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Benefits of Carb Counting with Diabetes

There’s more to carb counting than meets the eye. Learn the facts so you can do it right.

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If you have diabetes, eating a balanced diet can help keep your blood glucose readings at a healthy level, as well as help improve your cholesterol and blood pressure. But it may not always be easy to know what foods, or how much, you should eat. As part of your meal planning, counting carbs can help.* Carb counting is a technique that helps you choose carbohydrates wisely and set limits on your daily carb intake. 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

Here are steps to help you get started:

  • Plan. 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 regular 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.

*Your doctor may also recommend fat and protein counting, to help you manage diabetes.

By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Contributing Writer

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes–2017. Accessed: February 17, 2017.
American Diabetes Association. Carbohydrate counting. Accessed: February 17, 2017.
Joslin Diabetes Center. Carbohydrate counting 101. Accessed: February 17, 2017.

Last Updated: February 17, 2017