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Diabetes & Your Diet: Knowing the Basics

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 7:06 AM

A common misconception is that people diagnosed with diabetes have to watch the sugar they consume. While that is partially true, what’s more important for a diabetic to watch is his or her total carbohydrate consumption according to Stella Moreno-Cortes, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at NorthShore.


Carbohydrates have the greatest impact on our blood sugar levels. All the carbohydrates we eat can turn into blood sugar within 15 minutes to an hour of eating. The five main categories of foods that contain carbohydrates are grains, starchy vegetables, milk and yogurt, fruits and fruit juice, and sweets.

It is important to always look at thenutrition facts label and read the “Total Carbohydrate” as sugar is included in that. The amount of carbohydrates needed per person varies from 40-55% of his or her total calories and should be determined with his or her primary care physician. Stella generally promotes balanced high-fiber, low-saturated fat meals with a carbohydrate range of 30-90 grams depending on the person. A short woman on a weight-loss plan might use 30-45 grams; a tall, more active woman could use 45-60, where a tall, young active man could use 90 grams– most men are in the 60-75 grams carbohydrate per meal range.

For a diabetic diet, Stella recommends:

  • Eat 3 well-balanced meals each day
  • Avoid skipping meals
  • Eat at consistent times each day
  • Even though carbohydrates increase blood sugar, they are still needed at each meal in order to feed our cells
  • Carbohydrate intake should be spread evenly throughout the day in an attempt to manage sugar levels

Recommended foods for a well-balanced diabetic diet with 15 grams of carbohydrates include:

  • Fresh cherries, 12 medium (3 oz)
  • Strawberries, 1 ¼ cup
  • Apple, 4 oz
  • Unfrosted raisin bread, 1 slice
  • Puffed cereal, 1 ½ cup
  • Skim or 1% milk, 1 cup
  • Acorn squash, 1 cup
  • Low-fat popped popcorn, 3 cups

If you have any questions on how many carbohydrates you need on a daily basis to help manage your diabetes, speak with your physician.

What are your favorite low-carbohydrate meals to prepare?