glucose levels. It allows better control. More flexibility in the amounts of carbohydrates eaten over the day.
However, it doesn't mean you can eat in excesses as this would be unhealthy for anyone. But the occasional treat can be better planned with a matching insulin doses.
Once you know how to estimate the carbs that you're going to have, next is the amount of insulin needed. This is dependent on your activities, age, weight and how your body reacts to insulin.
To know this carbohydrate-to-insulin ratio you will need the help of a diabetic care team. They can estimate a starting ratio which can be fine-tuned in follow up controls. They can also tell how much carbs you're allowed to have per meal.