Saturday, September 8, 2007

Eating Well with the USDA Food Guide Pyramid

This morning, I took out my notes from my Kaiser Permanente Diabetes and Nutrition classes, mandatory for me when I decided to take a more pro-active approach with my health issues.

Let's start with some"Eating Well"
basics that I'm reviewing right now.

a.k.a. the USDA Food Guide Pyramid

MyPyramid.Gov is a good source of information for all of us.

There used to be a time that there was only one recommended Food Pyramid for everyone. Today, it's more personalized. My Pyramid helps us out with a personal eating plan based on a detailed evaluation about the food we eat and how much physical activity we have.

At my Kaiser Permanente nutrition class, the instructors stressed that: "When you have diabetes, healthy eating habits are a cornerstone of your treatment. You can help control your blood sugars with good meal planning."

I read the list and I discovered that I had broken a lot of their recommended guidelines.

1. When to eat: I break every single guideline here. I need to do better (sigh!). My lifestyle is such that I don't have regular times for cooking. Sometimes, I even eat two meals a day. Not that I'm dieting. I forget to eat! No wonder I have such high and low swings in my blood sugar readings.

Eating regularly will help control your blood sugars.
Try to eat about the same times each day.
Try to eat a meal or snack every four to five hours during your day.
Prevent low blood sugars. Avoid skipping or delaying your meals and snacks.

2. What to eat: Check out the Diabetes Food Pyramid. I copied the image below from the National Diabetes Education Program because it's too much trouble for me to draw my own pyramid. This should help us out.

it's simple to understand. You take in less of fats, sweets, and alcohol and more of grains, beans, and vegetables.
Our bodies need four basic food nutrients so we can function properly:
a. Proteins
b. Carbohydrates
c. Fats
d. Water, the most important food nutrient (and I have to force myself to drink 8 glasses of water every day)

Whatever I designate as "FREE" means that these are CARB-friendly food. They could be fatty food, though.

Let's start from the top of the pyramid.

1. Heart-healthy fats (free) to choose from: Avocado, olive or canola oil, unsalted nuts, 100% all-natural peanut butter or other nut butters, seeds.

I asked the nutritionists about the merits of virgin coconut oil for persons with Diabetes Type 2. They couldn't give me an informed answer. I think they should look into the merits of virgin coconut oil. Even Loida Nicolas Lewis told me that she's more healthy today because of this oil.

Heart-unfriendly fats (free) which should be limited: Butter, margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressing, cream sauces.

Good-bye to Fettuccine Alfredo Sauce, etc. I cannot live without butter or margarine so I think I will just have to learn how to combine extra virgin olive oil and a little butter. Or maybe I can find some "butter flavor" in the supermarket that isn't carcinogenic.

Sweets definitely have CARBS.

Alcohol doesn't turn into glucose. Drink moderately.

2. Milk and Yogurt = 2 to 3 servings per day

There is Lactose sugar in these milk products.

Ice-cream contains sucrose.

Suggestions: Drink 1 cup 1% or fat-free milk or 1 cup light (artificially-sweetened) yogurt.

3. Meat & Others (free) = 2 to 3 servings per day

Servings depend on the portion size, type of meat, and preparation style.

Rule of Thumb: A 3-oz. size of meat is about the size of your palm.

A serving can be:

2 or 3 ozs. of lean meat, chicken, fish, or low-fat cheese

1/2 to 1/3 cup of tuna or low-fat cheese

1 egg, 2 tbsps. all-natural peanut butter or 4 ozs. tofu

4. Non-Starchy Vegetables (free) = 3 or more servings per day

A serving can be:

1/2 cup cooked vegetables

1 cup raw vegetables

3/4 cup vegetable juice

Examples: carrots, mushrooms, eggplants

All right! Leafy, green, non-starchy vegetables are my friends!

5. Fruit = 2 to 4 servings per day

Fruit contains fructose.

A serving can be:

1 small piece of fruit

15 grapes, 12 cherries

1 cup melon, berries

1/2 small banana

I have to do better in this department. I demolish one large banana per meal.

6. Grains, Beans, Starchy Vegetables = 6 to 11 servings per day (this means 3 servings per meal)

Use a 1/4 cup for measuring items.

Note: The size of your fist is about 1 cup.

A serving size can be:

3/4 cup unsweetened dry cereal, 1/2 cup bran cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal

1 slice of bread, 1 small tortilla, or 4 to 6 crackers

1/5 bagel, 1/2 English muffin, 1/2 pita bread, or 1/2 hamburger or hot dog bun

1/3 cup cooked rice or cooked pasta

1/2 cup corn grits, bulgur, potatoes, yams, corn, peas, or winter squash

1/2 cup cooked dried beans or lentils

This is what my nutritionist explained to me.

a. A portion is the serving size of the food I'm eating.

b. A serving is a specific amount of food typically determined by the USDA.

c. One CARB serving is equal to 15 grams of carbohydrates. The average CARB servings per meal range from 3 to 5 servings.

d. Examples of how to quickly determine CARB servings.

1/3 cup rice = 1 serving

1 cup rice = 3 servings

1 cup of cooked pasta = 3 servings

1 plate of cooked pasta = 12 servings

1 oz. of bread = 1 serving

4 ozs. of bagel = 4 servings (In other words, bagels are really a no-no for people living with type 2 diabetes)

3 cups of air-popped popcorn = 1 serving

a small container of yogurt = 1 serving (anywhere from 15 to 30 gms. CARBS)

3 squares of graham crackers = 1 serving

3. How much to eat: I don't know when I eat too much.

This is what my nutritionist said:

Your body changes most of the food you eat into blood sugar (glucose). to supply your body with energy. When you have diabetes, your body has problems turning this sugar into energy, so more of the sugar stays in your blood.

You can help your body control your blood sugars if your eat smaller amounts of food and if you spread your meals throughout the day.

If you eat too much food, especially too many carbohydrates, your blood sugars may get too high. CARBS are naturally found in foods and are an important part of a healthy diet. CARBS include the starch, sugar, and fiber in foods.


After reading all of the above, I finally figured out that I need to make the time to write my own "diet" according to the servings that are recommended for me. Right now, I am going to continue cutting down my food portions to another half (of what I'm used to) including the bananas.

Let me process it this way for now:

1. My "free" foods are lean protein, fats, and non-starchy vegetables.

2. Men are allowed 4 to 5 servings of CARBS per meal. As a woman, I'm better off with 3 to 4 servings of CARBS per meal.

So, for breakfast, my 3 to 4 servings of CARBS would be:

1/2 cup of bran cereal = 1 serving

1/2 banana = 1 serving

1 cup 1% milk = 1 serving

And coffee with some non-dairy creamer and Splenda.

3. I have to go back to eating five times a day with the following CARBS goals:

Breakfast: 3 to 4 carb servings or 45 to 60 gms.

Snack: 1 to 2 carb servings or 15 to 30 gms.

Lunch: 3 to 4 carb servings or 45 to 60 gms.

Snack: 1 to 2 carb servings or 15 to 30 gms.

Dinner: 3 to 4 carb servings or 45 to 60 gms.

Snack (before bedtime): 1 carb serving or 15 gms.

4. I should limit my sodium intake to less than 2,000 mgs. a day.

One teaspoon of salt = 2,300 mgs. sodium

This means about 500 mgs. of sodium per meal and about 200 gms. of sodium for every snack.

5. I should take blood sugar readings two hours after every meal.

I'm up to the challenge!

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