When caring for seniors with diabetes, it is important to focus on nutrition. A diabetic diet needs to be packed with nutrient-rich foods including vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Having regular meal and snack times is also important in order to manage their blood glucose levels.
Since November is National Diabetes Month, now is the perfect time to discuss a consistent carbohydrate diet. This diet is one of the most effective meal plans for people with diabetes because it helps manage blood glucose levels, while giving seniors flexibility in meal planning. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy for metabolic functions and physical activities. Without them, the body cannot function.
Carbohydrates come in three forms: sugars, complex carbohydrates (starches) and fiber. It is important to understand the different types of carbohydrates in order to manage diabetes through diet.
Sugars: Sugary carbohydrates are also known as simple or fast-acting carbohydrates. Sugar can be found naturally in fruits and milk, and as added sugar in desserts and refined grains.
Complex Carbohydrates: Also known as starches, complex carbohydrates include potatoes, beans and whole grain foods such as oats, pastas and breads.
Fiber: Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. It is found in plant foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. Foods with high fiber content are part of a healthy diet, because they help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
What is the necessary carbohydrate intake?
The National Academies' Institute of Medicine recommends that adults should get 45 to 60 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. This means that 900 to 1,300 calories should encompass carbohydrates for those eating a 2,000 calorie diet. Therefore, it is important to feed the body carbohydrates.
The necessary carbohydrate intake varies from person to person depending on age, weight, blood sugar and activity level. For example, seniors generally need fewer carbohydrates on a daily basis, as they are less active and their bodies metabolize more slowly. However, it is still important for seniors to maintain a consistent intake of carbohydrates in order to sustain their nutrient needs and regulate their blood sugar levels.
Great ways to ensure seniors with diabetes are getting the correct amount and type of carbohydrates are creating a meal plan or using a food service provider that offers balanced meals. Having a set meal plan or using a food service provider also helps to avoid malnutrition.
What is a consistent carbohydrate diet?
A consistent carbohydrate diet is a meal plan that helps its users keep track of the carbohydrates they consume and stabilize their carbohydrate intake. The ultimate goal is to ensure every meal has the same carbohydrate count. This diet is effective for managing diabetes because it helps control blood sugar levels.
How does a consistent carbohydrate diet work?
When using a consistent carbohydrate meal plan, carbohydrates are counted in portion sizes (15 grams), also known as carb choices. The number of carb choices varies between individuals based on their health status, age or past eating habits. The number of carb choices also varies depending on whether users are eating a meal or a snack. Generally, meals should be between three and four carb choices while snacks should consist of approximately one to two carb choices. However, when caring for seniors with diabetes, individualized carb choice levels for meals and snacks may be necessary.
How do I educate seniors with diabetes on a consistent carbohydrate diet?
Understanding how many carb choices foods have is the first step to being able to educate seniors on the consistent carbohydrate diet. Foods considered to have one carb choice include a slice of bread, a cup of milk or a small apple. For most manufactured foods, the carb choices are listed under the term "Total Carbohydrate" on the Nutrition Facts label. The “Total Carbohydrate" is listed in grams. Remember, 15 grams equals one carb choice.
It is also important to read and understand the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label. The “Total Carbohydrate” section of the Nutrition Facts labels is based on one serving size. Therefore, eating three servings is triple the amount of carbohydrates.
Providing seniors with a consistent carbohydrate diet is one of the best ways to manage their diabetes. If seniors do not feel comfortable with preparing their own meals, suggest a food service provider, such as GA Foods, that uses registered dietitians to plan the meals. Having the experts plan and provide the meals takes all the guess work out of the equation.