Counting Carbs with Diabetes: What You Need to Know
There's more to carb counting than meets the eye. Learn the facts so you can do it right.

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Counting Carbs with Diabetes: What You Need to Know

The American Diabetes Association first introduced "carbohydrate counting" as a way to control blood sugars in people with diabetes. Compared to protein and fat, carbs have the most impact on blood glucose, so they must be monitored carefully.

The benefits of carb counting
Counting your carbs gives you more control over your glucose readings, so they stay at a healthy level. It also gives you some flexibility, so you can eat a wider variety of foods.

Keep in mind that the amount of carbs you can eat depends on how you manage your diabetes, how active you are and what medications you take. So always talk to your doctor about the amount of carbs that are right for you.

How to count carbs
There are some basic ways to start counting. Here are steps to help you get started:

  • Plan. First have a meal plan. This plan can help you define the amount of carbs, protein and fat in your daily diet. Breaking out your allotted carbs for each meal can help you more easily stay within your limits. If you don't have a plan, ask your doctor or talk with a dietitian.
  • Learn. Know how to read the Nutrition Facts label on food packages. Look at serving size, grams of carbohydrates, calories, sodium, saturated fats and trans fats. And learn what types of foods contain carbs. Here are some foods that contain higher carbs:
    • Rice, cereal, bread
    • Vegetables with starch, like corn and potatoes
    • Yogurt and milk
    • Juices and sugary foods
    • Snack foods like candy, cookies and soda
    • Alcoholic beverages
  • Measure. A food scale and set of measuring cups can help you measure portion sizes of foods you eat. These tools can help you more accurately manage the amount of carbohydrates in your diet.

The bottom line
Monitoring your daily carb intake can help you stay healthy with diabetes. The more you understand, the better you can control the amount of carbs you eat - and maintain healthy blood glucose levels.

By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Contributing Writer
Created on 03/13/2008
Updated on 01/16/2013
Sources:
  • Joslin Diabetes Center. Carbohydrate counting 101.
  • American Diabetes Association. Carbohydrate counting.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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