Healthy Carbohydrates for Diabetes Adapted for South Asian Diets

Choosing Carbohydrates Wisely

A healthy diet for diabetes includes the right balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Since glucose (sugar) comes mainly from carbohydrate in foods, it's important to learn which foods contain carbohydrate and what amount you should eat at each meal and snack. Having too much carbohydrate at one time can cause your blood glucose to go too high. Not having enough can cause you to have low energy and possibly low blood glucose levels. To find out the amount of carbohydrate that's right for you, ask your health care provider for a referral to your local Diabetes Health Centre to meet with a dietitian. In the meantime, most people find the following amounts a safe place to start:

Men: 60-75 g carbohydrate per meal and 15-30 g carbohydrate per snack.

Women: 45-60 g carbohydrate per meal and 15-30 g carbohydrate per snack.

Based on the carbohydrate amounts listed above, use Table 1 to help you pick the foods you enjoy. Each serving listed has 15 grams of carbohydrate. Therefore, if you are aiming for 60 grams of carbohydrate at a meal, you can choose four servings of foods with carbohydrate. Try to pick a variety of foods rather than four servings of one food.

Table 1: Foods that have carbohydrates and will have an effect on your blood glucose.

Food Groups One Serving (15 g carbohydrates)

* Dried beans, peas and lentils officially belong with "Meat and Alternatives" but are listed here to show that they also contain carbohydrate.

1 6" roti (made from 1/5 cup of whole wheat flour)

¼ 12" naan bread

½ of 6" makki ki roti (corn roti)

75 mL (1/3 cup) cooked rice (choose brown or wild rice)

125 mL (½ cup) cereal (choose ones with at least 4 grams of fibre per serving)

125 mL (½ cup) cooked daal or beans such as cholay, rajmah*

125 mL (½ cup) cooked pasta (choose whole wheat)

1/12 of a 12" pizza (make crust at home using whole wheat flour)

½ small muffin (homemade with bran added)

¾ cup dahlia (oatmeal)

1/3 cup suji (cream of wheat)

1 ¾ Tbsp uncooked sabudana (tapioca grains)

750 mL (3 cups) popcorn (air popped, low fat)

3 arrowroot or gingersnap cookies

¼ large or ½ small bagel


½ medium potato (mashed, boiled or baked)

125 mL (½ cup) corn

75 mL (1/3 cup) sweet potato

250 mL (1 cup) parsnips, winter squash (acorn, butternut) or peas

250 mL (1 cup) stewed tomatoes, canned


1 medium apple, orange or pear

125 mL (½ cup) unsweetened applesauce

1 small banana

500 mL (2 cups) blackberries or strawberries

250 mL (1 cup) blueberries

15 cherries or grapes

2 medium kiwifruit

60 mL (¼ cup) mixed dried fruit

½ medium mango

250 mL (1 cup) melon

1 large peach

175 mL (¾ cup) pineapple

2 medium plums

125 mL (½ cup) canned fruit (in juice, not syrup)

10 lychees

2 medium guava

½ medium pomegranate

1 cup (cubes) papaya

Milk and Alternatives

250 mL (1 cup) low fat milk, lactose-reduced milk or plain soy beverage

125 mL (½ cup) 1% M.F. chocolate milk or flavoured soy beverage

125 mL (½ cup) non-fat evaporated canned milk

60 mL (4 Tbsp) skim milk powder

175 mL (¾ cup) plain low fat yogurt

75 mL (1/3 cup) sugar or honey-sweetened yogurt or soy yogurt250 mL (1 cup) artificially sweetened yogurt

Many healthy foods contain little or no carbohydrate. These foods can be added to your meals and snacks to help fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied. They will also help to keep your blood sugar stable. Use Table 2 to pick foods you enjoy to add to the carbohydrate choices you made above.

Table 2: Foods that have little or no carbohydrate and will have little effect on your blood glucose.

These foods will have a minimal effect on your blood glucose.

Food Groups One Serving (15 g carbohydrates)

The following vegetables can be used as desired:


Beans, yellow or green

Bean sprouts


Bitter Melon

















Meat and Alternatives

Choose 2-3 servings per day:

75 g (2 ½ oz) cooked lean meat or poultry

75 g (2 ½ oz) or 1/2 cup cooked or canned fish or shellfish

75 g (2 ½ oz) soy vegetarian meat alternatives

50 g (1 oz) cheese (less than 20% M.F.)

60 mL (¼ cup) cottage cheese (1% M.F.)

2 eggs

30 mL (2 Tbsp) all-natural peanut/nut butter

60 mL (¼ cup) nuts or seeds

150 g (¾ cup) tofu, firm/regular

175 mL (¾ cup) cooked dahl, or cooked dried peas, lentils or beans

75 mL (1/3 cup) hummus

Note: Meats, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, and vegetarian meat alternatives made from soy contain very little or no carbohydrate. Eating these foods is not likely to affect your blood glucose. However, for other health reasons, it's important not to eat too few or too many servings.

However, as listed in "Grains," dried beans, peas, lentils have carbohydrates, so eating these foods can affect your blood glucose.


Limit to 2-3 servings per day:

1/6 avocado

15 mL (1 Tbsp) margarine (non-hydrogenated)

15 mL (1 Tbsp) oil (canola, olive, peanut are good choices)

15 mL (1 Tbsp) mayonnaise (light)

Additional Resources

Dietitian Services Fact Sheets available by mail (call 8-1-1) or online:

Canadian Diabetes Association

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide

Last updated: February 2016

These resources are provided as sources of additional information believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of publication and should not be considered an endorsement of any information, service, product or company.

Distributed by:

Dietitian Services at HealthLinkBC (formerly Dial-A-Dietitian), providing free nutrition information and resources for BC residents and health professionals. Go to Healthy Eating or call 8-1-1 (anywhere in BC). Interpreters are available in over 130 languages.

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