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Diabetes And Carb Counting For Dummies

Acknowledging That Staying Healthy Isnt Just About Carbs

Carbohydrate Counting for Diabetes : The Basics | She’s Diabetic

Diabetes requires that you control carbohydrates, but that isnt the whole story. Keeping healthy means eating smart for your weight and heart learning to identify the perfect proteins and the heart-healthiest fats and oils and putting together balanced meals . A balanced diet not only assures nutritional needs are met, but blood glucose is also easier to control when meals have appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

remember Physical fitness plays an essential role in overall health. While exercise is encouraged for everyone, there are diabetes-related considerations and safety tips to be aware of .

How Do I Understand More About Carbohydrate Counting

The best way to learn carbohydrate counting is to take part in a carbohydrate counting course.

If you are on insulin, would like to go on a carbohydrate counting course and have not been on one of these courses in recent years, your GP, diabetes consultant or diabetes specialist nurse can refer you onto one of these courses.

Examples of nationwide carbohydrate counting courses include:

Your diabetes health team should also be able to arrange one-to-one guidance on carbohydrate counting if you need help at any time.

The Low Carb Program is an online education program that is used in the NHS to support people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes control and potentially reverse their condition through a low carbohydrate diet.

Noting The Nutrition In Carb Food Groups

Carbohydrates are found in many healthy, nutrient-packed foods, including grains, legumes, whole-grain breads, starches, milk, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables. Beware of sweets and desserts, though. They are usually high in sugar and dont offer much in terms of nutrition. Desserts and processed snack foods can contribute to weight gain and health problems if eaten in excess. Chapter 13 shows best-bet options in all food groups and even helps you figure out how to have a little dessert when you have diabetes the key is moderation.

remember The term carb encompasses many foods, and not all carb foods are alike. Healthy carbs shouldnt be condemned like junk-food carbs. Guilt by association isnt fair. Give carbs a break and enjoy wholesome carb-containing foods in appropriate portions. Chapter 5 reviews carb-intake targets and reflects on established dietary guidelines.

Fruit is packed with nutrition, but you cant ignore that its a simple sugar and that too much of a good thing isnt good anymore. Fruits should be enjoyed in smaller serving sizes and one portion at a time. Chapter 11 specifically addresses fruit juice and sugary soft drinks and makes a convincing case against consuming your carbs in liquid form.

remember While focusing on carbohydrate is important, dont lose track of the overall quality of your diet. Learn to make choices that are good for your heart, weight, and health. Check out Chapter 13 for more information about eating for health and happiness.

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Making The Case For Carb Counting: To Count Or Not To Count

Whether you loosely manage your carbs or strictly count them depends on your situation. Carb counting is the gold standard if you have type 1 diabetes, but people with type 2 diabetes also stand to benefit from knowing how to count carbs. Establishing carb budgets and adhering to those budgets is one method of managing blood-glucose levels while simultaneously controlling calories and managing weight.

Getting Started With Carb Counting

Tracking Carbs through the Body

Carb counting may help many people with diabetes to maintain steady blood sugar levels. However, it is only one way to manage diabetes.

Before trying carb counting, people should always speak with a nutritionist, diabetes educator, or doctor to determine:

  • whether carb counting is appropriate
  • the recommended daily allowance for carbohydrates
  • which foods they recommend

Different people will require different amounts of carbohydrates depending on the type and severity of diabetes they have.

Speak to your doctor about the ideal calorie and carbohydrate intake.

Also Check: Slow Carb Diet Meal Plan

Catching Up On Complex Carbs

Consider again the Lego analogy introduced in the preceding section. If you connect many Lego pieces together, you can build complicated structures. The same thing is true of starches starches are complex carbs that are made out of many sugar molecules. Fiber is also considered a complex carb, but it doesnt digest. Chapters 3 and 16 fill you in further on fiber facts.

Carb Counting And Diabetes

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are naturally found in certain foods. For example, grains, sweets, starches, legumes and dairy all contain different amounts of carbs. Get up to speed on the three types of carbs, and what foods have them.

When foods and drinks with carbs are digested, the carbs break down into glucose to fuel our cells, and the body’s blood glucose, or blood sugar, level rises. In people without diabetes, blood sugar levels rise after eating but the body’s insulin response keeps levels from rising too high.

If you have diabetes, the process doesn’t work as designed. How carb counting can help your blood glucose control depends on your treatment regimen and whether or not your body makes insulin.

  • Type 1: If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas no longer makes insulin, so you need to take background insulin as well as offset the carbs in your food with mealtime insulin doses. To do this, you have to know exactly how many carbohydrate grams are in your mealcue carb counting!
  • Type 2: Because people with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin and may not produce enough of it, its important that you be mindful of your carb intake. To avoid blood sugar spikes, it helps to eat a consistent amount of carbs at meals throughout the day, rather than all at once. People taking oral medications may use a more basic form of carb counting than those on insulin.

Read Also: Easy 1200 Calorie Meal Plan

Coffee And Tea In Moderation

There is a debate about coffee intake for people with diabetes.

In 2004, scientists who carried out a review concluded that coffee consumption may have undesired short-term effects, yet long-term coffee drinking shows some benefits.

However, in 2017, other researchers concluded that âfive of the seven studies suggest caffeine intake increases blood glucose levels and prolongs the period of high blood glucose levels.â

Further research is needed to find out exactly how caffeine affects blood sugar levels.

In addition, barista coffees might also contain flavored creamers and syrups that contain high levels of sugar.

What Is Carb Counting

Diabetic Carb Counting Tutorial

Your body needs nutrients to function properly. The nutrients it requires in large quantities are called macronutrients, and the nutrients it requires in small quantities are called micronutrients.

There are three types of macronutrients: carbs, proteins, and fats. Carbs give you energy and fuel your brain. Protein keeps your tissues and cells healthy. Fat protects your vital organs and also provides energy.

Carbs, by far, have the greatest impact on BG. Carb counting is a way to make sure your body is getting enough carbs to fuel your daily activities without making your BG climb into an unhealthy range.

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Getting Up To Speed On Diabetes Basics

Diabetes is a condition of abnormal blood-glucose regulation. Lack of insulin or ineffective insulin both lead to elevated blood-glucose levels and a diagnosis of diabetes.

Diabetes and diet are intimately intertwined. Its impossible to talk about managing diabetes without discussing food in great detail. Blood-glucose levels are influenced by what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat. The goal is to eat healthy foods, properly portioned, at appropriate times. The following sections introduce the basics of managing diabetes.

Things To Look Out For

Many drinks contain high levels of sugars and carbohydrates. Food labels and nutritional facts can give valuable information about what they contain. Labels should state the serving size and carbohydrate content of any drink.

People with diabetes have different needs, so there are no exact dietary rules, but the following tips may help manage blood sugar:

  • Consume a balanced diet and manage the intake of carbohydrate from food and drinks.
  • Keep carbohydrate levels consistent from day to day and spread evenly throughout.
  • Consume enough carbohydrate to enable the body and brain to function properly.
  • Check blood sugar levels regularly and speak to a doctor if there are any concerns.
  • Each person should speak to their healthcare provider about their daily nutritional needs.

The following drinks are not good choices for people with diabetes.

Also Check: How Many Carbs Are In Dark Chocolate

To Best Control Your Blood Sugar:

  • Eat three meals a day, roughly 46 hours apart.
  • Do not skip meals.
  • Try to consistently eat the same amount of carbohydrate at each meal.

Counting calories might be something youve already done at one time or another in your life. Counting carbohydrates may be something new to you. So why is counting carbohydrates so important when you have diabetes?

Staying Up To Date With Advances In Diabetes Care

Keeping the Beat with a Healthy Heart

Diabetes specialists stay up to date on the latest advancements in the field of diabetes. Capitalize on their knowledge stay up to date with your medical appointments and healthcare screenings. Having a few reputable diabetes management books on your home bookshelf is also helpful. Read and reread the sections most pertinent to you.

tip Keep in mind that not everything you read online is factual. Chapter 25 links you to reputable websites for gathering sound information.

Read Also: What Are Good Carbs For Weight Loss

Soda And Energy Drinks

Sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome. Excess weight is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, and both obesity and diabetes are features of metabolic syndrome.

For people who already have diabetes, this type of drink provides large amounts of sugar and requires little digestion. In addition, these drinks are not filling as they contain only simple carbs and no fiber. This means that a person can easily drink a lot of them.

Drinking sodas without healthful food can lead to large spikes in blood sugar levels.

It is best to avoid or limit the intake of soda and sugar-sweetened energy drinks, to reduce the chance of a sugar spike.

Foods With High Carbohydrate Content

Foods that contain carbohydrates include the following:

  • Grains: Bread, pasta, oatmeal, certain types of noodle, crackers, cereals, rice, and quinoa.
  • Fruits: Apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, melons, oranges, and grapefruits
  • Dairy: Milk and yogurt
  • Legumes: Beans, including the dried variety, lentils, and peas.
  • Snacks: Cakes, cookies, candy, and other sweet dessert-type foods are nutritionally weak sources of carbohydrates.
  • Drinks: Juices, soft drinks, sports drinks, and sugary energy drinks
  • Vegetables: Some vegetables contain more carbohydrates than others.

Choosing carbohydrates carefully and being mindful of when and how much they eat means that a person with diabetes need not give up eating their favorite foods altogether.

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Counting Carbs With Type 1 Diabetes: An Essential Tool

When you count carbs accurately, you know exactly how much glucose is going to end up in your bloodstream. Insulin doses can be adjusted to cover that amount of carb. People with type 1 diabetes dont make any of their own insulin. If insulin doses are based on carbohydrate intakes, counting carbs as precisely as possible is really important. It takes a little extra time initially, but with experience it gets easier and quicker. Label reading and carb-counting fundamentals are covered in Chapters 7 and 8. See Chapter 9 to add Internet tools to your carb-counting tool chest. For a deeper understanding of the dietary variables that affect blood-glucose readings, check out Chapter 10, and to find out how to line up insulin timing with digestion timing, see Chapter 6.

Plate Method And Counting Carbs

Webinar: Carb counting made easy

The CDC suggest a person use either the plate method or counting carb dietary plans.

The plate method visually breaks the plate down into portions to help guide how many carbs, protein, and non-starchy vegetables a person should eat during a meal.

Counting carbs involves adding up how many carbs a person eats during a meal and day in an effort to limit the total carbs consumed.

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A Beginners Guide To Carb Counting

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Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN

Medically Reviewed




Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN

Medically Reviewed



When it comes to successfully managing diabetes, controlling your carbohydrate intake is crucial. Studies have shown that monitoring carb intake leads to better blood glucose numbers and may improve your health in other ways too.

One technique for managing carbs is carb counting.

How To Count Carbs

Carbohydrates can be counted in two ways, in grams or as carbohydrate portions . One CP is usually equal to 10g of carbohydrate. So find the method that you can understand and that works better for you.

Once youve got to grips with estimating the amount of carbohydrate you are going to eat and drink, you’ll need to know your insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio.

Insulin-to-carbohydrate ratios are different from person to person, so you will have your own personal ratio depending on your age, weight, activity levels and how sensitive you are to insulin.

Your diabetes healthcare team will help you work this out and, eventually, you might even have a different insulin-to-carb ratio for each meal. They will usually estimate your starting insulin-to-carb ratio and then fine-tune this based on your blood sugar control.

If you know how many grams of carbohydrate are in a meal and your insulin-to-carb ratio then you can work out the number of units of bolus insulin you need to take for the meal. So if your meal had 70g of carbohydrate and your insulin to carbohydrate ratio was 1 unit of bolus insulin for every 10g carbohydrate, then you’d need to take 7 units of bolus insulin.

The amount you actually take will also depend on other factors such as your blood sugar level, illness or planned activity.

There are five ways you can count carbohydrate in food and drink.

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How Are Carbs Measured

Carbs are measured in grams. On packaged foods, you can find total carb grams on the Nutrition Facts label. You can also check this list or use a carb-counting app to find grams of carbs in foods and drinks.

For diabetes meal planning, 1 carb serving is about 15 grams of carbs. This isnt always the same as what you think of as a serving of food. For example, most people would count a small baked potato as 1 serving. However, at about 30 grams of carbs, it counts as 2 carb servings.

Try to eat about the same amount of carbs at each meal to keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day .

This sample menu has about 1,800 calories, 200 grams of carbs, and about 13 carb servings.

Breakfast½ cup rolled oats 1 cup low-fat milk 2/3 medium banana ¼ cup chopped walnuts Total carbs: 65 grams, about 4 carb servings

Lunch2 slices whole wheat bread 4 oz. low-sodium turkey meat 1 slice low-fat Swiss cheese ½ large tomato 1 TBS yellow mustard ¼ cup shredded lettuce 8 baby carrots 6 oz. plain fat-free Greek yogurt ¾ cup blueberries Total carbs: 59 grams, about 4 carb servings

Dinner6 ounces baked chicken breast 1 cup brown rice 1 cup steamed broccoli 2 TBS margarine Total carbs: 57 grams, about 4 carb servings

Snack1 low-fat string cheese stick 2 tangerines Total carbs: 19 grams, about 1 carb serving

Managing Weight With Carb Counting And Portion Precision

First Things First: Reading and Deciphering Food Labels

Counting carbs and eating appropriate amounts at meals and snacks helps with weight control. When you adhere to budgeted amounts of carbs at mealtimes and snacks, you are automatically putting a cap on portion sizes for fruit, bread, grains, starches, cereals, milk, yogurt, sweets, and many other items. Controlling carb portions helps with blood-glucose control and weight management. Here are some pointers:

Use the Exchange Lists in Appendix A to choose lean proteins and limit mealtime protein portions to the size of the palm of your hand.

Choose lower-fat cooking methods and limit added fats.

Eat plenty of vegetables and salads.

remember The benefits are cumulative. Controlling portions helps with weight loss losing weight improves insulin action better-working insulin improves blood-glucose control and controlling diabetes and weight lowers your risk of heart disease! For more tips on eating smart for your weight and heart, see Chapter 16.

Also Check: Whats The Difference Between Net Carbs And Carbs

Exploring The Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is a tool to measure how individual foods are expected to impact blood-glucose levels. The basic concept may be used in addition to carb counting and other carb management strategies. Its true that not all carb foods affect blood glucose in the same manner, which is why pizza isnt used to treat hypoglycemia. Liquids move through the stomach quickly, so the sugars in juice and soda show up in the bloodstream in a matter of minutes. Thats just what you need if youre trying to treat hypoglycemia. Juice isnt what you need if blood-glucose levels are already running high.

Instead of deferring to a chart to choose from low, medium, or high GI foods, it pays to get to the bottom of why foods behave the way they do . With a solid grasp of the concepts, you can make food choices work in your favor. For example, whole grains and legumes have fiber and a lower glycemic index than white refined grains and breads. Meals that contain fiber and balanced amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat produce a blunter blood-glucose rise and more stability in blood-glucose levels.

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