Two Equations to Determine if a Snack is Healthy for Diabetics

When I was diagnosed with type one diabetes I had no clue how to decide what I could eat on a given day. Eating became an overwhelming task because I couldn’t remember what to balance. I kept finding carbohydrates and net carbohydrates, and I had no clue the difference. I did researched article after article, and I found there were so many different things I needed to remember and keep track of. Eventually, however, I figured out my diet. Now, I am not saying I don’t still have bad days, because I do. Everyone is going to have high blood sugar days or even weeks and that is ok, that is a part of living with diabetes. When this happens we just need to give ourselves a break.

I am able to manage my blood sugar using two equations: a protein to carbohydrate ratio and a recalculation of net carbs.

In order to calculate what I call “diabetic net carbs” I follow the guidelines given by the American Diabetes Association. They propose that type one diabetics recalculate net carbs by using the fiber and sugar alcohol content. They state:

“If fiber is AT LEAST 5g or more, you may subtract HALF the amount of fiber from the total carbohydrates

Example: If your food has 20g of total carb and 5g of fiber, you can subtract 2.5g of fiber from the total carbohydrates = 17.5g Total Carb

If your food has 20g of total carb and 4g of fiber, you don’t subtract anything

If sugar alcohols are AT LEAST 10g or more, you may subtract HALF the amount of sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrates

Example: If your food has 20g of total carb and 10g sugar alcohol, you can subtract 5g of sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrates = 15g Total Carb

If your food has 20g of total carb and 8g sugar alcohol, you don’t subtract anything”

In order to balance protein and carbohydrates I look at the nutrition label and scan it to see if there are at least 1g of protein for every 2g of carbohydrates. If a snack does not meet this requirement it does not mean I cannot eat the snack; it just means I need to find another source of protein. For example, if I have a label that reads 12g of carbohydrates and 8g of protein, I feel confident that I can eat this snack as long as I dose for 12g grams of carbohydrates. If I find a label that has 12g of carbohydrates and 5g of protein, I may also eat a scoop of peanut butter or some bacon to ensure I have the appropriate balance.

Now you may be wondering why protein is important to balance our carb intake. This is because protein slows the effect of blood sugar changes and often causes there to be a slower steadier rise of blood sugar which allows the insulin to work in full. This can prevent high blood sugars but it also prevents the low blood sugar after a short term spike.

I use these methods to balance my blood sugar each day, and I also use these equations to inform the Riley’s Pantry boxes!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor

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