Carbohydrates have been a hot topic for many years, especially amongst those living with diabetes. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to nutrition, and each person needs to find the best fit for their body and lifestyle.
One thing is for sure, it is important to be confident in knowing where your carbs are coming from to control your portions, and consequently your blood glucose levels, optimally. We all know the usual suspects – bread, rice, pasta, potatoes. But there are a few other food groups that can contribute a significant amount of carbs to your daily intake, and it is important to consider these when deciding what to buy, what to cook and what your portion size should be.
- Fruit – probably one of the most debated food groups, and often on the receiving end of a lot of bad press. Fruits are healthy, packed with antioxidants and vitamins, and contain fibre. They play an important role in our diet, but if you are not considering them as part of your carbohydrate intake then excessive intake can lead to increased blood glucose levels. Monitor your fruit intake and try to eat fruit together with a source of protein or healthy fat to prevent a spike in your blood glucose levels.
- Dairy – this food group is often classified as a protein which can be quite misleading. Although dairy foods contain protein, a serving of dairy can contain almost as many grams of carbs as a slice of bread. To be safe, I always think of dairy as a carb (with some bonus protein) so that I know I am accounting for all the carbs in my meal.
Starchy vegetables – these are often the foods that sneak onto our plates with the least suspicion of hiding any carbs.
- While we should be trying to fill half of our plates with vegetables to control our portion sizes at mealtimes, if half a plate is filled with starchy vegetables then this will likely lead to increased blood sugar levels. This is a good example of how healthy foods in excessive portions can have negative effects on blood sugar levels. Starchy vegetables that should be included as part of your carb portion (not your veg portion) are potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut, pumpkin, corn, green beans/peas, beetroot and carrots.
Legumes – Beans such as lentils and chickpeas are fantastic additions to a healthy diet as they are very high in fibre. They do, however, contain carbs and should be considered when calculating your carb intake for a meal.
Healthy carb choices, in the right quantities and combined with the right foods, can be included in your eating routine without leading to significant spikes in blood glucose levels. To achieve this, however, you need to be mindful of the hidden carbs that you may regularly and unwittingly be including in your eating routine. If you are concerned about anything nutrition related, please pay a visit to your dietitian who can assist with helping you to optimise your nutrition and diabetes management.
Lauren Moore | Registered Dietitian