Does Carbohydrate Counting Work for Diabetics?
This basic counting strategy works for many people with diabetes, especially those with type 2 diabetes. Why? Because if you eat about the same amount of carbohydrate at each meal and snack, your blood glucose levels should become a bit more predictable. Reducing fluctuations in blood glucose levels can help lower your risk for diabetes complications and keep you feeling strong and healthy. Basic carbohydrate counting can also help you notice trends in how your body reacts to carbohydrate foods.
Other factors besides the carbohydrate you eat can affect your blood glucose; keep that in mind if your blood glucose readings are not what you expected.
Carbohydrate counting is really just a way to keep track of the amount of carbohydrate you’re eating. But there are actually two methods of carbohydrate counting: basic and advanced.
The goal of basic carbohydrate counting is consistency. People who follow a basic carbohydrate counting plan will have a target number of carbohydrate grams to aim for at each meal and snack. If you’re using this method of carbohydrate counting, eating around the same times each day and knowing how many carbs to eat at each of those times is the goal. Your carbohydrate goals may be different for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but you have a goal for each meal and try to stay within that range.
Although the amount and timing of your carbohydrate intake should stay consistent with basic carbohydrate counting, you’re encouraged to eat a variety of healthy foods.
You can enjoy any carbohydrate-containing food as long as you account for it in your meal plan. If you practice basic carbohydrate counting, you’ll read the label on the food to determine how many grams of carbohydrate are in a serving and how many servings you actually want to eat of that food to get to your goal. You can keep a record of the amount of carbohydrate you eat at each meal using any method that works best for you. Some people like using a diabetes logbook, others like simple pen and paper, and others prefer using a food-tracking program or mobile applications. It’s a good idea to keep a record of what you eat, especially the amount of carbohydrate you eat, for a few days or a week prior to an appointment with your doctor or dietitian. That way if there are any changes in your blood glucose levels, you’ll have a record of your eating patterns.
It’s important to pay attention to serving sizes when you’re counting carbohydrate. If you double the serving size of a food, you double the amount of carbohydrate you’re eating. Eating more carbohydrate than you normally do at a meal will likely make your blood glucose level higher than usual after several hours. It’s a good idea to measure your foods with measuring cups and spoons if you’re not sure exactly what 1 cup of soup or 2⁄3 cup of yogurt looks like.
The basic carbohydrate counting method is a meal-planning approach that generally works for people who can manage their blood glucose with diet and exercise alone or take fixed doses of insulin. Ask your healthcare provider if this meal-planning method is right for you.