Goals/Objectives: To learn how to practice portion control.
Time Frame: To implement portion control at every meal/snack of every day.
Now that you have established some essential habits for diabetics—essential no matter what dietary lifestyle or approach to diabetes management you take—let’s refine it even more by practicing portion control, also an essential for all diabetics, regardless of what else you do or don’t do for your diabetic health. And you need to learn what it means to “eat to your meter,” rather than just taking pills or insulin to “cover” what you eat.
NOTE: Portion control is added to the Essential Habits you have established: mastering use of your blood glucose meter, drinking an optimum amount of water for you, eliminating all sugar, eating non-starchy whole-food vegetables instead of processed foods, and a having a daily exercise regimen.
Moderation vs. Portion Control
One of my pet peeves is the cliché, “Everything in moderation.” Is domestic violence okay in moderation? Never! How about bank robbery in moderation? Absolutely not! We diabetics would like to think we can eat anything as long as it’s “in moderation.” But that is simply not true! “In moderation” is extremely vague! “Moderation” is not a unit of measurement and can mean vastly different things to different people!
For any diabetic who is serious about practicing Temperance, it’s not enough to say “eat in moderation” or “just a little bit” or “only a taste.” You have to establish a strong habit of awareness of exactly how much of any given food you eat and the amounts of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, fiber, protein) and calories in that portion.
If you have never kept a detailed food journal before, you need to do that for at least a few weeks (often much longer) until you have an accurate idea of what and how much you are eating.
What Is Portion Control?
I would like to suggest that real temperance for a diabetic is “portion control.” First of all, you need to be aware of what constitutes a “portion” or “serving” of every food you eat. If you don’t know, you should consult a reliable food database (like CalorieKing or a similar one). For accountability and motivation, you should keep a detailed food journal.
Keep a Detailed Food Journal
Your food journal can be as simple as a manually written one or as complex as a computer or phone app (like My Fitness Pal and others). You might track only the food and the amount of carbohydrates per serving (since it’s carbohydrates that are raising your blood sugar); or you can track a full bank of calories and macronutrients (carbs, fat, fiber, protein, etc.). However, in either case you need to know the portion size of one (1) serving and write it down. Add up the grams of carbohydrate in one meal or snack then calculate the total for the day.
If you have been following the Standard American Diet (SAD), that is, eating whatever you want whenever you want, try to at least limit your food intake to ADA (American Diabetes Association) guidelines of 150-200 grams of carbohydrates per day. That’s roughly 45-60 grams per meal or 15-20 grams per serving. You may be shockingly surprised at the amount of carbohydrates you’ve been eating!
If you have already been following ADA dietary guidelines but, over the years, have found that diet and exercise and perhaps medications just aren’t keeping your blood sugars under control any more, you may want to consider a lower-carb dietary regime. You can do this whether you are vegetarian/vegan or Adventist non-vegetarian/pescatarian. “Low-carb” can mean anything from under 100 grams of carbohydrates/day to as little as 20-30 grams/day. If you do try a very low-carb diet, be sure to keep track of your blood glucose and medications, because this may require a reduction of dosage in some medications and insulin. Otherwise, you may get low blood sugars. Do work with your doctor on this.
Be sure to check your blood glucose first thing in the morning (fasting blood glucose), at bedtime, at pre-meal and 1 hr. and 2 hrs. post-meal at various times during the day. Record these blood glucose numbers in your food journal. And, if you are on diabetes medications and/or insulin, write the times and dosages in, too. This is so you’ll be able to see how any changes in your dietary lifestyle are affecting your blood sugar numbers.
If your personal goal is to stay under the ADA-recommended 7% A1C and you are achieving that with an ADA-compliant diet, exercise, and possibly medications, then you are successful! If, however, you’d like to get closer to the non-diabetic normal A1C of 4.0-5.6% and/or if you’d like to get off medications and/or insulin, use portion control to tweak your diabetes management.
What you need in your kitchen
- Sets of accurate measuring spoons and measuring cups, in oz., grams, or ml. or all of the above
- Reliable kitchen scale, measuring in grams and ounces. May be manual or digital.
Amidor, Toby, Contributor. “What Does ‘Eating in Moderation’ Really Mean?” U.S. News & World Report: Health News (September 21, 2015). https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2015/09/21/what-does-eating-in-moderation-really-mean (accessed on 7/17/2020).
Eenfeldt, Dr. Andreas, MD. “Why ‘Everything in Moderation’ Is Terrible Diet Advice,” Diet Doctor (November 2, 2015). https://www.dietdoctor.com/why-everything-in-moderation-is-terrible-diet-advice (accessed on 7/17/2020).
Harrington, Rebecca. “A Harvard nutrition expert explains why the advice to eat ‘everything in moderation’ is ‘useless’,” Business Insider (January 29, 2016). https://www.businessinsider.com/everything-in-moderation-advice-wrong-2016-1 (accessed on 7/17/2020).
Jenkinson, Libby, MPS. “Everything in Moderation Is Bad Advice,” Ditch the Carbs (January 2020). https://www.ditchthecarbs.com/everything-in-moderation-is-bad-advice/ (accessed on 7/17/2020).
Rice, Tim. “Everything in Moderation: The Balanced Diet Myth,” Unlearn-Rethink (April 3, 2016). https://unlearn-rethink.com/2016/04/03/the-balanced-diet-myth/ (accessed on 7/17/2020).
Rodgers, Diana, RD. “’A Little Bite Won’t Hurt’: The Failure of Moderation,” Robb Wolf (June 7, 2016). https://robbwolf.com/2016/06/07/a-little-bite-wont-hurt-the-failure-of-moderation/ (accessed on 7/17/2020).
Food Journal Apps
“10 nutrition and diet apps for 2019,” ©2020 Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington. https://wa-health.kaiserpermanente.org/best-diet-apps/ (accessed on 7/17/2020).
Bradford, Alexis. “Best Apps for Food Journaling,” Living Safer (July 2019). https://www.livingsafer.com/best-apps-for-food-journaling/ (accessed on 7/17/2020).
Callahan, Alice; medically reviewed by Kacy Church, MD. “14 Apps for Managing Diabetes: Blood Glucose Trackers, Food and Exercise Logs, and More,” Everyday Health (March 27, 2020). https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/type-2-diabetes-care/diabetes-apps/ (accessed 7/17/2020).
MyFitnessPal. “Essential Guide to MyFitnessPal,” MyFitnessPal Blog n.d. https://blog.myfitnesspal.com/essential-guide-to-myfitnesspal/ (accessed on 7/17/2020).
Sheriff, Danielle, Project Director. “The Complete Guide to MyFitnessPal Tutorials,” Working Against Gravity n.d. https://www.workingagainstgravity.com/articles/the-complete-guide-to-myfitnesspal-tutorials (accessed on 7/17/2020).
One feature that I absolutely love about MyFitnessPal is that it has a built-in recipe analyzer. For me, that’s a game changer! However, if you choose a different app for tracking your food intake and it doesn’t have a recipe analyzer, here’s a stand-alone nutrition calculator that you may like:
“Try Our Recipe Nutrition Calculator,” Very Well Fit n.d. https://www.verywellfit.com/recipe-nutrition-analyzer-4157076 (accessed on 7/17/2020).
Prints out a Nutrition Information label based on the ingredients you enter.