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Keep Portion Sizes in Check to Manage Diabetes: Class start TODAY, May 7th!!
Wednesday, May 7, 2014 • Posted May 9, 2014

Even if you did not pre-register, we will have a few extra spots in our class series that will help you with everything you need to know about your type 2 diabetes. Please join us every Wednesday in May from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the Social Hall of the Mason First United Methodist Church. Teachers include Ann Scarth, Wesley Nurse (RN and co-sponsor of the program), a registered dietician, and nurses from both Country Home Health and MKM Home Health. I will be doing recipe demonstrations at each class. We are so lucky to have all this support in our community for our FREE classes! Call me at 347-6459 or email me at if you have questions!

In the past decade or so, research has improved and expanded the dietary choices of people with diabetes. No longer are they limited to any one method of planning meals. Formerly, the exchange method of meal planning was the main method that many persons with diabetes learned to use.

Recent focus has been on carbohydrate counting. Because starches and sugars—carbohydrates—account for most of the glucose in the blood, especially right after eating, many health professionals believe glucose levels can be better controlled if dietary carbohydrates are better controlled.

For some, carbohydrate counting can be easier to understand than the exchange method and easier to apply to the foods eaten every day. Meal planning is more flexible, and people with diabetes can even have an occasional treat, provided they keep their glucose levels in check. Additionally, people with diabetes also benefit from controlling portions. Both techniques are important keys in planning meals and controlling glucose levels.

Because carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels more than other foods and because controlling blood sugar levels helps prevent the start of diabetes complications, focusing on and controlling carbohydrate intake can make a difference in blood glucose levels. The more starches and sugars you eat, the harder it is to control blood glucose.

Research has shown the amount of carbohydrates in foods is more important than what kinds of carbohydrates are eaten. That means people with diabetes can occasionally eat sweets, as long as they count the carbohydrates in those sweets in the total amount of carbohydrates for that meal and the day’s total of allowed carbohydrates. But remember—sweets usually also have a high fat content and are therefore more likely to provide more “empty calories” with less nutrition than other foods.

Carbohydrates (starches and sugars such as those found in pasta, beans, cereal, fruits, rice, bread, starchy vegetables such as corn or potatoes, juices, milk and other milk products, and anything made with added sugar such as cakes, candy, and pie) are an important part of nutrition. Counting carbohydrates can allow for variation in foods eaten every day by providing a variety of choices. It can also be used to match and adjust insulin to food intake. To count carbohydrates, you must know:

    * how many grams of carbohydrates your body needs each day, * how many grams of carbohydrates are in different foods, and * how to use this process in planning meals.

As a broad rule of thumb, about half of the daily calories should come from carbohydrates. But because everybody is different, individual carbohydrate needs will vary from person to person. To find out how many grams of carbohydrates you should eat each day, work with your health care professional, such as a dietitian or certified diabetes educator.

A gram is a unit of weight—28 grams equal one ounce. Because they are so small, they can be used to measure carbohydrates accurately. Once you know how many grams of carbohydrate you need each day—and when they should be eaten—you can plan your meals and snacks accordingly. This is the method that is the easiest for me to understand- I think of the amount of carbohydrates you should have in a day as an “allowance” that you should spend wisely in small increments throughout the day!

To determine how many grams of carbohydrate are in specific foods, you can use several methods. Read labels if the food has one; read books and other publications; visit websites of diabetes organizations; and/or measure the foods on a scale.

For an accurate carbohydrate count, make sure the portion sizes are correct. To guesstimate portion sizes—especially when eating away from home—let your hand guide you. For instance, your fist is about the same size as a one-cup portion; a handful is about one to two ounces; a palm is about three ounces; a thumb is about one ounce; and a thumb-tip is about a teaspoon.

One method of portion control and carbohydrate counting is called the plate method. Visualize a 9-inch plate. Please note that many of today’s plates may be 10- to 12-inches, and many of the salad plates now measure at the 9-inch plate size. Visually divide the plate into halves. At least one-half of the plate should contain two servings of nonstarchy vegetables such as green beans, salad vegetables, cabbage family, carrots, etc. The other half of the plate is divided in two—one is for a serving of bread, starch, vegetable, or grain; the other side is for a serving of meat or protein (about the size of a deck of cards). In addition to the food on the plate, you can have one serving of a fat-free or low-fat dairy product. If you still haven’t eaten all of the allowed carbohydrates for the day, then you can select a small piece of fruit to finish off your meal.

When planning menus, allow for more nonstarchy vegetables and whole-grain breads or cereals, and eat smaller servings of meats, meat substitutes, starches, fruits, and low-fat milk. The plate method can be handy when eating on a buffet line, too. Mentally divide your plate in half, and proceed as before.

Remember—blood sugar levels will rise about the same amount whether you eat one serving of milk, one serving of starch, or one serving of fruit. People with diabetes don’t usually need to follow special menu plans or prepare special foods. By watching portion sizes and counting carbohydrates, they can eat the same foods their families do.

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