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Counting Carbs: Three Ways continued...

You can find out how many carbs foods have in books and on web sites and smartphone apps. This can help a lot if you're just learning to count carbs.

All carbohydrates, Campbell says, turn into blood glucose in the end. "Of course some are healthier than others, so we want to promote the healthy carbs," she says.

Fiber is a particularly healthy carb. "We don't digest it, so fiber doesn't really impact blood glucose," Campbell says. It's good to eat more fiber -- and it helps you feel full longer.

Carb Counting: Tips for Home and Away

It's easy to think portion sizes are bigger than they really should be. So, Loghmani and Campbell advise using measuring cups and scales at home. "Keep your measuring cups on the counter, get a little food scale, and keep it in full sight so that you get in the habit of checking your portions of pasta or bread," Campbell says. "It's a really good way to keep portions in check."

Learning portion sizes at home can also help you judge portions better when you eat at a restaurant or at a dinner party. Loghmani and Campbell offer these other tips:

  • When eating at home, use the same cup, bowl, glass, and plate. "That way if you always pour your milk to a certain point on the glass, or fill your bowl a certain amount, then you know that you're eating a consistent amount of food," Campbell says.
  • Create a spreadsheet or list of foods you eat on a usual day at home, and then look up the values. So, if you eat a certain brand of cereal most mornings, you'll always know how many carbs you're getting.
  • Find software programs or web sites that can help you figure out the carbs in your favorite recipes.
  • Measure out single servings of snack foods ahead of time and put them in baggies. This can help you control your portions, carbs, fat, and calories. And watch your snacking. "People get tripped up with snacking," Campbell says. "It's a really bad habit -- for anybody -- to keep grabbing crackers or something out of the box." It's too easy to forget how many you’ve eaten.
  • When eating out, if you're not sure about portion sizes, try the “hand” method:
    • A woman's fist = 1 cup
    • Tip of the thumb = 1 teaspoon
    • Whole thumb = 1 tablespoon
    • Palm of the hand = 3-ounce serving
  • Before dining out, go online and check the menu so you can plan what to order.
  • Order simple meals when you go out. Avoid fancy mixed dishes with many ingredients and sauces. Campbell suggests getting a plain meal of chicken or lean steak and a vegetable. "That can make it easier to manage," she says.
  • Speak up and ask what's in a dish and how it is fixed, whether you’re at a restaurant or a friend's house.
  • For special dinners, such as during the holidays, eat the foods that are special to you and skip those you can get any time. For example, if you really love pumpkin pie, skip the mashed potatoes and bread and make dessert your carb portion of the meal. Just be sure to watch your portion sizes.

"The thing that I like people to know the most is that our body needs food -- we get over 40 different nutrients a day from food. And it's perfectly okay to continue to eat and enjoy food. It's just important also to learn how to balance the food, the medication, and the activity, so that you're meeting your goals for managing your diabetes," Loghmani says.