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Key To Success: Portion Control

The amount of food you eat is closely related to blood glucose control. If you eat more food than is recommended in your meal plan, your blood glucose (sugar) will go up. The only way you can tell if you are eating the right amount is to measure your foods carefully.

Measuring hints:

  • Practice, practice, practice. Don't rely on measuring once and then just estimating. Pull out the scales at least once a week to check yourself and reinforce your skills.
  • Use a glass which you know only holds 4 or 8 ounces to better control your portion. You can also place a piece of tape on the outside of a glass to mark a 4 or 8 ounce line so you will be able to measure easily.
  • A bread serving is based on a one-ounce slice of bread. Many single bread servings may weigh more than one ounce, and therefore have more impact on blood glucose. Check the weight or the label of such things as light breads, bagels or rolls.
  • To be more precise, know the weight of fruit servings for portion control.
  • Check your cereal portion using measuring cups. The cereal label will give you a more precise nutrition information such as calories, carbohydrate and fat grams than the food group averages.

Test your memory:

How much of each of these foods can you have for a 15 gram carbohydrates (or 1 fruit or 1 bread) serving?

Cherries ________________ Rice ___________________

Raisins _________________ Vanilla Wafers ___________________

Grapefruit juice _________________ Lentils/dried beans_________________

Fitting Sugar in Your Meal Plan

It is commonly thought that people with diabetes should avoid all forms of sugar. Most people with diabetes can eat foods containing sugar as long as the total amount of carbohydrate for that meal or snack is consistent and sugar foods are added within the context of healthy eating. Many research studies have shown that meals which contain sugar do not make the blood sugar rise higher than meals of equal carbohydrate levels which do not contain sugar. However, if the sugar-containing meal contains more carbohydrates, the blood sugar levels will go up.

Which will have the greater effect on blood sugar?

____ 1 tsp sugar or ____ 1/2 cup potatoes

The potatoes will contribute about 15 grams of carbohydrates, while a level teaspoon of sugar will only give 4 grams of carbohydrates. Therefore, the potatoes will have about three times the effect on blood sugar as compared to the table sugar. Meal Planning Practice

Using the following foods, plan two breakfast meals containing approximately 45 grams of carbohydrate. Notice that there are some foods on this list you might think would not be "allowed" on your meal plan. But again, any of these foods can be used as long as you limit the amount of carbohydrates you eat at a given meal to what is indicated on your individualized meal plan. (In the example below, this means you can choose whatever foods you want as long as the total carbohydrate equals no more than 45 grams).

Food

Amount

Carbohydrate Grams

1% fat milk

1 cup

12

Bran Chex

2/3 cup

23

Frosted Flakes

3/4 cup

26

Raisin Bran

3/4 cup

28

bread/toast

1 slice

15

sugar. white table

1 teaspoon

4

pancakes - 4 inches

2

15

low-fat granola

1/2 cup

30

yogurt, fruited

1 cup

40

yogurt, fruit with
NutraSweet fruit juice

1 cup

19

fruit juice

1/2 cup

15

banana

1/2

15

pancake syrup

2 tablespoons

30

light pancake
sugar free syrup

2 tablespoons

4


Sample Breakfast One

Food

Carbohydrate Grams

Fruit yogurt (with NutraSweet)

19

Cinnamon-sugar toast - 1 slice with 1 teaspoon sugar and one teaspoon margarine

19

Milk, 1/2 cup

6

Carbohydrate total =

44

Does this mean I can eat cake and not worry about it?

A slice of white cake with chocolate icing ( 1/12 of a cake or 80 gram weight) will give you about 300 calories, 45 grams of carbohydrates and 12 grams of fat. That is three starch servings and over 2 fat servings. Before you have a slice of cake, ask yourself the following questions: Will that small piece of cake be satisfying or will I still be hungry? How it will fit into my meal plan? Do I have 300 calories to "spend" on this? Are there other choices I could make which would contribute less fat? A 1/12 slice of angel food cake has less than 1 gram of fat and only 30 carbohydrates. This may be a better choice.

Controlling all carbohydrates

It is important to realize that sugar is not the only carbohydrate that you have to "control." The body will convert all carbohydrates to glucose - so eating extra servings of rice, pasta, bread, fruit or other carbohydrates foods will make the blood sugar rise. Just because something doesn't have sugar in it doesn't mean you can eat as much as you want. Your meal plan is designed so that the carbohydrate content of your meals remains as consistent as possible from day to day.

A word of caution:

Although sugar does not cause the blood sugar to rise any higher than other carbohydrates, it should be eaten along with other healthy foods. If you choose to drink a 12 ounce can of a sugar-sweetened soft drink, that would use up about 45 grams carbohydrates - and you wouldn't have gotten any nutrition (protein, vitamins or minerals). What a waste of calories!

High sugar foods are more concentrated in carbohydrates. Therefore the volume would be smaller than a low sugar food. What is your eating style? Are you able to control your portion size - or are you likely to overeat? High sugar foods might not be a good choice if they will just tempt you to eat more. If you would rather eat larger portions, select low sugar choices. Look at the differences in portion size you get for equal amounts of carbohydrate in these cereals!

1/4 cup

1/3 cup

3/4 cup

1 cup

1 1/4 cup

Granola

Frosted Flakes

Cornflakes

Cheerios

Puffed Wheat

In addition, many sugar-containing foods also contain a lot of fat. Foods such as cookies, pastries, ice cream and cakes should be avoided largely because of the fat content and because they don't contribute much nutritional value. If you do want a "sweet" - make a low-fat choice, such as low-fat frozen yogurt, gingersnaps, fig bars or graham crackers and substitute it for another carbohydrate on your meal plan.

Talk with your diabetes dietitian educator to select the best "sweet" choices for your meal plan. If you have not met with a dietitian in the past year or if you do not have a personal meal plan, scheduling an appointment with a dietitian would help you to incorporate these guidelines in the best way for you and your diabetes control.

Find more information about diabetes in What You Need to Know about Diabetes – A Short Guide available from the Joslin Online Store.

The amount of food you eat is closely related to blood sugar control. If you eat more food than is recommended on your meal plan, your blood sugar goes up. Although foods containing carbohydrate have the most impact on blood sugars, the calories from all foods will affect blood sugar. The only way you can tell if you are eating the right amount is to measure your foods carefully. Measuring hints:

  • Practice, practice, practice. Don't rely on measuring once and then just "guesstimating." Pull out the scales at least once a week to check yourself and reinforce your skills.
  • Use a glass which you know only holds 4 or 8 ounces to better control your portion. You can also place a piece of tape on the outside of a glass to mark a 4 or 8 ounce line so you will be able to measure easily.
  • A bread serving is based on a one-ounce slice of bread. Many single bread servings may weigh more than one ounce, and therefore have more impact on blood sugar. Check the weight or the label of such things as light breads, bagels or rolls.
  • To be more precise, know the weight of fruit servings for portion control.
  • Check your cereal portion using measuring cups. The cereal label will give you a more precise nutrition information such as calories, carbohydrate and fat grams than the food group averages.

Test your memory:

How much of each of these foods can you have for a 15 gram carbohydrates (or 1 fruit or 1 bread) serving?

Cherries ________________ Rice ___________________

Raisins _________________ Vanilla Wafers ___________________

Grapefruit juice _________________ Lentils/dried beans_________________

Page last updated: September 22, 2014