By Cindy Betz
This is a question I see often in our Diabetes – What To Know Facebook communities. While high blood sugar could be due to a number of different things – including not taking the right type or amount of medicine – I like to start by looking closely at the food I’m eating to see how it may be affecting me.
Learn to check in pairs. A lot of us whose diabetes is well managed got here by buying the inexpensive ReliOn glucose meter & strips at Walmart and checking before and after meals for a couple of weeks, so we could learn what foods and serving sizes work best for us.
Here’s how it works…
To start, check your blood glucose before a meal and then two hours after. Keep a journal or use an online app to keep a log of what you ate, your serving sizes, and your glucose numbers before the meal and at two hours after. If you are using the plate method, you will soon see that adjusting your serving size of carbohydrates, such as starchy vegetables, whole grains and fruit really has an impact on your glucose. We need starches and whole grains in our diets, but we do have room to play with serving sizes of them. If you’d like more information about the plate method, click here!
How many servings? It depends…
Remember that one serving of starchy vegetables (corn, peas, potatoes) is 1/2 cup and equal to about 15 grams of carbohydrate. One serving of whole grains (like oats, brown rice, barley) is 1/3 cup or a one ounce slice of bread (equal to about 15 grams of carbohydrate). Some of us can handle two starch / whole grain servings at a meal and still have numbers that are in range, but for me when first lowering my blood sugar, I had to stick with one serving per meal for two meals per day until I got back into target fasting range.
I know many people who did one starch / whole grain serving at breakfast and lunch, then two at dinner and one at afternoon snack-time during this phase. It is also very important to learn that for women, meat and meat substitutes like eggs and cheese have a limit for everyone who is eating healthy, not just people with diabetes. For most women, that serving size per day is 4-6 ounces, and for most men, it’s 6-8 ounces per day.
This all changes again once you start getting any weight you need to lose off and your blood sugar stays in target range. What we can handle when we’re first diagnosed and what we can handle just two or three months later is really different – so don’t feel that you always are going to be eating the way you are when first diagnosed.
A few more tips…
Work with your dietitian. When they realize you are very committed, they will help you adjust carbs regularly. There is no need to ever be hungry while learning to manage your diabetes.
The non-starchy family of vegetables is always our good friend, especially when we first start trying to lower blood sugar. It is almost impossible to overeat this food group. Whole grains are also a great source of fiber.
Remember that a ten-minute walk after meals can really help lower your after-meal numbers at two hours. It will also get you started on your 30 minutes of necessary exercise per day.
This sounds like a lot of work, but the journaling and extra checking help you learn so much about your body and how it responds in just 2-3 weeks, and will help you develop new healthy habits. It’s not something you have to continue for the rest of your life, but it will set you up for a healthier life!
I encourage you to give it a try… it sure has made all the difference for me.
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