Carb Counting Diet with Diabetes

Jackie Smith Health Guide
  • I love carbohydrates. I crave them. My idea of a perfect lunch would include a plateful of cheesy, creamy risotto followed by a rich chocolate mousse and a basket of hot bread that is so large that I could crawl inside its fluffy warm middle and take a nap.

    It’s a cruel trick that what I desire most is likely the worst thing, as a type 2 diabetic, that I could eat.


    However, I cross that things-I-should-eat \things-I-shouldn’t-eat line often because I can’t PROVE an item is bad for me because I can’t figure out the mathematical equations that have become my meals.


    [DISCLOSURE: In elementary school I was in advanced reading but remedial math.

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    I also failed calculus my last semester of college and hence, didn’t graduate as planned. There is a happy ending, though. Thanks to a pushy boss, I did go back to school. Thankfully, I passed the class and went on with my life. At any rate, have patience with me on the mathematics. ]


    We all know we should eat healthy, nutritious foods. We all know we should limit fat and cholesterol and not get crazy with the protein. We all know that we need to control portion sizes and ultimately, calorie consumption. Where I get lost is “balancing” carbohydrates. What does that mean anyway?


    I’m discovering that first you have to ask “how many carbs do I need”? This is followed by learning what foods are carbs and estimating how many grams of carbs there are in any given food and if you are making decisions based on an “exchange” system, what group is that food item a part of and how many exchanges is that food item (usually 15g counts as an exchange)?


    In my case, the nutritionist I met with after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes suggested that 45 % of my daily calorie intake should be made up of healthy carbs such as brown rice and whole grain bread. If I am dieting and moderately active (i.e. getting my butt to the gym or outside doing some physical activity) in an effort to lose 50 lbs this 45% would be approximately 161 grams of carbohydrates a day or just over 50 grams per meal.


    Logging my meals for the last three weeks has shown me that either I’m eating too many carbs at one time or not enough. Ugh. Of course, this would be but one explanation as to why my blood sugar is wonky throughout the day.


    Here’s an example of one day’s meals:


    Breakfast:       Two tacos (egg and potato and bean and cheese) = 37.5 grams of carbs


    Lunch:            Chopped salad (w/chicken) = 32 grams (how?)

                          ½ bag of Baked Lay’s = 15 grams


    Dinner:           6 California rolls (the closest I get to sushi) = 48 grams

                         Chicken pot stickers = 11.5 grams

                         1 bottle of Sapporo = 12.6 grams

                         Raspberries with 1/3 cup vanilla ice cream = 18.7 grams


    Okay, clearly I had way too many carbs at dinner and I went over my allotment for the day. My blood strip testing the next morning confirmed that.


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    [While I’m on the subject of food, there are many suggestions as to what someone whose blood sugar has fallen should eat to raise it. What about those of us whose blood sugar is always high? What do we do if we’ve just tested and come back with a number that’s just too high?]


    At this point my ability to guesstimate a food’s carbohydrate value is way off or rather, I know it but I’m not adding the values (protein, fat, cholesterol, sodium and the dreaded carb count) of ALL of the foods present at my meal. That’s really where I come apart. 


    Could I use a math tutor or what? Or am I focusing too much on carbohydrate intake?

    What am I thinking now? As someone I follow on Twitter recently said and likely about another topic altogether “I am so overwhelmed right now that it's redefining ‘whelmed.’” (she’s @overthinker, I’m @jackie_smith)

    Next: Tools to Keep Track


Published On: January 27, 2010