For people with diabetes and celiac disease, starting a gluten-free diet requires learning the carbohydrate content of new, gluten-free foods, so they can be introduced into a meal plan or so that insulin doses can be adjusted accordingly. (Click here for information about the carbohydrate content of various gluten-free foods.) In basic carbohydrate counting, one serving of carbohydrate is 15 grams of carbohydrate. For those who adjust their insulin doses based on the amount of carbohydrate they eat, it is important to know exactly how many grams of carbohydrate are in a serving of food. A registered dietitian can help you figure this out and make adjustments to your meal plan or insulin regime.
Nutrition software programs can also help you analyze foods and recipes for carbohydrate content per serving. The United States Department of Agriculture Web site is a good source of nutrition information. There are also books on carbohydrate counting that may be helpful. Don’t forget to check the serving size on food labels and to assess how many servings you are actually eating. Since fiber is not digested or absorbed, you can subtract the grams of fiber from the total carbohydrate on the label if there are more than 5 grams of fiber per serving. When substituting new, gluten-free ingredients into your favorite recipes, add up the carbohydrate grams in each ingredient and divide by the number of servings the recipe yields. Write this information on your recipe cards so you will only have to do these calculations once.
Straying from a gluten-free diet — even just a little bit — can trigger the immune system reaction that damages your intestines, whether or not you experience symptoms. Just as adjusting to diabetes requires changing eating patterns and lifestyle habits, learning to prepare and enjoy gluten-free foods — and avoid gluten — can be a challenge at first, but it doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of tasteless meals. The variety and availability of gluten-free foods is greater now than ever before, and food manufacturers and even restaurants are becoming increasingly sensitive to the needs of people with food intolerances. Moreover, omitting gluten may introduce you to a rich variety of “alternative” grains, nuts, and seeds that are not only flavorful, but also rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. In the end, better health, higher energy, and improved blood glucose control are worth the effort of adjusting to your new meal plan.