Non-starchy vegetables are those vegetables that contain low levels of calories and carbohydrates. They are full of nutrients and filling fiber, so half of your plate (or more!) should be filled with these non-starchy vegetables. Because of their low-calorie content, you can load up on these vegetables to help you meet your daily fiber goals without breaking your calorie bank. Examples of non-starchy vegetables include:
Non-starchy vegetables can be enjoyed raw in salads or as crunchy snack options, as well as steamed as part of a balanced meal. Nutrients in such foods can be retained in their fresh or frozen form, so stock up your refrigerator and freezer. This way you can enjoy a colorful variety of non-starchy vegetables every day. The frozen vegetables are usually flash frozen at the vegetable’s time of harvest, so nutrients are retained as well as fresh vegetables. Watch out for canned versions of such vegetables since they may contain added sodium and other preservatives and additives that may not be good for your health.
The plate method is a simple way to help you limit your carbohydrates per meal by using your plate to measure portions. In this method, you would use your dinner plate, traditionally between 9 and 11 inches in diameter, to help you measure out your portions of certain foods.
This method is not exact, but it can train you to start focusing your meal on those fiber-rich, nutrient-dense, and low-calorie non-starchy vegetables, while limiting your intake of starchy foods.
Carbohydrate counting is a concept of assigning certain foods a carbohydrate exchange number and then assigning each meal and snack time a certain number of exchanges. A 2000-calorie diet would typically include 4 carbohydrate exchanges for each meal and between 1 and 2 carbohydrate exchanges per snack time. Each exchange is worth 15 grams of carbohydrate. For example, 1 slice of bread is approximately one carbohydrate exchange since it is about 15 grams of carbohydrate. Other common carbohydrate exchanges include:
Those foods that are protein-based such as beef, chicken, and seafood, unless they are prepared with a carbohydrate-containing sauce, are worth 0 exchanges. Also, certain vegetables that are very low in carbohydrates are considered “free” foods, which means they are worth zero exchanges.
This eating regimen can take some getting used to and can involve keeping a food diary and carbohydrate exchange guide in the beginning. Once you follow the program for a while, it can get easier and journaling may not be necessary to keep track of your carbohydrate exchanges. This regimen can make insulin dosing a little easier since you and your healthcare provider can provide the appropriate insulin dose based upon the number of exchanges you eat at certain times of day.
However, carbohydrate counting is not for everyone. If you feel like this method would not work for you, then ask your healthcare provider for other options such as meeting with a diabetes-trained dietitian to get a meal plan, the plate method, or just cutting out concentrated sugars and processed foods. The important thing is to find an eating regimen that is going to work best with your lifestyle and is something you will be able to stick with long-term to help control your diabetes.