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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Chow Line: Portion control can help with diabetes (for week of 2/8/09)

January 29, 2009

My wife was just diagnosed with diabetes. I do most of the cooking at our house -- what can I do differently in the kitchen to help?

Diabetes is a serious condition, but it can be controlled with diet, exercise and medication. Many books have been written to assist people with diabetes -- and no wonder, there's a big market for them. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes -- nearly 8 percent of the population. About one-quarter of those remain undiagnosed.

You can help your wife in many ways. Physical activity helps control blood sugar, so you can start an exercise program with her. (Be sure to consult with her doctor to make sure you do so safely.) Stress and illness can also affect blood sugar, so be sure your wife keeps checking glucose levels during those times, and ask her doctor for guidance on making any adjustments in medication.

As for meal planning, now is the time to consult with a dietitian if possible. Having a professional guide you through the process would be a great help for both you and your wife. In the meantime, the American Diabetes Association offers some great guidance:

  • Count carbs. Carbohydrates are what raise blood sugar levels. While the right amount of carbohydrates varies with the individual, the ADA suggests starting with a limit of 45-60 grams of carbohydrate per meal -- that's important information for you as you plan your family's meals. Foods containing about 45 grams of carbohydrates include a cup of pasta or rice; a medium baked potato; or a cup of black beans or corn. Other starchy vegetables, as well as non-starchy foods, including fruit, sauces and yogurt, also often contain carbs. Check Nutrition Facts labels or consult a reference book or an online nutrient database for that information. And measure your foods to make sure your portion sizes aren't too big.
  • Use the "Create a Plate" method to focus meals more on vegetables and keep carb and protein portions limited to healthful levels. Just draw an imaginary line vertically down the middle of your plate. Then, on one side, draw a horizontal line to cut that section in half again. Fill up the big section with non-starchy vegetables -- salad, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, carrots, for example. On the other side, fill one of the smaller sections with a healthful protein -- lean poultry, beef or pork, eggs, fish or seafood, tofu or low-fat cheese. The other small section is for a starchy food -- potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, peas, corn, or bread. When possible, choose whole-grain options (whole wheat bread or pasta, brown rice).

For more guidance, see the ADA Web site, and click on the "Nutrition" tab.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Julie Shertzer, registered dietitian and program specialist for Ohio State University Extension in the Department of Human Nutrition, in the College of Education and Human Ecology.


Martha Filipic
Julie Shertzer