What is carbohydrate counting for diabetes?

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

Carbohydrate counting is used for people with diabetes as a diet management tool. Carbohydrate counting is taking the amount of carbohydrate in foods and using that information to help manage your blood sugar levels. For those on insulin, the amount of carbs will be matched up with the dose of insulin you will inject. For instance, at lunch your prescription is 10 grams of carb per 1 unit of fast acting insulin. This would mean that you would dose 1 unit of insulin for every 10 grams of carbohydrate eaten. Carb counting is often used for people with diabetes who are not on insulin as well. Carb counting is a way to help balance your carbohydrate intake throughout the day. Carbs have a direct relation to blood sugar readings. Check the nutrition facts panel or a carb counting book for the listing of carb content of specific foods. In general, all fruit, starchy vegetables (peas, corn, potato, beans), breads, cereals, grains, milk and yogurt -all contain carbohydrate.

Carbohydrate counting, or "carb counting," is a meal planning technique for managing your blood glucose levels. Foods that contain carbohydrate raise blood glucose. By keeping track of how many carbohydrates you eat and setting a limit for your maximum amount to eat, you can help to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range. Finding the right amount of carbohydrate depends on many things, including how active you are and what, if any, medicines you take.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.