Carb Counting for Higher Diabetes Management

Carb counting is the golden commonplace in the case of maximizing glycemic management whereas increasing meals decisions.

Positive, you may get away with a preset insulin dose or arbitrarily guessing how a lot insulin to take on your standard meals and snacks, however carb counting permits for a a lot greater stage of finesse when you find yourself making an attempt various quantities of carbs and totally different meals outdoors your standard consolation zone.

Carb Counting for Higher Diabetes Management

Should you take pleasure in consuming the identical meals all day, each day, then not figuring out the way to carb rely isn’t an enormous deal. However the majority of individuals (with or with out diabetes) take pleasure in venturing outdoors the day by day same-ole routine, making an attempt new experiences, and residing life! 

With diabetes, making an attempt a brand new meals can change into a frightening occasion since you are uncertain of the way it will have an effect on your blood sugar. Studying to carb rely could be releasing as a result of it permits stability throughout instances of uncertainty. 

On this article, I’ll cowl the way to carb rely, the out there instruments and apps that may enable you to, the way to “guestimate” carbs when you find yourself consuming out, and the way to account for protein and fats earlier than calculating your insulin doses.

The right way to carb rely

Carb counting can appear overwhelming at first, however the fundamental idea just isn’t troublesome and entry to trendy apps and different instruments has made it even simpler.

Step 1: Determine the overall quantity of carbs 

The diet label is a good device to simply discover not solely the overall variety of carbohydrates in every serving, but additionally the sort of carbohydrates, reminiscent of sugar and dietary fiber.

To determine what number of carbohydrates are in a meals with a diet label, you first have to establish the serving dimension. The energy and nutrient quantities proven on a label discuss with this single serving dimension. 

It’s necessary to establish the serving dimension as a result of the quantity that fills you up could also be considerably bigger than the prescribed serving dimension listed on the label. 

So as to add up the carbs when you could have entry to a diet label, use the next:

  1. Determine the serving dimension
  2. Search for the overall carbohydrates
  3. Multiply the overall carbs by the variety of servings you’ll eat

Should you don’t have entry to a diet label (for contemporary produce for instance), you should utilize an inventory of frequent meals and their carbohydrate content material or one of many many out there meals monitoring apps. We are going to get again to that later on this submit.   

Step 2:  Subtract for fiber and sugar alcohols

Man-made fiber and sugar alcohols are frequent substances discovered in lots of protein bars, shakes, and different varied “low carb” merchandise. 

Merely put, dietary fiber refers back to the vitamins within the food plan that your gastrointestinal enzymes can’t digest. Should you can’t digest a nutrient, the nutrient can’t increase your blood sugar, due to this fact you would not have to take insulin if you eat that mentioned nutrient (fiber).

You due to this fact have to subtract fiber from the overall carbohydrate rely to calculate the overall variety of carbs that do increase blood sugar. This course of is called calculating the “web carbs” of a meals.

The components for web carbs is to subtract the fiber (and half of any sugar alcohols if current) to get the overall web carbs that increase blood sugar and thus require insulin.

The explanation sugar alcohols have to be divided by half earlier than being subtracted is because of sugar alcohols being solely partially digested. With partial digestion, your blood sugar will nonetheless rise, however to not the identical diploma as common sugar.

As a rule of thumb, in case your meals serving accommodates lower than 5 grams of fiber, my recommendation is to not fear about subtracting. In case your meals accommodates sugar alcohol, I really useful dividing that complete quantity by two and subtracting from the overall carbohydrates. If the meals has a considerable quantity of fiber and sugar alcohols, you should utilize the next components.

Web carbs = Whole carbohydrates – fiber (if higher than 5 grams) – (sugar alcohols / 2)

Be aware: There are a lot of totally different opinions on how a lot fiber to subtract to seek out the online carbs. Some individuals solely subtract 50% of fibers and even much less. You’ll have to perform a little trial and error to seek out the quantity that’s best for you.

The right way to account for protein and fats

Whenever you eat carbs, they’re absorbed and quickly enhance the quantity of glucose in your blood.

Whenever you eat protein, you’ll possible expertise a delayed, but extra extended enhance in blood sugar because of the conversion of amino acids to glucose by way of gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is the formation of glucose throughout the physique from substances apart from carbohydrates, reminiscent of amino acids from proteins, glycerol from fat, or lactate produced by muscle throughout anaerobic train [1].

Considerably much like protein, dietary fats ends in a delayed rise in blood glucose resulting from an impression on mobile responses that causes elevated insulin resistance [2]. Consuming fats can even delay the speed of abdomen emptying which additionally provides to the extended postprandial (after meal) spike in blood glucose ranges [3].

When mixed with carbs, protein and fats sometimes soften the blood sugar rise, however then lengthen the postprandial spike and enhance total insulin resistance (AKA make your correction issue not work as properly).

On common, somebody with diabetes will possible want to extend their insulin dose with an extra 30% for a meal that’s excessive in protein and an extra 60% for a meal that’s excessive in protein and fats [4]. Nonetheless, the precise dose must be tailor-made to the quantity and methodology that works finest for you.

The takeaway right here is that whereas carbohydrates are the principle macro that raises your blood sugar, you have to take into account how protein and fats not solely additionally increase your blood sugar, however trigger a chronic spike, and enhance insulin resistance anyplace between 3-8 hours after a meal.

The decrease the quantity of carbs in your food plan, the upper the fats and protein quantity, the extra you will notice extended postprandial spikes and elevated insulin resistance. This isn’t essentially a nasty factor, however a pattern try to be conscious of so you can also make the mandatory changes for higher blood sugar management. 

The Diabetic Exchanges (listing of frequent meals)

The Diabetic Change Listing was created to simplify carb counting. A diabetic alternate is the serving dimension of a starchy meals that constitutes about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Beneath is an inventory of frequent diabetic exchanges. To entry the total listing, click on right here. 

Don’t really feel that you have to memorize each diabetic alternate. Print off the listing, spotlight the meals you want and eat most continuously, then put the listing the place you will notice and may overview usually. 

Diabetic Change Listing for Frequent Carbohydrate Sources

1 serving equals about 15 grams of carbohydrates


  • 1 slice bread (1 ounce) 
  • 1 tortilla (6-inch dimension) 
  • ¼ giant bagel (1 ounce) 
  • 2 taco shells (5-inch dimension) 
  • ½ hamburger or hotdog bun (1 ounce) 
  • ¾ cup ready-to-eat cereal 
  • ½ cup oatmeal (cooked)
  • 1 cup broth-based soup 
  • 4-6 small crackers 
  • ⅓ cup pasta or rice (cooked) 
  • ½ cup starchy greens (reminiscent of peas, corn, potatoes, and winter squash), beans, or legumes (cooked)
  • ¾ ounce pretzels, potato chips, or tortilla chips 
  • 3 cups popcorn (popped) 


  • 1 small contemporary fruit (4 ounces) 
  • ½ cup canned fruit 
  • ¼ cup dried fruit (2 tablespoons) 
  • 17 small grapes (3 ounces) 
  • 1 cup melon or berries 
  • 2 tablespoons raisins or dried cranberries
  • ½ cup fruit juice 


  • 1 cup fat-free or reduced-fat milk 
  • 1 cup soy milk 
  • 2-inch sq. cake (unfrosted) 
  • 2 small cookies (⅔ ounce) 
  • ½ cup ice cream or frozen yogurt 
  • ¼ cup sherbet or sorbet 
  • 1 tablespoon syrup, jam, jelly, desk sugar, or honey 

Carb counting apps

There’s an ever-growing variety of cell apps that may enable you to rely carbs. A few of them are simply meals databases whereas others are extra interactive food plan monitoring techniques. Listed below are 4 of a number of the hottest carb counting apps:

Whereas these apps are typically correct, a few of them settle for user-generated information of their databases, which can not at all times be dependable (e.g. individuals can enter the nutrient information for his or her favourite restaurant meals themselves).

At all times use frequent sense when wanting on the carb counts and decide if the numbers appear proper earlier than dosing your insulin. 

Studying the artwork of guesstimating

In right this moment’s world, we now have quick access to the carb counts of our favourite meals utilizing our smartphones. The problem nonetheless is after we are consuming at a good friend’s home or some hole-in-the-wall restaurant.

No worries although, by memorizing your favourite diabetic meals exchanges, the subsequent step is to study a pair measuring tips so you’ll be able to guesstimate the overall carb quantity of your meal.

Guesstimating = Guess + Estimating 

The key to studying the way to measure in unknown conditions is to make use of your hand to dimension up your meals. Typically talking, a regular-sized hand is equal to the next . . .

  • Clenched fist = 1 cup. 
  • Thumb (base to tip) = 1 tbsp
  • Thumb tip = 1 tsp
  • Handful = 1 oz 

In fact, hand sizes fluctuate so to make this trick work, you should definitely evaluate your fist to an precise measuring cup earlier than utilizing your hand as a measuring machine. Studying to dimension up your meals will take follow, and maybe even a little bit of bodily evaluating your clenched fist to a mound of rice or pasta at dinner.

By figuring out your favourite diabetic exchanges and with the ability to eyeball your portion sizes, the subsequent step is so as to add all the pieces as much as estimate your complete carb rely.

For instance, let’s say you ate the next:

  • 1 cup of rice (or about 1 clenched fist)
  • 3 oz rooster coated in teriyaki sauce
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli
  • 1 fortune cookie 

Let’s break it down

  • ⅓ cup of rice = 15 grams [15 x 3 servings (3 servings per cup)] = 45 grams
  • 3 oz rooster = ~0 grams
  • Teriyaki sauce = ~10 grams (guestimating right here)
  • 1 fortune cookie = ~7 grams (you seemed it up in your cellphone)

45 grams + 10 grams + 7 grams = ~62 grams of carbohydrates. 

You’d then both enter the overall grams into your insulin pump or divide into your carb ratio calculated for you by your supplier or diabetes educator. 

Rely the carbs that matter to YOU 

On this article, we now have coated recommendations on counting all carbs, however, you do not want to know the carb counts for each piece of meals on your complete planet, simply the meals YOU like. If you consider it, we frequently persist with the identical 20 meals or much less, which makes carb counting rather more possible. 

A straightforward solution to study the carb counts of your standard meals is to make use of google docs or phrase (or you’ll be able to at all times go the old school route with pen and paper) to create the next chart. 

  • Column 1 = Meals 
  • Column 2 = Content material and Quantities
  • Column 3 = Carbohydrate Rely (grams)

Right here is an instance of what an entry for a turkey sandwich might appear like.

Meals Elements Carbs
Turkey sandwich 2 slices wheat bread ~30 grams
3 slices of turkey ~3 grams
2 slices lettuce ~2 grams
1 slice of cheese ~0 grams
2 slices tomato ~2 grams
½ tsp mayo ~1 gram
Whole = ~38 grams

You may add a number of meals and snacks so that you’ve an in depth reference sheet in place for all of your go-to meals. After referring to your chart for per week or so, you’ll shortly change into a grasp of the carbohydrate counts which can be most necessary to you. 

BONUS TIP: To be additional useful together with your carb counting expertise, take notes on how sure meals have an effect on your blood sugar 2 hours after consuming. This may be particularly useful if you happen to eat a decrease carb food plan with greater quantities of protein and fats.

Carb counting takeaways

Studying the way to rely carbs generally is a bit difficult at first, however when you break down the foundations and memorize the serving sizes and carb quantities for the meals that matter most to you, you’re properly in your solution to making carb counting part of your standard routine. 

As you’re studying the way to carb rely, instances can be messy. Nonetheless, the aim right here isn’t perfection, however development. We do the very best we are able to, we study from the highs and lows, and we transfer on a little bit wiser than earlier than.

Perceive that good management and diabetes administration goes by way of ebbs and flows of motivation. Generally we’re actually in a groove and doing a killer job, and generally we really feel a little bit burnt out and wish a break. As we try for higher management as our baseline, throughout our periodic deviations we are able to nonetheless keep wholesome.

Day-to-day, we proceed to find out about our diabetes so we are able to stay a vibrant and fulfilling life. By taking the time to deal with ourselves, we are able to do the issues we love most and proceed to share moments with our family members. 


  • [1] Melkonian, E. A. (2019, August 22). Physiology, Gluconeogenesis. Retrieved March 29, 2020
  • [2] Ježek, Petr, Jabůrek, Martin, Blanka, & Lydie. (2018, June 19). Fatty Acid-Stimulated Insulin Secretion vs. Lipotoxicity. Retrieved March 31, 2020
  • [3] Paterson, M., Bell, Ok.J., O’Connell, S.M. et al. The Function of Dietary Protein and Fats in Glycaemic Management in Type 1 Diabetes: Implications for Intensive Diabetes Administration. Curr Diab Rep 15, 61 (2015)
  • [4] Good, C. E. M., King, B. R., & Lopez, P. E. (2020, January 1). Insulin Dosing for Fats and Protein: Is it Time? Retrieved March 28, 2020

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