My husband and I attended another diabetes class. This was our valentine's day activity. lol But actually we did go out to dinner afterwards. But this class was really good, and I feel like I have really learned a lot! I wanted to share some of what I learned.
One of the biggest misconceptions about diabetes is that it is caused by too much sugar. Yes, sugar can raise your blood sugar levels, but diabetes is caused by the body's inability to process the insulin that is produced. Sugar is part of a bigger picture; carbohydrates. Sugar is just one of the many carbohydrates in our diet. Other carbohydrates include pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, crackers, milk, and yogurt (milk and yogurt are also part of the fat category). Carbohydrates are found in many processed foods as well. A diabetic should be focusing on how many carbohydrates are in the food, not just how many sugars are in the food. In fact, I would tend to ignore the sugar content completely, and just focus on the carbs. The target goal for a snack is 15 grams of carbs. The target goal for a meal is 45-65 carbs. If you follow that guideline, it really doesn't matter if there is sugar in the food. Of course the goal is to totally stay away from sugars, but in the end, sugar is a carb, and it is the carb amount you want to watch. So if you are having a snack that has some sugar in it, but the total carbs are below 15 grams, go ahead and enjoy it!
Some people worry that they will have to give up carbs all together. Our teacher taught us that the body needs some carbs, some protein, and some fat. If a diet tells you to not eat any of those three things, then you should avoid the diet. You may want to watch the amount of each of those things, but shouldn't eliminate them all together. But there is a secret that will help with carbohydrate control. Fiber actually helps the body to metabolize carbohydrates more slowly and evenly throughout the day. The higher the fiber content of the food, the less it will quickly raise blood sugar levels. A good amount of fiber to shoot for is 5 grams per serving. One thing we learned is that if you are choosing between rice and potatoes, the better choice is potatoes because they contain more fiber.
Protein also helps in metabolizing carbs, so eating a little protein with the meal is helpful. But the portion size shouldn't be bigger than the size of your palm. Don't include your fingers in that measuring or you will be getting WAY more than needed. ;)
There is good news for diabetics; you can eat as many vegetables as you want! The teacher told us vegetables are free. :) In other words, you don't have to count the carbs in vegetables. But be careful, because some things that you think are vegetables, are actually legumes. Among these are corn and peas. So be careful to watch the carbs on those, and stick to the serving size.
In general, although it may not be the best for the environment, it is better for diabetics to buy foods that are prepackaged according to serving size. Then you don't have to measure, and you know exactly how many carbs you are eating. A good example of this is yogurt. If you buy the small one serving containers, you will know exactly how many carbs you are eating. BUt if you buy the large container, and spoon some in to the bowl, you won't know for sure how many carbs it contains.
Our teacher has very strong opinions about the liquids that diabetics drink. She taught us that diabetics shouldn't drink any alcohol, fruit juice, or soda. Even diet soda isn't good for you. And be careful about sauces and gravies which also contain carbs. These things raise the blood sugar level much too quickly. If you have hypoglycemia and need to raise the blood sugar level quickly, then some juice would be okay. BUt for a daily diet, diabetics shouldn't drink these at all. And be careful about dried fruit as well, because it is more concentrated in it's sugar. If you are eating oatmeal for breakfast, and your blood sugar level is too high, think about reducing the amount of raisins you put in it!
Another thing I want to mention is checking your blood. If you aren't checking your blood at least twice a day, then you can't know how food affects you. If you don't like testing your fingers, you can use your forearm. But make sure that you test regularly.
THe last thing I want to mention is that there is one danger with the diabetic medication. THe danger comes because sometimes these medicines work so well that people can "cheat" on their diabetic diet, and still keep their blood sugar levels low. Yes, you may be able to do that, but I think the goal should be to get off the medication all together! I don't think you can realistically cut out all sweets from your diet, because that causes people to binge. A cookie now and then, when carefully figured in to the diet, can be okay. But don't make it a common occurance, just because the medications work well. You will always be diabetic, but if you lose weight and watch your diet, you might be able to get off the medications all together! So watch your carbs, and test your blood! :)