Take the First Step to Fighting Diabetes

Jennifer Seleem useAmerican Diabetes Month (November) is about increasing awareness of the disease and to the small changes that can be made to alleviate the symptoms. Diabetes occurs when the connection between sugar in the blood and insulin (produced by the pancreas) are broken. Insulin is supposed to take the sugar out of the blood and bring it to our cells for energy. Since this connection is broken, sugar lingers in the blood causing elevated blood sugar.  When blood sugar continues to be elevated over a long period of time it may cause damage to the nerves, eyes and kidneys.

Diabetes can be managed with lifestyle modifications, medications, and/or insulin. A great first step to fighting diabetes is managing your diet. The main culprit for elevated blood sugar are foods that have carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are found in healthy foods like fruits, starchy vegetables like potatoes, beans, corn, peas; lentils; grains like bread, rice, pasta, cereal; dairy like milk and yogurt; and unhealthy foods like sweets and snack foods like sodas, juices, cakes, donuts, candy, etc. Carbohydrate containing foods need to be measured and counted. Do not avoid these foods as these foods provide the body with energy as well as essential vitamins, minerals that we need to survive. But make sure to choose more of the healthy carbohydrates and limit the unhealthy carbohydrates. Follow these steps to better control blood sugars:


  • Drink water or diet drinks. Avoid regular juices and sodas.
  • Switch to whole grains. Choose whole grain bread, rice, pasta, cereals.
  • Count carbohydrates. Carbohydrate counting is a great tool to consume the carbohydrates you love, in smaller portions.


For many adults, eating 3-5 servings of carbohydrate foods at each meal and one to two carbohydrate servings for each snack works well. One carbohydrate serving = 15 grams of carbohydrate.  Some examples of one serving include:

  • 1 small apple (4 oz.)
  • 17 grapes
  • 1 cup melon
  • 1/3 cup cooked rice
  • 1/3 cup cooked pasta
  • 1 slice toast
  • ¼ bagel
  • ½ cup corn
  • ½ cup potatoes
  • 1 cup fat free milk 

    Read nutrition labels.



  • Look at serving sizes. Nutrients listed are only for serving sizes listed
  • Look at total carbohydrates. (* sugars are already included in total carbohydrate)
  • Divide total carbohydrates grams by 15. (15 grams =1 serving of carbohydrate). This will give you the number of servings in that serving of food.

On average, adults need 3-5 servings of carbohydrate per meal. To determine how much carbohydrate is needed for your specific height/weight/age, visit your local registered dietitian to help calculate number of servings of carbohydrate recommended.

Foods that do not need to be counted are high in protein and high fiber, non-starchy vegetables. Lean proteins like chicken, fish, low fat cheeses and lean beef do not need to be counted. Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots do not need to be counted as long as they are limited to 1 cup raw vegetables or ½ cup cooked vegetables. If you are still hungry after counting carbohydrates, include more lean proteins and nonstarchy vegetables in the diet.

National diabetes month is a good time to bring awareness to the disease and start better managing it! Managing it does not mean cutting out the foods you love, it just means measuring and counting it. Become aware of the amount of carbohydrates being consumed currently and work your way to meeting your nutritional and clinical goals.


Jennifer Seleem is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with the Institute for Weight Loss at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center-Old Bridge. The Institute provides weight loss surgery and support for individuals seeking weight loss and have been unable to lose weight through conventional dieting, exercise or weight loss medication. To attend a free seminar, which occurs twice monthly, or to make an appointment with Jennifer for nutrition counseling, call 855-TIME-4-ME.

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