Carbohydrate counting and diabetes: Looking beyond carbs

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Carbohydrate counting and diabetes: Looking beyond carbs


I was taught to control my blood sugar by eating a certain amount of carbohydrates at every meal. Does this mean I can eat as many carb-free foods as I want?

New Hampshire


No, you don't have a pass to eat unlimited amounts of foods just because they're free of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates aren't your only dietary consideration. In addition to counting carbohydrates, you need to also limit fat and cholesterol and control the number of calories you consume. The best way to do this is to choose nutritious foods and control portion sizes.

Eating a healthy diet helps you control your diabetes and reduces your risk of diabetes-related conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. Eating consistent amounts of foods containing carbohydrates every day helps you control your blood glucose level. This consistency each day is what matters most. Wide variations are difficult for the body to handle. Blood glucose levels that are outside the normal limits are the ones that cause long-term complications.

Your best bet is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. For example:

  • Control portion sizes and the total number of calories you consume.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods.
  • Include fruits, vegetables and whole grains in each meal.
  • Reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol you eat.
  • Limit sweets and salt.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine, if approved by your doctor.

Example: Looking beyond carbs
Both of the following breakfasts provide the same amount of carbohydrates. However, breakfast No. 2 is a better choice because it's considerably lower in calories, fat and cholesterol.

Item (amount) Carbs (g) Cholesterol (mg) Fat (g) Calories
Breakfast No. 1:
2 fried eggs 1 420 14 180
3 sausage links 1 134 15 197
1 cup hash browns 55 0 20 413
2 slices white toast 25 0 2 135
2 teaspoons butter 0 20 8 68
1/2 cup orange juice 13 0 0 56
1 cup black coffee 0 0 0 2
Total 95
Breakfast No. 2:
3/4 cup cornflakes 18 0 0 76
1/2 banana 13 0 0 53
1 cup low-fat milk 12 12 2 102
1 slice wheat toast 13 0 1 72
1 teaspoon margarine 0 0 4 34
1/2 cup orange juice 13 0 0 56
1 cup black coffee 0 0 0 2
Total 69
Last Updated: 2011-04-12
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