For people with diabetes, PWD’s, the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a little less than a comprehensive health plan. However, it can serve a purpose by reminding us all to continue eating healthy, whole foods to help avoid long-term health issues.
You already know how vital healthy nutrition and carb counting is to maintaining stable glucose and insulin levels. So, it makes sense to repurpose this advice as a way to visualize how you can help manage your diabetes with food, especially carbs.
Counting Carbs with a Little Help from Spoon Theory
In other health fields, the “spoon theory” describes an individual’s capacity for activities. Someone with chronic depression, for instance, may feel more or less apt to socialize on any given day. Using spoon theory, they can describe this sensation to others and can even better understand their own experiences.
For example, they may have six spoons to divvy out for activities on a normal day but only three spoons on a more difficult day.
As a PWD (person with diabetes), it may be helpful for you to imagine the spoon theory for measuring your carb intake. On days with stable blood sugars, you might ‘utilize’ fewer spoons, while on those rollercoaster days where you never seem to get that blood glucose reading up, you may well exceed your ‘allocated spoons’!
Why Carb Counting Is Important
According to the CDC, PWDs should get around half of their calories from carbs.
Without knowing how many carbs you eat during the day, you end up guessing how much insulin you need, leading to glucose issues if you aren’t careful. That’s why carb counting is such a vital part of maintaining a healthy diet while managing diabetes.
With the help of your health care professional/provider, figure out what the right amount of carbohydrates is for you to consume every day. Now, split the total amount of carbs throughout your daily meals. This way, you can aim to eat a quarter of your carb allocation for breakfast and mid-morning snack, allocate enough for lunch and then have an idea of what you have left for dinner. It’s not a precise science, but you know your body best. If you have trouble with high blood glucose readings at night, you may opt to go low-carb for dinner and consume more carbs during the day.
Allocating carbs to your day is especially helpful when fitting high-sugar foods like juice and soda into your diet. Fruit juice or soda contain about 30 grams of carbs per cup. If only one cup of juice replaces a quarter of your day’s carb allocation, then you know you shouldn’t reach for a refill unless you have a good plan to offset it later. (Or when you hit a low BG reading! 😵💫)
But How Many Carbohydrates Are Right for Me?
Only a qualified healthcare professional should put together a meal plan for dealing with diabetes that fits your nutritional needs. But here are a few tried and true tips that work for most carb-counting PWDs:
- Fresh vegetables have very low carb content and are a great option for a hungry person near the daily carb limit. Examples include leafy green vegetables like celery or broccoli as well as cucumber or lettuce. Note – potatoes are not low carb. Neither are french fries. Or most things fried…unfortunately!
- Size can be deceiving, so check the carb count of anything you’re unsure of. A serving of blueberries has nearly two times the number of carbs than a serving of strawberries.
If you’re already feeling overwhelmed thinking about how you’re going to rock this whole carb counting gig and keep track of carbs in your diet, don’t worry. Plenty of tools make carb counting easy as pie. It’s a matter of finding what is best for you! Resources include apps like CalorieKing and MyFitnessPal, individual restaurant websites, books and – as always – your healthcare specialists.
The Medtronic Diabetes Ambassadors offer a wealth of patient and caregiver experience and are ready for you to connect with them. One of our favorite T1D-Dads (and carb-counting-extraordinaire) is Carlos – his experience in supporting his daughter on her journey with diabetes might just impact you. Carlos says, “When my daughter was diagnosed, I did not know anything about diabetes. I got really involved learning online, from doctors and other T1D patients about this disease, the consequences, and the best ways to treat it. I educated myself about therapies and carb counting to help my daughter manage her daily life with T1D. I want to share my experience and help others to be calm and try to make their life easier.” You can connect with Carlos, and other Ambassadors, here.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Speak to your healthcare provider to get medical advice.
– Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems.
– Successful operation of the insulin infusion pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems requires adequate vision and hearing to recognize alerts and alarms.
Please visit MedtronicDiabetes.com/isi for complete safety information.
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