1Just the Right Amount

Your healthcare team can show you how many calories and carbohydrates you should eat at each meal based on your age, weight, activity, and glucose level. One of the best ways to control your blood sugar is to focus on your carb servings for each meal.

One carb serving is equal to 15 grams of carbohydrates. Most men can set a goal of 4-5 carb servings per meal, and most women can aim for 3-4 carb servings per meal.

Check with your healthcare team about how many carb servings you should be incorporating into your meal plan.

Simply Setup Meals

The plate method is a great place to start if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle by balancing your nutrients throughout the day.

2Decoding
Food Labels

It’s very useful to learn how to read food labels and understand the numbers on them. So let’s look at a sample label. The % Daily Value represents the percentage of nutrients in one serving of food that the FDA believes you should consume on a daily basis (based on a 2000 calorie per day diet).

Two versions of a sample label

Current Label
Updated Label

3Serving Sizes

The portion you’re planning to eat may not be the same as the serving size on the label. So if the label serving size is ¼ cup and you eat ½ cup, you are getting twice the calories, fat, and carbs listed on the label.

Current Label
Updated Label

4Carb Counting

HELPFUL TIP

Different carbs affect your
blood sugar in different ways –
some can have a rapid effect on
your levels, and the others a
slower impact.

Many people with diabetes count carbs because that total carb intake has the strongest impact on post-meal blood sugar levels. The total carbohydrates listed on the food include sugar and fiber. The updated labels will include total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugars, and added sugars.

It’s a good idea to spread your carb intake out across your meals for the day. Skipping carbs completely in the morning and then overloading for dinner can cause a huge spike in your blood sugar levels.


Current Label
Updated Label

5Make Friends
with Fiber

A meal plan high in dietary fiber may help balance blood sugar levels by slowing the breakdown of carbs into sugar. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are all good sources of fiber, which is an important part of any meal plan. It’s a good idea to eat about 25-30 grams of fiber a day.

6Good Fat vs.
Saturated Fat

Although fat is helpful in slowing the breakdown of carbs into sugar, it’s important to limit saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Eating less of these foods may help lower your risk of heart disease. Some fat is okay in your diet, so it’s a good idea to consider unsaturated fat sources like avocados and healthy nuts like almonds. And be sure to eat reasonable servings of these foods.

7More Than Just Serving Sizes

Figuring out how much a serving size is can be a bit confusing. Below is a helpful trick to help make sense of how much a cup and ounce is.

1 cup

about the size
of a closed fist

3 oz. meat/fish

about the size of
your palm

1 oz. of nuts

about a handful

Here’s a list of common foods you might eat each day. It gives you an idea of the number of calories and carbs in each food.

  • Starchy Vegetables Calories Carbs Serving Size
    Corn (processed) 66 16g ½ Ear
    McDonald’s™ French Fries 231 30g 1 Small Fries
    Potato (baked) 79 18g 3 oz
    Potato (mashed with milk) 85 19g ½ Cup
    Wendy’s™ Baked Potato 440 70g 1 Potato
    Yam (cooked) 79 19g ½ Cup
  • Non-starchy Vegetables Calories Carbs Serving Size
    Broccoli (cooked) 33 7g ½ Cup
    Carrots (raw) 50 12g 2 Medium Carrots
    Cauliflower (cooked) 17 4g ½ Cup
    Cauliflower (raw) 25 5g 1 Cup
    Collard Greens (cooked) 26 6g ½ Cup
    Cucumber (raw) 16 4g 1 Cup
    Green Beans (cooked) 22 5g ½ Cup
    Iceberg Lettuce 7 2g 1 Cup
    Onions (raw) 67 16g 1 Cup
    Summer Squash (cooked) 18 4g ½ Cup
    Tomato 32 7g 1 Tomato
    Zucchini (cooked) 14 4g ½ Cup
  • Fruits Calories Carbs Serving Size
    Apple 54 15g 1 Small Apple
    Applesauce (unsweetened) 52 14g ½ Cup
    Banana 72 19g 1 Extra Small Banana
    Blueberries 62 16g ¾ Cup
    Cantaloupe 56 14g 1 Cup
    Dates 69 19g 3 Dates
    Grapefruit 53 13g ½ Grapefruit
    Grapes 60 15g 17 Grapes
    Orange 62 16g 1 Medium Orange
    Peach 57 14g 1 Medium Peach
    Pineapple 56 15g ¾ Cup
    Raisins 54 14g 2 Tbsps
    Strawberries 57 13g 1 ¼ Cup
    Watermelon 57 14g 1 ¼ Cup
  • Dairy Calories Carbs Serving Size
    Buttermilk (low-fat) 98 12g 1 Cup
    Milk (fat-free) 90 13g 1 Cup
    Milk 1% 110 13g 1 Cup
    Milk 2% 130 12g 1 Cup
    Milk (whole) 150 12g 1 Cup
    Sour Cream (regular) 62 1g 2 Tbsps
    Sour Cream (light) 61 3g 3 Tbsps
    Yogurt (low-carb, plain) 70 28g 1 Container
    Yogurt (non-fat) 150 28g 1 Container
  • Beans and Peas Calories Carbs Serving Size
    Baked Beans 78 17g ⅓ Cup
    Black Beans 114 20g ½ Cup
    Lima Beans 99 18g ½ Cup
    Peas (frozen) 62 16g ½ Cup
    Pinto Beans 122 22g ½ Cup
    Refriend Beans 100 17g ½ Cup
  • Breads, Grains and Cereals Calories Carbs Serving Size
    Bagel (white) 78 15g ¼ Large Bagel
    Bread (wheat) 69 13g 1 Slice
    Bread (white) 67 12g 1 Slice
    Cereal (all bran) 81 23g ½ Cup
    Cereal (corn flakes) 76 18g ¾ Cup
    Crackers (graham) 99 18g 3 Small Rectangles
    Grits 71 16g ½ Cup
    Pasta 62 13g ⅓ Cup
    Popcorn (butter, popped) 97 11g 3 Cups
    Rice (cooked, brown) 71 15g ⅓ Cup
    Rice (cooked, white) 69 15g ⅓ Cup
    Rice (fried) 150 22g ⅓ Cup
    Tortilla (corn) 52 11g 1 Medium Tortilla
    Tortilla (flour) 112 19g 1 Medium Tortilla
  • Protein Calories Carbs Serving Size
    American Cheese (processed) 68 2g 1 oz
    Cheddar Cheese (fat-free) 45 2g 1 oz
    Chicken Wings 441 0g 6 Wings
    Chicken (roasted) 58 0g 1 oz
    Cod (cooked) 30 0g 1 oz
    Cottage Cheese 1% 41 2g ¼ Cup
    Egg 74 1g 1 Egg
    Ground Beef (extra-lean, cooked) 57 0g 1 oz
    Hot Dog (beef/pork) 70 6g 1 Hot Dog
    Pork (baked or broiled) 57 0g 1 oz
    Prime Rib (roasted) 83 0g 1 oz
    Salmon (baked or broiled) 61 0g 1 oz
    Sausage (smoked) 40 3g 1 oz
    Taco Bell™ Soft Shell Beef Taco 210 21g 3 ⅓ oz
    Tofu 80 2g ½ Cup
    Turkey Breast 38 0g 1 oz
    Veal 64 0g 1 oz
  • Fats Calories Carbs Serving Size
    Almonds (dry roasted) 48 2g 6 Almonds
    Bacon 85 0g 2 Slices
    Butter (salted) 34 0g 1 Tsp
    Canola Oil 40 0g 1 Tsp
    Cashews (salted) 52 3g 6 Cashews
    Cream Cheese (low-fat 2%) 54 1g 1 ½ Tbsps
    Cream Cheese (regular) 51 1g 1 Tbsp
    Margarine 24 0g 1 Tsp
    Mayonnaise 33 0g 1 Tsp
    Olive Oil 40 0g 1 Tsp
    Olives (black) 40 2g 8 Olives
    Peanut Butter 48 2g 1 ½ Tbsps
    Pistachios (roasted, salted) 64 3g 16 Kernals
    Salad Dressing 69 2g 1 Tbsp
    Walnuts 52 1g 4 Halves

HELPFUL TIP

Restaurant portion sizes can sometimes be double or triple a normal serving size. When you first learn serving size, use a measuring cup and spoon at home so when you eat out you know how much to enjoy and how much to doggy bag.

8Mindful Eating

Many foods you cook or order every day can be made healthier without losing taste and without much effort. Try replacing unhealthy food with something that’s better for you. But as always be mindful about your portion sizes.

When you go out to eat, look for the key healthy words on the menu such as “grilled,” “broiled,” and “roasted,” instead of items that may be fried in saturated fats or include unnecessary breading.

Instead of... Try...
Candy Bar 10 Strawberries with 2 Tbsps Low-Fat Chocolate Whipped Topping
French Fries 1 Baked Potato with 1 Tbsp Reduced-Fat Sour Cream
Fried Chicken 3 oz Roasted Chicken
Fried Fish Sticks 3 oz Broiled Salmon
Fried Rice ½ Cup Brown Rice with ¼ Cup Black Beans
Pretzels 10 Whole Wheat Pretzels
Sugary Cereal 1 Cup Whole Grain Cereal with Fresh Fruit

HELPFUL TIP

Many foods that are listed as sugar free can still be loaded with carbs. In other words, having some sugar free gelatin as a snack can have a much different effect on your body than sugar free cake. Make sure you read your labels. Speak with your doctor before making any changes to your nutrition plans and to discuss what foods may or may not be appropriate for you.

9Drinks with Friends

Drinking alcohol lowers your blood sugar levels – sometimes with very little warning, and that can be dangerous. Ask your healthcare provider if it’s okay to drink alcohol at all, and if it is, find out how to manage your blood sugar levels when drinking. If you decide to have a drink, be sure to eat something, too. Never drink on an empty stomach.

HELPFUL TIP

Consulting a registered
dietician is a great way to
help you lose weight
if needed.

10Mealtime Ideas

If you’re looking to lose some weight, reducing your serving sizes can sometimes help. And if you lose weight, this can also help lower your blood sugar levels, as well as allow insulin to work more efficiently in your body. A true win-win. Here are some suggestions for a day’s worth of tasty meals and snacks for people who are counting carbs.

  • BREAKFAST Eggs, toast, and fruit
    2 Scrambled Egg Whites
    1 Slice Whole Wheat Toast
    (w/ 1 Tbsp Low-Fat Cream Cheese
    ½ Cup of Fruit
  • LUNCH Turkey sandwich and snack
    2 Slices Turkey
    2 Slices Whole Wheat Bread
    2 Slices Tomato
    ½ Cup Shredded Iceberg Lettuce
    1 Slice Low Fat Cheese
    1 Apple
    1 Small Bag of Unsalted Pretzels
  • DINNER Broiled salmon, rice and vegetable
    5 oz Salmon Fillet
    1 Tbsp Chopped Onions
    2 Tbsps Canola Oil
    1 Cup Brown Rice
    1 Cup Steamed Broccoli
    1 Cup Fat-Free Milk
  • Snack
    1 oz Pistachios or
    1 Cup Low-Fat Fruited Yogurt or
    1 Watermelon Slice

Resources

There are plenty of online resources for people with diabetes. Some of them also contain advice on recipes, carb counting and making smart meal plans.

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