Diabetes Meal Plan: Should Diabetics Eat Carbohydrates?

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Pasta, Rice and the Diabetes Diet

Carbohydrates-Diabetes-DietAfter being diagnosed with diabetes, you may wonder how it’s going to affect your diet. You’re probably asking yourself, What can I eat? Which foods are healthy?

And most importantly, Do I have to give up carbs?

The answer is no!

However, it’s important that people with diabetes eat carbohydrates in moderation and also eat the right kind of carbohydrates.

Count your carbohydrates (it’s important!)
According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes should follow a healthy meal plan that includes about 45-60 grams of carbohydrate at a meal. Depending on a person’s ability to manage blood sugar, he or she may need more or less carbohydrates. There are 15 grams of carbohydrates in:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 small piece (4 ounces) of fresh fruit
  • 1/3 cup of pasta or rice
  • 1/4 of a large baked potato
  • 6 chicken nuggets
  • 1 cup of soup
  • 2 small cookies

This means that a person with diabetes could have bread, a little bit of pasta and two cookies for dessert, and still be within the healthy, recommended limits of a diabetes meal plan.

Eating pasta and rice when on a diabetes diet  
Experts say it’s perfectly OK to eat one serving of pasta or rice. This is equivalent to 1/2 cup, which contains roughly 20-25 grams of carbohydrates. However, other parts of your meal–such as a side of vegetables, fruit salad or cheese–also contain carbs. If you’re going to have a little more pasta, try to eat non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach or carrots. Remember, you have to factor all parts of your plate into your diabetes meal plan.

Choose whole grain carbohydrates
When choosing pasta and rice, always choose whole grain–it’s a healthier, smarter option for people with diabetes.

Whole grains are a powerhouse of nutrition for your body. Refined grains, on the other hand (think white rice), are not as healthy because they are stripped of the germ and bran parts of the grain during processing, which removes most nutrients and fiber. Whole grains are great for people with diabetes: They can lower fasting insulin levels, improve insulin sensitivity, decrease blood pressure, and decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Not sure which foods are whole grain? At the grocery store, look for whole wheat flour, whole wheat pasta, popcorn, quinoa, brown rice, oats, and spelt.

Try to limit–or eliminate–consumption of refined grains such as white bread, enriched pasta, white rice, white flour, and products made with white flour.

Eating out: how to make healthy choices
Restaurants often have healthy menu options that will help keep you on your diet plan when dining out. Before you dine, visit the restaurant’s website and plan what you will order.

Ask the server for whole wheat bread, corn tortillas and brown rice. When ordering Italian food, choose spaghetti marinara, vegetable pizza and, in select dishes, ask the chef to leave off the cheese. At a Chinese or  Thai restaurant, ask for brown rice or whole wheat noodles. When dining at a Mexican restaurant, choose black bean and vegetable burritos and pass on the cheese and refried beans.

The Whole Grains Council has an excellent website that features a list of independent and chain restaurants offering meals with whole grains. Check it out at: www.wholegrainscouncil.org/find-whole-grains/eating-away-from-home.