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How many carbs per meal diabetes type 2: How to Count Carbs for Better Blood Sugar Control

Carbohydrate Guidelines for Type 2 Diabetes

Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet. But carbs also raise your blood sugar. When you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to aim for a balanced carb intake. It can seem confusing and a little overwhelming at first, but don’t be discouraged. Your doctor, diabetes educator, or dietitian can help you find a meal plan that works for you.

By setting limits on your carb intake—and tracking what you eat to make sure you stay within those limits—you can improve your blood sugar control. To get started, here are some basic facts you need to know.

Foods that contain carbohydrates include:

  • Grains, such as breads, cereals, pasta, and rice

  • Fruits and fruit juices

  • Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn (nonstarchy vegetables also contain carbs, but usually very little)

  • Dried beans and peas

  • Dairy foods, such as milk and yogurt

  • Sweets, such as cookies, pastries, cakes and candy

  • Snack foods, such as potato chips

To find the carb content of a food, check the amount of total carbohydrate on the food label. Be sure to look at the serving amount as well. If you’re eating twice as much as the listed serving, you’ll need to double the total carbs.
If a food doesn’t have a label, there are many apps and books available to help you track carbs. One great free tool is MyFoodAdvisor from the American Diabetes Association. At first, you may need to look up almost everything. But with time, you’ll start to learn how many carbs are in your favorite foods and dishes.

The American Diabetes Association recommends getting about 45% of your total calories from carbs. You should spread out your carb consumption throughout the day. Typically, that works out to about 45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal and 10 to 25 grams per snack, eaten twice a day between meals. But ask your healthcare provider for guidance on more specific goals for you.

Achieving those goals doesn’t happen by accident. You’ll need to plan your meals more carefully than someone without diabetes. Fortunately, there are several methods of meal planning to make the process easier. Your healthcare provider can help you choose the best method for you, based on your preferences and needs.

These are three techniques for planning meals so you get the right amount of carbs:

  1. Carb counting. This method is the most straightforward. You work with your healthcare provider to set a limit for how many carbs you’ll consume at each meal. Then you track the grams of carbohydrate in the foods you eat.

  2. Exchange lists. This method categorizes foods into groups, such as carbohydrates, meat/meat alternatives, and fats. The plan spells out how many servings you can have from each group at a meal. Within each group, the plan also specifies how much of each food equals one serving, based on its nutrient content. You can exchange a serving of one food for another within the same group.

  3. Glycemic index(GI). This method lets you refine carb counting. It considers not only the quantity of carbs in the foods you eat, but also the quality. Foods with a high GI value raise blood sugar more than those with a low GI. So the goal is to choose your carbs from foods with a lower GI value, such as many whole grain foods, most fruits, nonstarchy vegetables, and dried beans and peas.

Some people with type 2 diabetes use a less formal method of gauging how many carbs to eat. Called the plate method, it doesn’t require any counting at all. Instead, you simply imagine dividing your plate in half. Then divide one side in half again.

Fill the large section with nonstarchy veggies. Fill one small section with grains, starchy veggies, or cooked beans and peas, and the other with meat or another protein food. Add a cup of low-fat milk and a piece of fruit, and you’ve got a balanced meal.

  • Although carbohydrates are part of a healthy diet, they raise your blood sugar. If you have type 2 diabetes, you need to aim for a balanced carb intake.

  • Carbs are found in a variety of foods. You can check food labels to find the carb content, or use a website, app, or book to help you.

  • The American Diabetes Association recommends getting about 45% of your total calories from carbs.

  • There are several methods to help you plan meals, including carb counting, exchange lists, glycemic index, and the plate method.

Carbohydrate Guidelines for Type 2 Diabetes

Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet. But carbs also raise your blood sugar. When you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to aim for a balanced carb intake. It can seem confusing and a little overwhelming at first, but don’t be discouraged. Your doctor, diabetes educator, or dietitian can help you find a meal plan that works for you.

By setting limits on your carb intake—and tracking what you eat to make sure you stay within those limits—you can improve your blood sugar control. To get started, here are some basic facts you need to know.

Foods that contain carbohydrates include:

  • Grains, such as breads, cereals, pasta, and rice

  • Fruits and fruit juices

  • Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn (nonstarchy vegetables also contain carbs, but usually very little)

  • Dried beans and peas

  • Dairy foods, such as milk and yogurt

  • Sweets, such as cookies, pastries, cakes and candy

  • Snack foods, such as potato chips

To find the carb content of a food, check the amount of total carbohydrate on the food label. Be sure to look at the serving amount as well. If you’re eating twice as much as the listed serving, you’ll need to double the total carbs.
If a food doesn’t have a label, there are many apps and books available to help you track carbs. One great free tool is MyFoodAdvisor from the American Diabetes Association. At first, you may need to look up almost everything. But with time, you’ll start to learn how many carbs are in your favorite foods and dishes.

The American Diabetes Association recommends getting about 45% of your total calories from carbs. You should spread out your carb consumption throughout the day. Typically, that works out to about 45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal and 10 to 25 grams per snack, eaten twice a day between meals. But ask your healthcare provider for guidance on more specific goals for you.

Achieving those goals doesn’t happen by accident. You’ll need to plan your meals more carefully than someone without diabetes. Fortunately, there are several methods of meal planning to make the process easier. Your healthcare provider can help you choose the best method for you, based on your preferences and needs.

These are three techniques for planning meals so you get the right amount of carbs:

  1. Carb counting. This method is the most straightforward. You work with your healthcare provider to set a limit for how many carbs you’ll consume at each meal. Then you track the grams of carbohydrate in the foods you eat.

  2. Exchange lists. This method categorizes foods into groups, such as carbohydrates, meat/meat alternatives, and fats. The plan spells out how many servings you can have from each group at a meal. Within each group, the plan also specifies how much of each food equals one serving, based on its nutrient content. You can exchange a serving of one food for another within the same group.

  3. Glycemic index(GI). This method lets you refine carb counting. It considers not only the quantity of carbs in the foods you eat, but also the quality. Foods with a high GI value raise blood sugar more than those with a low GI. So the goal is to choose your carbs from foods with a lower GI value, such as many whole grain foods, most fruits, nonstarchy vegetables, and dried beans and peas.

Some people with type 2 diabetes use a less formal method of gauging how many carbs to eat. Called the plate method, it doesn’t require any counting at all. Instead, you simply imagine dividing your plate in half. Then divide one side in half again.

Fill the large section with nonstarchy veggies. Fill one small section with grains, starchy veggies, or cooked beans and peas, and the other with meat or another protein food. Add a cup of low-fat milk and a piece of fruit, and you’ve got a balanced meal.

  • Although carbohydrates are part of a healthy diet, they raise your blood sugar. If you have type 2 diabetes, you need to aim for a balanced carb intake.

  • Carbs are found in a variety of foods. You can check food labels to find the carb content, or use a website, app, or book to help you.

  • The American Diabetes Association recommends getting about 45% of your total calories from carbs.

  • There are several methods to help you plan meals, including carb counting, exchange lists, glycemic index, and the plate method.

Diabetes: Counting Carbs if You Don’t Use Insulin

Introduction

Carbohydrate counting is a skill that can help you plan your diet to manage type 2 diabetes and control your blood sugar. This technique helps you determine the amount of sugar and starch (carbohydrates) in the foods you eat so you can spread carbohydrates throughout the day, preventing high blood sugar after meals. Carbohydrate counting gives you the flexibility to eat what you want and increases your sense of control and confidence in managing your diabetes.

  • Carbohydrate is the nutrient that most affects your blood sugar.
  • Carbohydrate counting helps you keep your blood sugar at your target level.
  • You can consult a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to help you master carbohydrate counting and plan meals.

How to count carbohydrates

Count carbohydrates and eat a balanced diet by:

  • Working with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator. They can help you plan the amount of carbohydrates to include in each meal and snack, counting either grams or carbohydrate servings.
  • Eating standard portions of carbohydrate foods. Each serving size or standard portion contains about 15 grams of carbohydrates. It might be helpful to measure and weigh your food when you are first learning what makes up a standard portion.
  • Eating standard portions of foods that contain protein. Foods that contain protein (beans, eggs, meat, and cheese) are an important part of a balanced diet.
  • Eating less saturated fat and trans fat. A balanced diet includes healthy fat. Talk with a registered dietitian about how much fat you need in your diet.

Know your daily amount

Your daily amount depends on several things—your weight, how active you are, what diabetes medicines you take, and what your goals are for your blood sugar levels. A registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator can help you plan how much carbohydrate to include in each meal and snack.

For most adults, a guideline for the daily amount of carbohydrates is:

  • 45 to 60 grams at each meal. That’s about the same as 3 to 4 carbohydrate servings.
  • 15 to 20 grams at each snack. That’s about the same as 1 carbohydrate serving.

Other helpful suggestions

Here are some other suggestions that will help you count carbohydrates:

  • Read food labels for carbohydrate content. Notice the serving size shown on the package.
  • Check your blood sugar level. If you do this before and 1 to 2 hours after eating, you will be able to see how food affects your blood sugar level.
  • Use a food record to keep track of what you eat and your blood sugar results. At each regular visit with your dietitian or certified diabetes educator, or whenever you think your meal plan needs adjusting, you can review your food record.
  • Get more help. The American Diabetes Association offers booklets to help people learn how to count carbohydrates, measure and weigh food, and read food labels. Also, you will need to talk with a registered dietitian or a certified diabetes educator to build a plan that fits your needs.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • American Diabetes Association (2013). Nutrition therapy recommendations for the management of adults with diabetes. Diabetes Care, 36(11): 3821–3842. DOI: 10.2337/dc13-2042. Accessed December 5, 2013.
  • Campbell AP, Beaser RS (2010). Medical nutrition therapy. In RS Beaser, ed., Joslin’s Diabetes Deskbook: A Guide for Primary Care Providers, 2nd ed., pp. 91–136. Boston: Joslin Diabetes Center.
  • Franz MJ (2012). Medical nutrition therapy for diabetes mellitus and hypoglycemia of nondiabetic origin. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13th ed., pp. 675–710. St Louis: Saunders.

Credits

Current as of: August 31, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD – Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD – Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD – Family Medicine
Rhonda O’Brien MS, RD, CDE – Certified Diabetes Educator
Colleen O’Connor PhD, RD – Registered Dietitian

Current as of: August 31, 2020

Author:
Healthwise Staff

Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD – Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD – Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD – Family Medicine & Rhonda O’Brien MS, RD, CDE – Certified Diabetes Educator & Colleen O’Connor PhD, RD – Registered Dietitian

Prediabetes and Carbs | How Many to Eat Daily

Prediabetes is a chronic condition with higher blood sugar levels than normal. It is related to how your body processes carbohydrates. People with prediabetes are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that a prediabetes diet can lower your blood sugar, reduce your risk for diabetes, or even reverse prediabetes.

Carbohydrates are the main focus of a healthy prediabetes diet because they affect your blood sugar and your weight. According to Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, both the quantity and quality of the carbohydrates you eat are important.

The prediabetic carbs per day that you eat should contribute to a healthy weight, and also come from nutritious sources.

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Carbs: What They Are, and Why They Matter


Carbohydrates are nutrients in your diet. Harvard Medical School explains that they are among the main sources of calories in your diet, along with protein and fat. Carbohydrates and protein each provide 4 calories per gram, and fat provides 9 calories per gram.

Starches and sugars are types of calorie-providing carbohydrates in your food and some beverages. Starches are larger and more complex than sugars. When you eat starches or sugars, your body breaks them down into a simple type of sugar called glucose. This goes into your bloodstream and contributes to your blood sugar or blood glucose levels.

So why do carbs matter?

  1. They affect your weight. For most people, losing extra pounds is the single most effective thing you can do to lower your risk for diabetes. Research published in the journal Diabetes Care finds that each pound you lose can cut risk of getting diabetes by 16%! Since carbs contribute calories, too many carbs (even healthy carbs) in your diet can lead to weight gain. Reducing your carb intake (without increasing your fat and protein intake) helps you cut calories and lose weight.
  2. They affect your blood sugar. Carbohydrates from your diet lead to glucose in your blood. Dietary starches and sugars directly drive up blood sugar levels more than fat or protein do. Both the type and amount of carbohydrates are important.

Blood sugar can be hard to keep track of, so we’ve made a chart to help you monitor your blood sugar levels.  

How Many Carbs per Day for Prediabetes?


Should you low-carb it? Actually… Maybe, or maybe not. Research shows that there is no single best answer to how many carbs should you have per day. 

Need a low carb food guide?

 


Grams of Carbs per Day for Prediabetics

Here are some common numbers for the recommended carb intake for prediabetics per day. As you can see, they vary quite a bit!

  • Under 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day: very low-carb ketogenic diet.
  • 130 grams: “Adequate Intake” (the amount considered adequate for most people).
  • 150-200 grams per day, or 30-40% of total calories on a 2,000-calorie diet: the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) description of a standard “low-carb” diet.
  • 244 grams per day: average daily intake of Americans over 20 years old.
  • 300 grams per day, or 60% of total calories on a 2,000-calorie diet: the daily value (DV) that you see on nutrition labels.

Low-carbohydrate diets could work, but they may not work any better than other careful diets for weight loss, for lowering blood sugar levels, or for preventing diabetes.

For more on planning your best prediabetes diet, read more here!

Pros and Cons of Low-Carb Diets

Pros