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What does carbohydrate counting involve?

The idea behind carbohydrate counting is to add up the grams of carbohydrates you eat in a meal and adjust the amount of insulin you take to handle the rise in blood glucose following a meal. 
Elizabeth Casparro, MPH,RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Carbohydrate counting involves counting the number of grams of carbohydrates in the foods you eat. All diabetics, regardless if they are using insulin or not, should be aware of the amount of carbohydrates in their meals and snacks. Usually 12-20 grams of carbohydrates counts as 1 serving of carbohydrate. Diabetics can eat anywhere from 2-4 servings per meal and 1-2 servings per snack (depending on blood sugar readings). Foods with carbohydrates include, but are not limited to, fruits, vegetables, grains, and milk. The amount of carbohydrate in each of these foods varies depending on the type and serving size. For example, 1 cup of fresh berries and 1/4 cup of raisins both have about 15 grams of carbohydrates.

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

For those on insulin, the amount of carbs will be matched up with the dose of fast acting insulin you will inject. For instance, at lunch if 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. Using this example, if you would consume a meal that contained 40 grams of carbohydrate, you would inject 4 units of insulin prior to eating.

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. Check with your registered dietitian for your carb counting meal plan and then plug in the servings of carbs to match with your given amount of carbs to consume at meals and or snacks.

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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.