How Many Carbs Should A Diabetic Eat Per Day – The Basics of Carb Counting

How Many Carbs Should A Diabetic Eat Per Day – The Basics of Carb Counting

How many carbs should a diabetic eat per day? How many carbs per day for a diabetic?

When you have diabetes (or prediabetes) those are valid questions because of all the foods you consume, carbohydrates have the biggest effect on your blood glucose levels.

That doesn’t mean that all carbohydrates are bad for you, but you do have to pay attention to the quality, kinds and amounts of carbohydrates you eat.

There’s no one answer to the “how many carbs should a person with diabetes eat?” question because everybody is different and has different needs. The best thing you can do is to meet with a dietician, nutritionist or diabetic educator to help develop a personalized healthy eating plan including the amount of carbohydrates you should be eating a day.

Before we discuss counting carbs here’s a little more information for you about carbohydrates.

3 Basic Food Groups

There are 3 basic food groups: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. For healthy balanced nutrition, it’s essential to have at least a little of all 3 food groups in your diet.

Although foods containing carbohydrates (carbs) have the most impact on blood sugar, the total amount of food you eat will also effect your blood sugar levels. If you eat more food than is recommended on your meal plan, your blood sugar will go up too.

  1. Which foods contain carbohydrates?

    The foods that richest in carbohydrates are sugars, starches, grains, fruits, and milk. Vegetables also contain some carbohydrates. Meats and fats contain very little carbohydrates.

  2. Are all carbohydrates the same?

    No, not all carbs are created equal. Carbs from whole foods such vegetables, fruits and whole grains are better choices than those from highly processed foods – such as granola bars, muffins and other products made from white flour. They are more nutritious – with more vitamins, minerals and fiber – and will keep you feeling full longer.

    Choose your carbs carefully. There are 4 carb choices (60 grams of carbs) in a 16-ounce bottle of soda. That’s equal to the amount of carbohydrates you should have in an entire meal!

    Instead of wasting your carbs on foods and drinks that won’t fill you up, choose a colorful vegetable or fruit that will be more satisfying, good for you and keep you feeling full longer.

  3. How do I identify sugar in foods?

    To identify foods containing sugar, read food labels for words ending in -ose (such as glucose, lactose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, sucrose) – all different forms of sugar.

  4. How many grams of carbohydrate in…???

    Below are some examples of carbohydrate grams for some common foods and the grams of carbohydrate they contain:

Food Grams of Carbohydrate
1 cup 1% milk 12 grams
1/2 cup fruit juice 15 grams
1/2 banana 15 grams
1 slice bread 15 grams
1 teaspoon sugar 4 grams
3/4 cup Raisin Bran 28 grams
1/2 cup refried beans 25 grams
1 medium potato 35 grams
1 cup pasta 43 grams

Basics of Counting Carbs

You can achieve better control of your blood glucose keeping track of the amount of carbohydrates in your meal plan.

There are two different ways you can track your carbohydrates:

  1. Keep track of your total grams of carbohydrates.
  2. Keep track of your “carb choices” where each “carbohydrate choice” is a serving of food that contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate.

The following chart is designed to help you convert total grams of carbohydrate to carb choices.

Carb Choices Grams of Carbohydrate
0 0-5 grams
1/2 6-10 grams
1 11-20 grams
1 1/2 21-25 grams
2 26-35 grams
2 1/2 36-40 grams
3 41-50 grams
3 1/2 51-55 grams
4 56-65 grams
4 1/2 66-70 grams
5 71-80 grams

General Guidelines for How Many Carbohydrates You Should Eat Per Day

  • It’s important to keep in mind that everybody is different with varying nutritional needs. The best thing you can do is to meet with a dietician, nutritionist or diabetic educator to help develop a personalized healthy eating plan including the amount of carbohydrates you should be eating a day.
  • Some people are much less able to tolerate carbohydrates and find it necessary to severely restrict their carbs to meet their blood sugar, health and weight loss goals.
  • The only way you can tell if you are eating the right amount is to measure your foods carefully. Also, it’s important to space your carbohydrates out throughout the day to avoid sugar “overload.” Measuring your blood sugar regularly also provides important feedback on how high your sugar went based on what you ate and your level of activity.

General Recommended Ranges of Carbohydrates to Eat Per Meal and Per Day

A woman who wants to lose weight should generally limit her carbs to 30 – 55 g carbs or 2 – 3.5 carb choices per meal for a total of 100 – 150 g carbs or 6 – 10 carb choices a day.

A man who wants to lose weight should generally limit his carbs to 50 – 65 g carbs or 3-4 carb choices per meal for a total of 150 – 195 g carbs or 9 to 12 carb choices a day.

Once your wanting to maintain your weight, or you are extremely active you may be able to increase your carb allowances a little beyond these recommendations.

Links:

Carb Counting – The American Diabetic Association
Carb Counting 101 – Joslin Diabetes Center

Control Sugar with a High Fiber Diabetic Diet
7 Strategies for Preventing and Reversing Diabetes
Eating Nuts Lowers Blood Sugar and Cholesterol in People with Diabetes