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Best Diabetic Diet: Diabetic Diet Chart or Counting Carbs?

Updated on June 5, 2012

Diet is the foundation of managing diabetes. The best diabetic diet is the one that the patient can follow faithfully and keeps the blood sugar levels within a healthy range. The two most common diabetes diets are counting carbohydrates and using a diabetic diet chart or exchange list.

Carbohydrates are converted to glucose during digestion. This glucose contributes to blood glucose levels. The diabetic with high blood glucose levels can experience adverse effects such as dangerous complications of diabetes or even death.

Counting carbs for diabetes works by adding up the number of carbohydrates eaten during the day. The dietician gives the diabetic patient a maximum number of carbohydrates that the person can have per day. This is a daily limit that the patient should follow in order to keep blood sugar levels under control.

Many foods contain carbohydrates. Breads, potatoes, and pastas are high in carbs, but almost all foods contain some carbs. Non-starchy vegetables may be low in carbohydrates, but those carbs still need to be counted towards the daily total.

The diabetic should try to space the use of carbs throughout the day to avoid being hungry or having spikes in blood sugar from eating too many carbs at one time. The dietician may recommend a certain number of carbohydrates for each meal. Counting carbohydrates typically is a more flexible eating plan for diabetes than following a traditional diabetic diet with exchange lists.

A traditional diabetic diet has servings from the basic food groups assigned to every meal and snack. The dietician lays out the diabetes meal plan for the patients and gives them diabetic diet charts that show what types of foods the patients should eat and lists of foods for each food group.

The lists of food and correct serving sizes are sometimes referred to as exchange lists. The diabetic patient can choose any food on the exchange list for the appropriate food group category. For example, if the snack guidelines allow the diabetic to choose a protein, the diabetic can consult the list of proteins and select one.

Because the patient is told what types of foods to eat for meals and snacks, this diabetes diet is a bit more rigid than counting carbs. However, the diabetic patient still have numerous options for combining foods on the exchange lists to make different meals and snacks.

Some diabetics prefer the structure of the meal plans of a traditional diabetic diet. The blood glucose levels may be more controlled when the patient is following such a diabetes meal plan. These patients may find that using the diabetic diet chart to create different meals provides variety.

Other diabetics may find that counting carbs for diabetes allows them the flexibility they need in order to stick with a diabetic diet while still managing their blood glucose levels. The diabetic should discuss these diabetes eating plan options with the nutritionist or dietician.


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    • nicediabetes profile image

      nicediabetes 5 years ago from Australia

      Interesting look at diabetes and food

    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you both for your kind comments. Good point about exercise, singernurse!

    • catmalone profile image

      catmalone 5 years ago

      Very Great Hub.

    • thesingernurse profile image

      thesingernurse 5 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      Let me just add, it is also important to actually involve the patient throughout the process. It would be better if the modification comes from him. That way, the diet has the potential to become more sustainable. Not to mention, adherence would also be likely.

      Another neglected part of Diabetes Management is exercise. Diet becomes effective enough if the patient will have more physical activity.

      Great insights! I hope more people would be able to read this hub. Voting up and sharing!