Carb Counting for Diabetes

Friday, November 4, 2022

A diabetes diagnosis often leads to lifestyle changes, including paying closer attention to what you eat. Tracking the carbohydrates (carbs) in foods can help you manage blood sugar levels to help you stay healthy.

Your body uses carbs as fuel. Carbs turn into glucose and affect your blood glucose more than other foods do. That's why carb counting can be an important meal planning tool for managing diabetes, especially if you take insulin at mealtime.

It's important to eat carbs throughout the day because they provide energy and important vitamins, minerals and fiber that you need.

Carb counting 101

Maintaining the right balance between carbs and insulin (whether your body produces it or you take it) helps to regulate your blood glucose level. Determining when and how much you eat should be based on your lifestyle, medications and meal-planning goals.

Foods that contain carbohydrate include:

• Grains, such as bread and pasta.

• Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, peas and beans.

• Fruit and juices.

• Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt.

• Sweets, such as cookies and cake.

For diabetes meal planning, one carb serving is about 15 grams of carbohydrate. The total amount of carbs you can consume to stay within your target blood sugar range depends on your age, weight and exercise level.

Tips for reading food labels:

1 – Find the serving size (remember to always compare the serving size to your actual portion)

2 – Locate the total carbohydrates in 1 serving (sugars are included in this number, so you do not need to count them separately).

3 – Count the grams of total carbohydrates.

Examples of carb amounts in foods (One serving equals 15g carbs):

1 slice of bread

1/3 cup rice or pasta

½ cup potatoes, corn or beans

1 small apple or orange

½ banana

1 cup berries or melon

1 cup milk

6 oz yogurt

Carbs are an important part of a healthy meal plan. Try to get most of your carbs from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat milk and yogurt.

Examples of how to count carbs

One way to count carbs is the insulin-to-carb ratio. You'll count the grams of carbohydrate in the foods you plan to eat. Then you'll determine how much insulin—based on the carb count of that meal—you'll need to take. This method is typically recommended if you take insulin by shots or pump. This can include people with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes.

The Diabetes Plate Method is another way to count carbs. With this method, you'll limit the grams of carbohydrate based on portion sizes. Using a dinner plate, you'll put non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, greens, tomatoes and carrots, on half the plate; meat or another protein on one-fourth of the plate; and a grain or starch, such as corn and peas, on the last fourth.

Team up with experts

Yes, diabetes may bring changes to your lifestyle, but you can do this. Get a jump-start by asking your doctor for help. The doctor may point you to a registered dietitian nutritionist or certified diabetes care and education specialist. Teaming up with an expert can make the process easier and help you figure out the best carb-counting method for you.

Watson Clinic's Endocrinology department can help you manage your diabetes through medication, diet and exercise. Patients also benefit from the expertise and guidance of the Clinic's certified diabetes care and education specialists, who offer individual and group education aimed at helping patients with diabetes live their best life. To schedule an appointment, please contact your doctor’s office for a referral. Call 863-680-7190 to schedule an appointment.


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