Don’t misunderstand the word sneaky here — there’s nothing malicious about these foods. In fact, these are some great choices for your diabetes meal plan because they are complex, offering more than one of the macronutrients in addition to a host of other nutritional benefits.
In general, the most significant issue with these foods comes if you fail to recognize them as carbohydrates, and it’s possible you don’t think of these foods as carbohydrates. But you will, because you are becoming a carbohydrate expert.
Beans are the sneakiest of sneaky. Beans are included in the protein section of the USDA’s MyPlate, and with good reason. Soy beans, called edamame, are the only vegetable source of complete protein, a food containing all nine essential amino acids in an easily digestible form. Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and other beans score well on that scale, too.
Beans, like kidney beans and black beans, will give you about 15 grams of high-quality protein per cup, and that protein comes with very little fat unless it’s added. And, beans are an excellent source of fiber, including soluble fiber which helps lower LDL unhealthy cholesterol.
Those beans are one healthy source for protein. But, that cup of beans also counts as two carb choices — about 40 grams of carbohydrate reduced by one half of the 10 to 12 grams of fiber, leaving between 30 and 35 grams total carbohydrate per cup.
So, what’s that mean for your diabetes eating plan? It means eat lots of beans — beans of all kinds are very healthy little packages of nutrition. Just remember to count the carbohydrates and to consider the beans as a significant part of your mealtime protein.
Dairy products bring to mind calcium, protein, and maybe even fat because you are probably familiar with the 2 percent, 1 percent, and nonfat skim milk options. Lately, Greek yogurt is gaining popularity thanks to its higher concentration of protein than regular yogurt.
But don’t forget the carbohydrates in dairy products, thanks to lactose, commonly called milk sugar. One cup of milk is considered one carb choice, even though it’s actually 12 grams of carbohydrate, and yogurt can vary remarkably in its carbohydrate content depending upon added sugar or fruit. Plain Greek yogurt can supply almost 25 grams of protein per cup, but also contains as much as 8 grams of carbohydrate.
What does that mean for your diabetes eating plan? Dairy products can fit very well into your meal plan — just remember to count the carbohydrates, and go for low- or no-fat choices.
There’s one other sneaky thing about dairy products — cheese. The carbohydrates in milk feed the microorganisms that turn milk into cheese, and these bugs are hungry. As a result, cheese contains very little of the original carbohydrate, but retains its protein. Be warned, however, that cheese can be a significant source of saturated fat, so choose low-fat varieties whenever possible.
Sugar free or no sugar added are labels that can grab the attention of anybody with diabetes. There’s something about those phases that can get mysteriously translated into carbohydrate free, but don’t be misled.
Although it’s likely that a sugar-free food has less carbohydrate than its thoroughly sugared variety, all carbohydrates aren’t from sugar. Baked items contain flour, for example, which includes the carbohydrate from the original grain. And no sugar added doesn’t mean that the sugar naturally there, like the lactose in ice cream, was removed.
Often it also means that sugar alcohols were added to sweeten the food, and sugar alcohols are included in total carbohydrate content separately from sugar. What’s this mean for your diabetes eating plan? It means always read the label so you can always count the carbohydrates.
In fact, that’s the best lesson, because no matter what your preconceived notions about any food may be, the nutrition facts label always makes sure you get the real story before you eat.