What is the NUMBER 1 tip which I think would benefit any diabetic to help them with their nutrition and blood glucose control?
If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know I’m a huge fan of carbs and have them regularly throughout my diet. With my last HbA1c at 5.3% (DCCT) or 5.8mmol/L, I’m very happy with the inclusion of this macronutrient within my diet and learning how to count carbs has been tremendously beneficial to this. They’re delicious and provide many benefits for our body – although they are not an essential macronutrient like protein and fat. I completely understand the benefits of low-carb diets with diabetics and why many people choose them, but you need not do it out of fear. You also need not cut out solely carbs just to lose weight but that’s a whole other blog post.
Carb counting is an incredibly powerful skill, tool…almost an art. It’s a science that takes some time, practice and a fair amount of hard work – but with all of these combined, along with a handful of patience, it does eventually become second nature – a habit – you’ve just got to stick with it and trust the process. In a way, you’ll need to become your own dietician and mathematician to be able to understand what is in your food and how to adjust your insulin for it. It is a constant lesson, one that does need refreshing every so often, especially when a number of the larger food companies are currently changing the amount of carbs within products to suit the mass social calls for less sugar in certain products (here’s looking at you Lucozade).
So what is it, why do I recommend it and why is it so important?
- Carb counting is matching your insulin requirements based on the grams or carbohydrate units of the food/ drink you are consuming. It is, in essence, an accurate way of knowing how much insulin you need at meal times.
- Plenty of research has shown that diabetics with better carb-counting skills (both in precision and consistency) do have better overall control.
- If you know the amount of carbs within your food, you can adjust the amount of insulin you require. Therefore, this can reduce the need to limit foods within your diet. So you can have more of what you want and not create a negative attitude towards food.
- Studies have shown that those who count improve overall blood glucose control and their HbA1c. Both in children and adults.
- If you’re concerned about body composition (i.e. build some muscle or lose body fat) then it goes hand in hand with calorie counting.
5 Tips to Become a Carb-Counting Wizard:
- Always, always, always read the label. Focus on total grams of carbohydrates, not just the amount of sugar.
- Weigh/ measure your food with a scale. A very useful tool, especially if your food doesn’t have a label (fruit, vegetables etc.). Weigh out the food on a scale using cups or other measuring tools to gauge amount and then multiply it by its own individual carb factor.
- Technology. Apps like MyFitnessPal are incredibly useful for using and storing food nutrition labels in one place. In fact, MyFitnessPal has made my life with diabetes infinitely better. You can also input the weight or serving size of food (if known) and the apps take away the hard work of calculating carbs, protein, fats and calories for you. You’ll also be able to create your own personal database if you eat certain foods regularly. A bit of short term hard work can have long term benefits.
- Learn to eye-ball. Carb-counting at home when you have all the tools available is one thing. Doing this when you’re out at a restaurant is a totally different ball game and one that takes even more time to figure out (even after over 5 years it’s still difficult to judge sometimes). Many eat-out places now have their nutritional information on their websites so you can have a look at the menu beforehand to have an idea of what you’re going to eat. If this isn’t available, having a rough idea of portion sizes at home compared to what you’re having whilst out gives you greater confidence. So, for example, what does 100g of rice look like at home? Learn to eye-ball this and judge if you’re having more or less if you’re having rice at a restaurant and adjust insulin to suit. If in doubt after consumption, test your sugars, just to check.
- Be Consistent. Diabetes has a habit of throwing curve balls at unexpected times. There are plenty of cases of what works one day may not necessarily give you the same result the next. But staying consistent and applying the necessary tools to count will gradually give you the confidence to succeed whether you’re at home or out and about! Don’t be discouraged if sometimes it doesn’t work – even the longest carb-counters don’t get it right 100%. It can never be perfect, but we’re looking for as close to as we can get on a regular basis!
If you have any tips yourself, make sure you put them in the comments below!
Until next time.