Carbohydrate Counting and Exchanges
The myth: If you have diabetes, you can't eat sweets or sugar.
The truth: A food doesn't have to be sweet or sugary to raise your blood sugar.
Anything with carbohydrates will affect your blood glucose, whether it's from white potatoes, pasta, bread or (insert local sweets here…jelly babies / lollies / strawberry laces).1
Of course, different foods may affect you differently. Why?
Eating protein, fat or fiber along with your carbohydrates may slow the absorption of the carbohydrates into your system. That's why the extra fiber in whole-grain foods can help you avoid a big spike in blood glucose. What's more, eating carbohydrates as part of a larger meal that includes fat and protein will also help.2
What foods don't have carbohydrates? Green and leafy vegetables, meat and fish, tofu, cheeses, eggs, nuts and fats.3 To be sure you're accounting for all of your carbohydrates/exchanges accurately, try an online carb counter or app.
Certainly, there are other reasons to limit sugary foods in favor of other types of carbs. You'll feel much more satisfied after eating a small potato, for example, than a tablespoon of jam—and you'll take in added fiber, vitamin C and potassium your body needs.
Just remember, whether it's from milk, peas, apricots or a biscuit, a carb doesn't have to be loaded with sugar to count.
Approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate/One carbohydrate exchange2,3
1 slice of bread or small chapatti
125 ml of pasta or couscous
75 ml of cooked rice
125 ml of lentils or pulses/dried beans
1 small potato
1 medium onion
1 small banana
250 ml of milk
100g natural yoghurt
3 teaspoons of honey
3 teaspoons of sugar
6 or 7 hard candies
1International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes education modules 2011: nutrition part 2: recommendations. Available at: http://www.idf.org/education/resources/modules-2011/download. Accessed July 2, 2015.
2International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes education modules 2011: nutrition part 3: education. Available at: http://www.idf.org/education/resources/modules-2011/download. Accessed July 2, 2015.
3Queensland Health. Understanding the carbohydrate portion. Available at: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/nutrition/resources/diab_chocount15g.pdf. Accessed July 2, 2015.