Carb Counting For Flexible Diabetes Meal Planning

African American father and daughter eating breakfast at tableThere is no longer one “right” way for people with diabetes to eat. Instead, the American Diabetes Association suggests people individualize their diets so they can eat what feels right to them and still maintain proper blood glucose, also known as blood sugar control. With meal planning tools like carbohydrate counting, you can do just that.

What Is Carbohydrate Counting?

Carbohydrate counting, also called carb counting, is a meal planning tool that gives you greater flexibility in your meal choices and helps you to understand how food affects your blood glucose level, also called blood sugar. Carbohydrate counting involves keeping track of the amount of carbohydrate in the foods you eat each day.

When you eat carbohydrate-containing foods like bread, grits, peaches, milk or even kale, your body breaks these foods down into sugar—glucose. The glucose then enters into your bloodstream, where it can be used to energize the cells of the body. The more carbohydrate-containing foods you eat at a meal or snack, the higher your blood glucose level will go.

The amount of carbohydrate in foods is measured in grams. To count grams of carbohydrate in foods you eat, you’ll need to know which foods contain carbohydrates, how to estimate the number of grams of carbohydrate in the foods you eat and how to add up the number of grams of carbohydrate from each food you eat to get your total for the day.

It’s reasonable for most adults to consume 45-60 grams of carbohydrate at a meal and eat 15-30 grams of carbohydrate for snacks. Adults on low-calorie diets and adults who are physically inactive may want to aim for the lower end of that range. A registered dietitian nutritionist or diabetes educator can help you develop an individualized healthy eating plan based on carbohydrate counting.