Nutrition

Why pair carbohydrates with protein or fat?

By Lindsay Boland, dietetic intern

Blood sugar spikes
Changes in blood sugar levels over time 

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel. When we eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose (sugar) which gets absorbed through the small intestine into the bloodstream. Normally when sugar enters the bloodstream, insulin moves the sugar into our cells to where it is either used for immediate energy or stored for energy to be used later.

When you have diabetes, this process may take a little bit longer either because the body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes properly. This leaves sugar hanging out in the blood stream for longer than it should. Therefore, when carbohydrates are consumed in large quantities, it often causes a spike in blood sugar.  Sometimes it may be necessary to take medications or insulin to help move the sugar out of the blood and into the cells.

The good news is we can help prevent these spikes in blood sugar by pairing certain foods together. Protein, fat and fiber require a little more work to be broken down than carbohydrates. This means these foods stay in our stomachs longer and take more time to enter the bloodstream. Pairing carbohydrate foods with a source of protein or fat and some fiber helps slow the absorption of the sugars into the bloodstream. This helps us maintain more steady blood sugar levels throughout the day, which allows our body to use these sugars appropriately for energy.

Snack examples:

CARBOHYDRATE PROTEIN/FAT
1 Medium Apple 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter
5 Whole Grain Crackers 1-2 Hardboiled Eggs
1 Cup Grapes 1oz Cheese
¾ Cup Berries 6-8oz Plain Greek Yogurt
2 Tbsp Dried Fruit 12-15 Almonds
Post content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

 

 

 

Nutrition

Eat Balanced by Pairing Your Carbs with Protein

By Lisa Keovongsa
Dietetic Intern

There is a common misconception that once a person is diagnosed with diabetes they need to cut out all carbs. This is not the case! Carbohydrates are very important because they serve as the main fuel source for the body and give the brain and muscles the energy needed to carry out daily activities. Carbs, protein, and fat all play essential roles and can be incorporated into your meals and snacks to keep you feeling your best. Also, eating carbs with protein at every meal will help manage your blood sugar and help your body best utilize the nutrients in your food.

Carbohydrate Foods
Many foods with carbohydrates raise blood sugar.  Eating carbohydrate with a protein or fat can keep your blood sugar steady.  Foods with carbohydrates include:

 Starchy vegetables*/legumes:  Pumpkin, squash, all potatoes, yucca, beans, corn

Dairy: Milk, yogurt

Grains: Breads, pastas, tortillas, rice, crackers/snack chips, cereals, quinoa

Fruit: Apples, oranges, pears, bananas, mangoes

*Non-starchy vegetables have fewer carbohydrates.  Examples of non-starchy vegetables include: Carrots, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, any leafy green, cucumbers

Protein Foods
There are many options when it comes to eating protein. These foods include meats, poultry, eggs, fish, cheese, cottage cheese, nuts, nut butter, and tofu.

Why do we need to eat protein with carbs?
During digestion, the food we eat gets broken down into simple sugars that are delivered to our muscles and liver through the bloodstream.  Insulin is the “key” that “unlocks the gate” for sugar to leave the blood and enter the cells. When someone with diabetes eats large portions of carbohydrate-rich foods, too much sugar is released into the blood stream and, because there’s either not enough insulin or they have insulin resistance, their body is unable to use this sugar for energy effectively.  This can cause high blood sugar, which, if it happens consistently over time, can lead to complications.  Proteins (and fats) take longer to digest than carbs, so eating protein along with the carb slows down digestion in the stomach and absorption in the intestines. This will help slow the rate of sugar entering the bloodstream, keeping blood sugars steady and preventing blood sugar spikes (and crashes).  Check your blood sugars 2 hours after a meal to see the effects.

Snack Ideas
Pair one item from the protein list with an item on the carbs list to make a balanced snack that will keep your blood sugar in check:

Protein                                                 Carbs

Handful of nuts                                 Whole fruit (apple, ½ banana)

1 cup Greek yogurt                           5 Whole wheat crackers

2 Deli turkey slices                           1 whole grain tortilla

1 oz beef jerky                                  1 oz whole wheat pretzels

Hard-boiled egg                                1 cup regular yogurt

½ cup cottage cheese                       ¼ cup granola

1 tbsp Peanut butter                        3 cups popcorn

2 Tbsp Hummus                               ½ cup dried fruit

1 oz cheese                                       1 cup raw vegetables

Post content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE
Nutrition, Uncategorized

Serving Up Satiety

By Elizabeth Daly
Dietetic Intern

In today’s society, we are constantly tempted by food. Whether we are commuting to work, out with friends or watching TV at home, we are influenced by messages encouraging us to eat more. Living in an environment surrounded by food can make it challenging for people to make healthy choices, lose weight and manage their diabetes. There are many different weight-loss diets advertised in the media, but dieting often leaves us feeling hungry, deprived and ultimately defeated. How can we better control our intake without feeling the need to eat all the time?

Satiety is the feeling of fullness that comes after eating. If we feel satiated after a meal, we are less likely to snack between meals or eat large portions the next time we sit down to eat.  Learning how to feel more satiated after a meal may help us better control how much we eat, aid in weight loss and better control blood sugar levels.

Feeling satiated takes time, often up to 20 minutes after eating a meal. It is controlled by a number of factors that begin once we take our first bite of food. When we eat, our stomach expands, we begin absorbing and digesting nutrients and the brain receives signals that lead to feelings of being full.

Not all foods produce the same level of satiety. Here are a few tips to help you feel fit and full:

  1. Add lean protein to meals and snacks

Adding protein to meals or snacks helps keep you full for longer and control blood sugar levels. Meals that only contain simple carbohydrates are digested quickly, spike blood sugar, and make you feel hungry again soon after.

~Ex.  1 oz low fat cheese or ¼ cup hummus or 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter or 1 oz nuts

  1. Add fruit and vegetables to meals

Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and water.  Both of these help you feel full. They are also good sources of important nutrients and contribute to overall good health.

~Ex. Add a side salad with meals, add berries to cereal or yogurt, add vegetables in soup

  1. Limit sugary beverages

Sweetened beverages are high in sugar and calories but low in nutrients. They do not cause your body to feel as full as solid foods do, and can lead to spikes in blood sugar and weight gain.

~Try swapping sugar sweetened beverages with water at meals to curb your hunger!

 Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE
Nutrition

Plant-Based Protein

Alexandra Regalado
Dietetic Intern

What is Protein and How Much Do You Need?
Along with carbohydrates and fat, protein is part of a balanced diet and is essential for life. Protein plays key roles in building and maintaining muscle, keeping the immune system working, regulating hormones, and healing wounds.  Protein is made up of compounds called amino acids. Some amino acids are made by your body, while others come from the food we eat. Amino acids that come from food are called essential amino acids. This is why it’s important to eat protein from a variety of sources, including plants!  The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for the average adult is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight.  To find out how many grams of protein you need to eat each day, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36.

Sources of Plant-Based Protein
Protein is found in a number of plant foods.  While plants provide quality protein, they typically do not contain all of the essential amino acids. But, if you eat several sources proteins throughout the week, you will have no problem getting all the amino acids and nutrients your body needs. Some plant-based protein, such as beans and legumes, contain carbohydrates, so always check the nutrition facts label for grams of carbohydrate per serving and factor them into your meal or snack.

 Some Examples of Plant-Based Protein

  • Beans and Legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, lentils
  • Nuts and Nut Butters: Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts
  • Seeds:Chia, flax, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, quinoa
  • Soy and Soy Products: Soy milk, edamame, tofu, tempeh
  • Meat Substitutes: Veggie burgers and sausages, seitan, faux “chicken” and “burgers”

 Benefits of Plant-Based Protein
Most plant-based proteins are naturally low in calories, saturated fat, and sodium; have no cholesterol; and are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. The combination of protein and fiber helps to slow digestion so you feel fuller longer, and raises blood sugar gradually after a meal or snack (avoiding blood sugar spikes).  Many plant-based proteins are more environmentally sustainable and affordable than animal sources of protein, too!

Plant proteins can be incorporated into any dietary pattern. Vegetarian and vegan diets are especially high in plant proteins and are also rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The American Diabetes Association recommends plant-based eating patterns because they can help prevent and manage diabetes. Research shows plant-based diets are good at lowering A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index.  Studies have also shown that plant-based diets are helpful for losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight.  Including more plant-based meals in your routine, such as by following “Meatless Monday,” is a wonderful way to fuel up on more plant-based protein!

Ideas for adding Plant-Based Protein to Your Meals
Breakfast:

  • Sprinkle nuts and seeds on oatmeal or yogurt
  • Sautee tofu and veggies for a breakfast scramble
  • Spread hummus or nut butter on toast

Lunch & Dinner:

  • Use beans or lentils to make “meat” sauce
  • Add tofu or tempeh to a stir-fry meal or sandwich
  • Top salads or grain bowls with beans or edamame
  • Vegetable or black bean burger

Snacks:

  • Hummus with raw veggie sticks
  • Roasted chickpeas or edamame
  • Handful of nuts
  • Plant-based protein bar
 Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE
Nutrition

Easy and Delicious Ways to Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Kelsey Vilcek, Dietetic Intern

We all know that fruits and vegetables are needed for our health, but sometimes it is quite difficult to add them into our meals. For anyone who thinks fruits and vegetables are “bad” for people with diabetes, think again! Fruits are great because they are an easy way to enjoy something sweet without creating large spikes in blood sugar levels compared to eating candy or desserts. This is because fruits are high in fiber, which helps to keep blood sugar levels steady. As for vegetables, only the starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas, winter squash and corn have an effect on blood sugar. Non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, carrots, greens, cauliflower, etc.) are important to eat because they are low in carbohydrates and calories. Eating vegetables is another simple way to feel full and satisfy your appetite, while adding vitamins and minerals and minimizing rises in blood sugar.

Some easy ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet:

  • Use vegetables for dipping in hummus or low-fat dressings
  • Make kebobs: grill vegetables such as peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomatoes with chicken as a fun meal (You can even do this with fruit!)
  • Veggie wraps: roast vegetables and roll up in a whole-wheat tortilla
  • Add vegetables as toppers to salads
  • Smoothies (low-fat milk, frozen fruit, frozen spinach or kale, and nut butter)
  • Try vegetables as pizza toppings
  • Puree vegetables as a sauce for pasta, chicken, pork, or seafood
  • Chop, grate, or shred zucchini, carrots, or spinach and add into lasagna, casseroles, or meatloaf
  • Have an apple or banana and peanut butter as a snack
  • Egg omelet with vegetables
  • Oatmeal with fruit
  • Substitute butter with avocado
  • Puree prunes, bananas, peaches, or apples and use in place of ½ of the fat in recipes for muffins, pancakes, breads, etc.
  • Add carrots or zucchini to baked goods
  • Low-sodium vegetable soup with beans
  • Leave fresh fruit out on the counter where you can see and grab it easily
  • Consider making fresh vegetables juices
Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE
Health, Nutrition

Blood Sugar: What Does It Mean for Your Health?

By Felicia Steward, Dietetic Intern

Blood Sugar Defined

Blood sugar is the measurement of the amount of glucose, or sugar, in your bloodstream. This is important because it tells us how much energy our cells and tissues are receiving from the food we eat. Some foods affect blood sugar more than others. Any food that is mostly carbohydrates will affect blood sugar levels. These include dairy (milk and yogurt), all fruits and fruit juices, starches (pasta, bread, rice, and tortillas), and starchy vegetables (corn, peas, beans, potato, and butternut squash). Eating more carbohydrates at a meal can raise blood sugar, so it’s important to think about portion size along with when we eat and what food items we choose to eat together.

Why Care About the Amount of Sugar in My Bloodstream?

 Glucose provides our body with energy, and is needed for the brain to properly function and process information. Therefore, it is important that we choose foods containing small amounts of carbohydrates whenever we have a meal or a snack throughout the day so there’s enough glucose to support our tissues and cells.

When someone with diabetes eats large portions of carbohydrate-rich foods, too much sugar is released into the blood stream and, because there’s either not enough insulin or they have insulin resistance, their body is unable to use this sugar for energy effectively.  It builds up in the blood stream, causing damage to the body.  Over an unhealthy extended period of time, the body will eventually store much of the excess sugar as fat, which can lead to weight gain. Therefore, it is important to be aware of how the food we eat influences the amount of sugar in our bloodstream and how it affects our weight.

How is Blood Sugar Managed?

helthy-plate

 A healthy eating pattern that includes balance and portion control is an important part of managing the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.  Pairing whole grain, carbohydrate-rich foods with protein and fiber helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Eating a meal or snack that contains foods that increase blood sugar with those that do not affect blood sugar means the glucose is absorbed slowly into the blood and prevents blood sugar from spiking too high. Paying attention to portion size will also ensure that we are providing our body with exactly what it needs each time we eat. What the body doesn’t use for energy right away can be stored as fat and cause weight gain.

Balanced Lunch Examples:

  • PB&J on whole wheat bread + 1 cup carrot and celery sticks dipped in plain yogurt
  •  2 cups tossed salad + 3 oz. grilled chicken + oil/vinegar dressing + 1 banana
  •  3 oz. salmon + 1 cup brown rice + 1.5-2 cups cooked green beans
  •  2 oz. tuna salad (with light/mayo), lettuce, and tomato on whole wheat bread + 1 small apple + 8 oz. of skim milk
 Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

 

 

Nutrition, recipes

Beans, beans, the magical fruit…

By Kelsey Baumgarten
Dietetic Intern

What comes to mind when you hear the word “beans?” Maybe you think of chili, baked beans, minestrone soup, gallo pinto, burritos. Whatever you think about beans, you may not know how they are related to your health and blood sugar control.

While the old rhyme calls beans a magical “fruit,” they are, in fact, a vegetable! They’re part of a larger group of vegetables called legumes, which includes foods like black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and split peas. When counting carbohydrates, legumes should be counted as a starchy vegetable. However, if you can think of the rhyme, it may help you remember that a ⅓-cup serving of beans has a similar number of carbohydrates as a piece of fruit.

The more you eat, the more you toot…

Many people avoid beans because of their reputation for causing gastrointestinal discomfort. The gas related to eating beans is caused by the fiber and starches your body can’t break down. These are digested by the bacteria in your intestines.

The more you toot, the better you feel…

The fiber is part of what makes beans so good for you! Fiber can help lower your cholesterol and prevent constipation. Over time, your body will get used to it and you will notice less discomfort.

So let’s have beans at every meal!

You don’t need to have beans at every meal like the song suggests, but beans do make a great choice for balanced meals and snacks. Try swapping beans for some of your usual servings of pasta, potato, squash, and bread. You can even replace half of your starch with a half serving of legumes:

  • Eat a smaller portion of pasta, and add beans into the pasta sauce.
  • Mash black beans into a half serving of mashed potatoes.
  • Sprinkle beans on top of a thin-crust pizza
  • Add roasted chickpeas to your salad instead of croutons (just toss dry chickpeas in olive oil and salt, and broil until crispy— about 10 minutes)

Snacking on beans (15-30 g carbs)

  • 2 tablespoons of hummus or edamame dip + 6 whole grain crackers
  • ½ cup of lentil soup
  • ½ cup kidney beans, sprinkled with olive oil and Italian seasoning
  • ⅓ cup soy nuts + 1 piece fresh fruit

Don’t forget:
While legumes are a great source of plant protein, their carbohydrates will still raise your blood sugar. Legumes generally supply 15-20 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Be sure to check the nutrition label of whichever kind you are eating.

Beans can be a great addition to your diet. For increased fiber intake and heart-health benefits, aim to eat 3 or more servings every week. With so many nutrients per serving, they really are a “magical fruit”!

Did you know? You can use beans to make healthier baked goods and desserts!

Cannellini Carrot Muffins

  • BeanCarrotMuffin1 can* cannellini or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups grated carrots
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup oats
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

In a food processor, puree beans, eggs, oil, molasses, salt, and cinnamon until very smooth. Add carrots and nuts and blend on low speed until nuts and carrots are in small chunks. In a separate bowl, mix flour, oats, sugar, and baking powder. Add the bean mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into the muffin tins and bake for 35-40 minutes.

*You can also use beans cooked from dry. 1 can = 1½ cups cooked beans.

Per muffin: 190 calories • 40g carb • 5g protein • 4g fiber • 7g fat

Black bean Chocolate Hummus
(who knew hummus could taste like dessert?)

BeanChocolateHummus
  • 1 can* black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 tbsp decaf coffee (or water)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serves 8.

For a snack with 30g carbs, spread hummus over 2 graham cracker squares (1 full sheet), or use as dip for 1 serving of apple slices or strawberries.

Per serving (about 2 tbsp): 150 calories • 20g carb • 5g protein • 5g fiber • 7g fat

*You can also use beans cooked from dry. 1 can = 1½ cups cooked beans.

 (Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)