Today’s topic for Diabetes Blog Week:
To Carb or Not to Carb.
“Let’s talk about what we eat. And perhaps what we don’t eat. Some believe a low-carb diet is important in diabetes management, while others believe carbs are fine as long as they are counted and bolused for. Which side of the fence do you fall on?”
Nothing seems to ruffle feathers like the Great Carbohydrate Debate. I hate that I’m supposed to pick sides here. So I’m not going to. Rather, I’m just going to be blunt, and share my conflicted feelings on the subject:
First off, who doesn’t love carbs? Pretty much all of the food items that fit the descriptions “yummy” and “comfort foods” are carbohydrate-rich. Let’s face it, humans crave carbs. And for good reason. They do provide most of the immediate fuel that our bodies run on. One of the most torturous things about having diabetes is the guilt associated with eating carbs.
Guilt? Why yes, because I do recognize that the fewer carbs I eat, the steadier my blood sugar will remain. Carbs spike your blood sugar, some more quickly than others, which is of course what the Glycemic Index aims to explain.
But I’ve tried to live strictly low-carb, and I find it extremely difficult. I feel that my food choices are unacceptably limited; don’t forget, I’m allergic to wheat along with the diabetes. This actually helps me keep my carb intake low naturally, since I can’t indulge in “real” bread, baked goods, or pasta. I take my carbs mostly in the form of tortilla chips, various types of granola bars and rice, and some occasional fruit and wheat-free crackers. I also like my yogurt with a little bit of flavor in it. So shoot me. At least I’ve got the insulin dosing down pretty well now.
I describe my approach as eating “carb-consciously.” I think of it as having a stipend to spend at each meal. Usually I try to keep it down to 45g or less of carb per meal, and then I have to decide how to “spend” that stipend: will I go for a big scoop of pinto beans with that skirt steak? Or skip the beans and eat the strawberries afterward instead? I think this is a good way to go about it, as you’ve only got so much carb to go around, and you don’t want to waste it on something not-yummy-enough to be bolus-worthy!
Besides struggling to ration my “carb bucks,” what I find difficult is the hard-line some folks take on the low-carb issue. You may find it satisfying to stick with Dr. Bernstein’s recommendation of 12g carb per meal (like what? six blueberries?), but I do not. Please don’t judge me, or try to push your convictions on me. Eating carbs does not make me an irresponsible patient. It just makes me human. Have some respect for fellow PWD’s lifestyle choices, please.
Food choices are such a touchy subject. And I’m not even trying to lose weight!
I was more than a little surprised when expert CDE Gary Scheiner actually recommended eating carbs for snacks (I’d been gravitating towards low-carb choices like cheese, salami and nuts, which are rather high-fat). Gary says that all snacks will effect your blood sugar, and that carbs are easier to predict and therefore easier to dose for. What do you know?
So do I carb? Yes, I do. But I am always, always on the lookout for some good new low-carb foods that I can enjoy — without spending too many of those precious carb bucks.
Editor’s Note: For more of my thoughts and some great Guest Posts on carbohydrates and diabetes, please browse the Food Section of this blog.