Looking into how food affects your blood sugar:
What, how much and when you eat is very important for managing your blood sugar level. How does food affect my blood sugar? This section of the app will focus on two methods of meal planning – the Diabetes Plate and Carbohydrate Counting.
Eating food is what gives us energy. Calories are energy and come from the amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat that is found in food. Food also has water, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that do not give it calories, but provide other essential nutrients. Food works like the gas in your gas tank to give us energy.
All foods turn into energy or glucose (blood sugar) but at different speeds. Some foods will break down and increase blood sugar more quickly than others. Foods contain a combination of nutrients. Foods with similar amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat are put into the same food groups.
The foods that contain carbohydrate increase blood glucose the most. They start breaking down into glucose immediately in your mouth by the digestive enzymes in your saliva. As these foods travel in your body from your mouth -> stomach -> intestines, they are broken down into glucose that flows into your blood stream. The hormone insulin is the key that gets the sugar out of your blood and into the cells within your body to give you energy. Eating a balance of foods with fiber, protein and fat can stabilize blood glucose.
Carbohydrate comes from foods with:
Grains and starches – white and brown bread, white and brown rice, potatoes, potato chips, cereal, oatmeal, tortillas
Milks and yogurts – cow's milk, almond milk, cow's yogurt, coconut yogurt
Lentils / beans – hummus, kidney beans, refried beans, chili
Vegetables – non-starchy, starchy
Fruit – whole fruit, fruit juice, dried fruit
Added sugar – all sugar, pop, energy drinks, ice cream, cookies, candy
The diabetes plate method is one of the easiest ways to meal plan. It is a visual guide to meal planning for the right portions of foods to manage your calorie needs from foods.
Tip: Start by using a 9 inch size plate. If your dinner plate is too large, you may use a salad plate.
Vegetables are classified into two groups: “non-starchy” or “starchy”.
Non-starchy vegetables have much water and natural fiber (or pulp) that helps stabilize blood sugars. They have about one-third of carbohydrate compared to starchy vegetables.
Fill 25% of your plate with low-fat protein foods.
Food containing protein can come from plant and animal sources:
Animal foods with protein – fish and shellfish, beef, chicken, dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), turkey, eggs, pork
Plant foods with protein – beans, lentils, hummus, nuts, nut butter, edamame, tofu, tempeh, meat-alternatives
* These foods also contain carbohydrate and natural fiber and can be incorporated into the meal plan.
Fill 25% of your plate with high quality carbohydrate foods.
Foods containing carbohydrate are important for brain function and energy.
At the same time, foods with carbohydrate have the most effect on blood glucose levels (compared to foods with protein and fat).
High quality carbohydrate foods are better on blood glucose than low quality carbohydrate foods because they have the natural fiber that digests much slower.
High-quality carbohydrate foods:
Grains: High-quality – 100% whole-grain bread, whole-grain cereal, whole-grain and lentil pasta, brown and wild rice, oatmeal, corn tortilla, popcorn, quinoa
Grains: Lower-quality – white or "multi-grain" bread made with enriched flour, cereal made with enriched flour, white or enriched flour, white or semolina pasta, white rice, instant oatmeal, white flour tortilla
Beans and legumes – bean burgers; black, kidney, pinto, and garbanzo beans; hummus
Starchy vegetables – corn and green peas, acorn squash and butternut squash, parsnips, plantain, pumpkin, all types of potatoes
Dairy – milk; yogurt (includes almond, coconut, cow, hemp, oat, rice, soy) Note: cheese contains very little carbohydrate by the cheese-making process.
Fruit – fresh, canned, frozen, dried
Limit lower-quality carbohydrate – foods with added sugars. Aim to consume less than 10% of your calories from added sugar.
Choose water and beverages that have no calories.
Staying hydrated is very important to your health and managing your blood sugars. Drinking enough water and low-calorie beverages can help lower the amount of glucose that is in your blood. Staying hydrated is also very important for your kidneys to function in filtering out blood.
No-calorie beverages include:
Limit high-calorie beverages including:
Added sugars include
Our bodies need a certain amount of carbohydrate for energy every day.
Did you know that our brains and central nervous systems run primarily on glucose?
Meal planning with carb counting is another type of meal planning done by adding up how many total grams of carbohydrates you are eating at a meal or snack. It is also important to eat on time and have the right portions of carbohydrate when you are taking medications for blood sugar management. Your dietitian or diabetes educator can help teach you the right amount for your body and energy needs.
The following are all 1 carb choice (about 15 grams of carbohydrate)
Grains and starches – White & brown bread - 1 thin slice of bread, white & brown rice - 1/3 cup cooked, pasta & noodles - 1/3 cup cooked, potatoes - ½ cup or 3 ounces, potato chips - 1 small handful, cereal - about ¾ cup, oatmeal - ½ cup cooked
Milk and yogurt – cow’s milk - 8 ounces, almond milk - “look at food label,” cow’s yogurt - “look at food label,” coconut yogurt - “look at food label”
Lentils/beans – ½ cup cooked beans or chili, 8 tablespoons or ½ cup hummus
Fruit – 1 small piece of fresh fruit, ½ large piece of fresh fruit, 1 cup of melon or berries, 2 tablespoons of dried fruit (like raisins), ½ cup of fruit juice
Vegetables – ½ cup of starchy vegetables - peas, corn, 1 small potato or ½ large potato or ½ cup mashed potatoes, 1 cup cooked winter squash (like acorn squash), 3 cups of uncooked or raw non-starchy vegetables, 1 & ½ cups of cooked non-starchy vegetables
Added sugar – 1 tablespoon of white cane or brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of honey or agave, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, 1 small cookie, ½ cup of ice cream, ¼ cup of sorbet, 1 piece of chocolate candy
You can also see how many grams of carbohydrates are in a food by looking at the serving size or by looking at a nutrition food label.
The total amount of carbohydrate (listed in grams) is for all starches, dietary fiber, total sugars (including added sugar) and sugar alcohols that are in one serving of this food.
See the “conversion guide” below. As an example, this food item has 37 grams of total carbohydrate or 2 ½ carbohydrate choices.
If you would like additional assistance with carbohydrate counting and/or meal planning, talk with your doctor about a referral to see a Registered Dietitian.
Alcohol can affect blood glucose in different ways. It is recommended to ask your healthcare team how alcohol will affect your overall health and if it is will interact with medications you are taking.
Drinking alcohol can delay the absorption of food, so remember if you drink, to consume food with your beverage.
Alcoholic beverages contain varying amounts of carbohydrate.
Alcohol Note: for people on insulin, consuming too much alcohol can cause a dangerous condition of lowering the blood sugar level.