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5 Healthy Carbs for Diabetes and Blood Sugar - With Recipes!

June 20, 2023

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Main points:

  • A low-carb diet may help you lose weight and lower blood sugar to manage diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Small amounts of healthy carbs can be part of a meal plan for managing blood sugar.
  • Beans, whole grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, and reduced-fat dairy products can be good choices in moderation.
  • Ask your healthcare provider for guidelines on how many carbs you should have, and which foods are best for you.
  • Lark’s digital health coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone with more tips for health and weight loss.

If carbs are on your “bad” list, it may be time to rethink your meal plan. That’s because not all carbs are the same. In fact, high-fiber, nutrient-dense carbs can be part of a plan for weight loss and managing blood sugar. Lark can help you choose the right carbs in the right amounts. Here are five groups of healthy carbs and examples of low-carb meals that include them.

1. Beans, Peas, and Lentils

Lentils, split peas, and beans are all legumes. A half-cup serving of beans has about 8 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber, and beans are also sources of B vitamins, potassium, and other minerals. Your Lark coach can help steer you towards plant-based proteins, such as legumes. They are cholesterol-free, have little to no saturated fat, and can be high in fiber. Your Lark coach can help steer you towards plant-based proteins like legumes.

Beans, peas, and lentils are great in soups, salads, and burrito bowls, to name a few. Here are some examples of legumes.

  • Canned or dried beans, such as black, pinto, garbanzo, kidney, and navy beans
  • Lentils
  • Split peas, black eyed peas, and cowpeas Here are some meal ideas with beans, peas, or lentils.

Scrambled Eggs with Black Beans and Vegetables: For a southwest-inspired breakfast, cook 1 cup of chopped or sliced vegetables such as zucchini, tomatoes, onions, or bell peppers in a skillet with cooking spray. Add 1 egg or 4 egg whites and cook, stirring often. Add ½ cup of cooked, drained, and rinsed beans and cilantro, lime juice, cumin, and garlic powder. Stir until hot, then serve. Optional toppings include 1 ounce of low-fat cheese, 1 slice of avocado, and salsa.

Chili: Celery, garlic, and onions sauteed in olive oil, ground turkey, canned or fresh tomatoes, chopped bell peppers, cooked or low-sodium canned beans such as kidney, garbanzo, and black, chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes or diced jalapeno to taste. Serve with low-fat cheese, if desired. For 6 main course servings, use 6 cups of vegetables, 6 cups of cooked beans, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

2. Whole Grains

Grains may have the reputation of causing weight gain and spiking blood sugar, but that’s way more likely if you choose refined grains or have large serving sizes. On the other hand, moderate amounts of whole grains can lower diabetes risk and be part of a healthy diet, provided your doctor agrees. The serving size is an ounce-equivalent.

Here are some examples of a single serving of whole grains.

  • 1 slice of whole-grain bread
  • ½ whole-grain English muffin or whole-wheat hamburger bun
  • ½ cup of plain Cheerios or shredded wheat
  • ½ cup of cooked oatmeal (¼ cup dry)
  • ⅓ cup of cooked brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, barley, quinoa, whole-grain couscous, or amaranth
  • 2 cups of air-popped popcorn
  • ½ ounce of whole-grain pretzels

Here are some meal ideas with whole grains.

Oatmeal: Made with ½ cup of dry rolled oats or ¼ cup of steel cut oats and water or unsweetened almond milk, plus 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 1 cooked egg.

Sandwich: 2 thin slices of whole-grain bread with 2 tablespoons of hummus and sprouts, tomato, and cucumber.

Couscous: ½ cup of cooked whole-wheat couscous served with a stew with zucchini, carrots, onions, turnip, tomato paste, chicken, and spices such as turmeric, cumin, ginger, and cilantro. Chicken Rice Soup: Onions, celery, and carrots cooked in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, low-sodium broth, ⅔ cup of cooked brown rice, and 3 ounces of diced cooked chicken breast.

Turkey Burger with Carrot Sticks: 3 ounces of cooked lean ground turkey served on a whole-wheat hamburger bun, plus 1 cup of roasted carrot sticks (or other vegetables) sprayed with olive oil.

3. Starchy Vegetables

Starchy vegetables are high in starch, which is a type of carbohydrate, but they can also be high in fiber, potassium, and other nutrients. For example, potatoes have vitamin C, and winter squash and sweet potatoes have vitamin A.

They can be a healthy part of your meal plan if you keep portion sizes reasonable. It’s also best to limit fatty additions such as butter, and to avoid fried potatoes, such as hash browns or French fries.

These are some starchy vegetables and their serving sizes.

  • 1 cup of acorn squash or pumpkin
  • ½ cup of cooked potato or sweet potato
  • 1 small or ½ medium potato
  • ½ cup of cooked corn or peas

Here are some meal ideas with starchy vegetables.

Baked Potato Mediterranean Style: 1 medium baked potato with a drizzle of olive oil and loaded with 1 ounce of low-fat feta cheese, chopped tomato, fresh mint, and oregano, and served with baked skinless chicken or fish with steamed or roasted vegetables.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Ground Turkey: Bake a turkey burger patty to serve with cubes or strips of sweet potato that are tossed with olive oil and baked. Enjoy with a side salad or steamed vegetables.

Corn on the Cob with Chicken: Cook 3 ounces of skinless chicken and 1 cup of onion and bell peppers cut in strips in a skillet with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and serve it with a cooked cob of corn.

4. Fruit

Some people avoid fruit due to its high sugar content, but the benefits of fruit can outweigh the possible harm its sugars may cause. In fact, fruit consumption is linked to lower risk for diabetes. The sugar in fruit is natural, not added, and other nutrients include fiber, potassium, vitamins A and C, and phytonutrients including many antioxidants.

As with the other types of carbs, the biggest factor is eating fruit in moderation. It’s also best to have fresh and unsweetened frozen fruit since it’s easy to get too many calories from fruit juice and dried fruit. These are some serving sizes of fruit.

  • 1 cup of watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, or honeydew melon
  • ¾ cup of blueberries, pineapple, or raspberries
  • 1 small or ½ large apple, banana, orange, pear, or peach Here are some meal ideas with fruit.

Chicken Salad with Grapes: Serve 3 ounces of cooked skinless chicken and ½ ounce of almonds, spinach, or romaine lettuce mixed with 1 cup of grape halves and ½ cup of grape tomatoes. Toss with 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette dressing.

Cheddar on Apple: Core an apple and slice it into round slices. Place 1 ounce of low-fat cheddar cheese slices on the apple slices, top with ½ ounce of chopped walnuts, and toast until the cheese melts.

Orange Salmon with Fruit Salsa: In a skillet, cook 3 ounces of salmon with ½ an orange and

½ cup of onion slices. Serve with salsa made with diced tomato, diced onion, chopped cucumber, cilantro, lime juice, and ½ cup of pineapple, peach, watermelon, or mango chunks.

5. Reduced-Fat Dairy

Milk and yogurt are dairy products with the most carbohydrates. The carbs in dairy products come from lactose, which is a natural sugar in milk. It’s not sweet, and it doesn’t spike blood sugar much. People who have more dairy tend to have a lower risk for diabetes. Dairy products have protein and calcium, and reduced-fat products are lower in calories and saturated fat.

Hard cheeses like cheddar and mozzarella only have a couple grams of carbs, and most soft cheeses like brie and feta are low in carbs, too. Cottage cheese has only a few grams of carbs.

Here are some serving sizes for reduced-fat dairy products.

  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • ¾ cup of plain low-fat or fat-free regular or Greek yogurt
  • 1 ounces of low-fat cheese
  • ½ cup of low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese

Here are some meal ideas with reduced-fat dairy products.

Cottage Cheese Casserole: For four servings, mix together 12-16 ounces of spinach, 2 beaten eggs, 1 cup of cooked onions, garlic powder, basil, 2 cups of low-fat cottage cheese, and (optional) 2 ounces of strong cheese such as parmesan or blue. Top with 2 ounces of chopped nuts and bake until the eggs have set.

Creamy Broccoli Cheddar Soup: Saute onions and carrots in olive oil and add milk,

low-sodium broth, low-fat cheddar cheese, broccoli florets, and spices such as thyme and nutmeg.

Mixed Meals

Some meals may have more than one type of carbohydrate. For example, you might have pasta for an entree followed by fruit for dessert, or you might have a burrito with a tortilla and some beans. If you are having two or three sources of carbs, you can keep carbs in check by having just one small serving of each high-carb food.

These are some examples.

Yogurt Parfait: Gather 1 cup of plain Cheerios, 1 cup of sliced strawberries, and ¾ cup of plain yogurt. Layer half of each ingredient in a tall glass, then repeat. Top with ½ ounce of sliced almonds.

Bean and Rice Bowl with Chicken: In a bowl, combine 3 ounces of seasoned shredded chicken breast, ½ cup of low-sodium refried beans or black beans, and ⅓ cup of cooked brown rice. Add 1 cup of vegetables such as chopped tomatoes and shredded lettuce. Add toppings such as cilantro, ¼ avocado, and salsa.

Quinoa Salad with Garbanzo Beans: Mix together ⅓ cup of cooked quinoa, ½ cup of drained chickpeas or other beans, 1 cup of chopped cooked vegetables such as eggplant, cauliflower, or green beans (or you can use raw vegetables such as bell pepper, tomato, and cucumber), lemon juice, 1 ounce of mozzarella cheese in small chunks, minced garlic, cumin, basil, and 2 teaspoons of olive oil.

Minestrone Soup: Use ½ cup of whole-grain rotini, 1 cup of vegetables such as cabbage, onions, celery, tomatoes, carrots, and zucchini, ¼ cup of beans, ¼ cup of diced potato, and Italian spices.

Veggie Burger with Sweet Potato Fries: Serve a veggie burger with ½ cup of julienned sweet potato baked with olive oil, plus 1 cup of vegetables cut in chunks and baked.

How Lark Can Help

Nutritious carbs can be part of a plan for weight loss and health, and Lark can help you make good choices. Moderate amounts of legumes, whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, and reduced-fat dairy products can help improve your diet quality and supply important nutrients. Join Lark to receive 24/7 personalized food coaching to improve your eating habits and take control of your health.

Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

About Lark

Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.

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