To count the grams of carbohydrates in a meal, you need to know how many carbohydrates there are in each type of food you eat. This includes everything you eat, whether it’s a slice of bread, a bowl of lettuce or a tablespoon of salad dressing. Most packaged foods have labels that say how many carbohydrates are in a serving. Carbohydrate guides can also be helpful. You can get them through diabetes educators and the American Diabetes Association.).
To find out how many carbohydrates are in foods that aren’t packaged, you’ll need to know the standard portions of carbohydrate-containing foods. Each serving size or serving standard has about 15 grams of carbohydrates.
By using the amount of grams of carbohydrates in a meal, you can calculate how much insulin should be given. This is based on your personal proportion of insulin-carbohydrates.
For example: Your doctor may recommend that you take 1 unit of fast-acting insulin for every 10 to 15 grams of carbohydrates you consume. So if your meal has 50 grams of carbohydrates and your doctor says you need 1 unit of insulin for every 10 grams of carbohydrates, you’ll need 5 units of insulin to prevent your blood sugar from becoming above the ideal limits after your meal.
Your insulin-carb ratio may change over time. In some people it will vary from one meal to the other. You could administer 1 unit of insulin for every 10 grams of carbohydrates for lunch, but 1 unit per 15 grams may be administered during dinner.
Keep the following in mind when counting carbohydrates:
It’s important to control portions. If a package says it contains two servings and you consume the whole package, you should double the number of grams of carbohydrates indicated for a serving.
Proteins, fats and fibers don’t raise your blood sugar much. If you consume a lot of these nutrients in a meal, carbohydrates will become glucose more slowly than they would with a meal that has a small amount of protein, fat and fiber.
Advanced carbohydrate count takes into account the amount of fiber or sugar alcohols in a food. For example, if a food has 5 grams or more of fiber per serving, you can subtract half the amount of fiber from the total amount of grams of carbohydrate. A food that has 30 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of fiber would be counted as 26 grams of carbohydrates. If you use fast-acting insulin, you may want to consider sugar alcohols if your food contains more than 5 grams of these. Divide the amount of sugar alcohols in half. Then subtract that amount from the total amount of carbohydrates.
Exercise affects your blood sugar level. Allows you to use less insulin than you would use if you did not exercise. Please note that schedules are important. If you exercise 1 hour after a meal, you may need less insulin for that meal than you would need if you exercised 3 hours after your meal.
By keeping track of what you eat and checking your blood sugar after meals and exercising, you can determine the effect of protein, fats, fibers, and exercise on the amount of insulin you need.
To count carbohydrates and follow a balanced diet:
Talk to a registered dietitian. This can help you plan the amount of carbohydrates you should include in each meal and snack. This includes sweets.
Measure your portions of food. You won’t always have to measure your food. But it might be helpful to do so when you’re learning what a standard portion represents.
Count or grams or servings of carbohydrates.
Eat standard portions of foods that have protein. Foods that have protein (such as beans, eggs, meat, and cheese) are a key part of a balanced diet.
Limit saturated fats. A balanced diet includes a limited amount of healthy fat. Talk to 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, your activity level, the diabetes medications you take, and your goals for your blood sugar levels. A registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator will help you plan the amount of carbohydrates to include in each meal and snack.
For most adults, a guideline for the daily amount of carbohydrates is:
Between 45 and 60 grams in each meal. That’s about the same as 3 to 4 servings of carbohydrates.
Between 15 and 20 grams in each snack. That’s about the same as 1 serving of carbohydrates.