Why is carb counting important?
When you have diabetes, your diet plan is one of the most important parts of management. When I say "diet" I'm simply referring to the foods you eat- calm down internet peeps.
Read below for a quick breakdown of carb counting and be sure to talk with your own health care team. If you don't have diabetes and you're just interested in the amount of carbohydrates in foods, this article can hep you better understand them.
What Happens When We Eat Carbs?
Simply explained, when we eat carbs, or carbohydrates, our blood sugar raises and causes the body to release insulin. Insulin comes in to the blood stream, grabs that sugar from the blood, and delivers it to our cells for energy. With Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin for the body and in some cases can stop producing insulin altogether. Either way, if insulin is required in the treatment, carb counting is also important.
The world of diabetes is much more complicated than that, I just wanted to give you the general idea. To learn more about diabetes or to get involved, check out Diabetes.org.
The reason we count carbs is so we can estimate the amount of sugar going into the bloodstream and then estimate the amount of insulin needed to deliver that sugar to the cells. This equation is different for everyone and that's where your doctor and diabetes educators can help make sure you have your own care plan.
So, you go to the doctor and see all the professionals and still have the question... "how do I count carbs?". If there is a nutrition label available, always read it! Check out Calee's previous post on How to Read a Nutrition Label for help. When you look at the label, the first thing to notice will be serving size. Next, skim down to the total carbohydrates section. There, you will see a number with the letter "g" beside it. This is how many grams of carbohydrate is in one serving. Take another look at the top of the label and you will see "servings per container". If you eat the whole container and need to count the carbs, you would multiply total carbohydrates x servings per container and that would equal the amount of carbs you need to count.
If there is no nutrition label available, you will need to make an educated guess. With diabetes, we make educated guesses based on 15 grams of carbohydrate. Once you memorize the 15 gram serving size, you can add/subtract/multiply/divide accordingly.
There are 3 nutrients that give us calories (energy). These are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They are called macronutrients. With diabetes, we only have to count the carbohydrates.
Carbs mainly come from starches, fruits, milk and sweets and other desserts. Non-starchy vegetables, proteins, and fats do not give us carbs so we call them free foods.
Here are the 15 gram serving sizes for the carb sources:
- 1 slice of bread
- ½ hot dog or hamburger bun
- ¼ of a bagel
- 1 small tortilla or waffle
- ½ cup cooked cereal
- ½ cup mashed potatoes, or other starchy vegetable
- ⅓ cup cooked rice or pasta
- 1 small fresh fruit
- 17 small grapes
- ½ canned fruit
- 1 cup melon
- Milk (12 grams of carb):
- 1 cup milk
- 6 ounces yogurt (reduced sugar or light)
- Sweets and other desserts:
- 1 tablespoon syrup or jelly
- ½ cup ice cream
- 2 creme filled sandwich cookies
- Non-starchy vegetables (green leafy vegetables, 1 cup raw vegetables)
- proteins, cheese and meat substitutes (peanut butter, turkey)
- fats and condiments (nuts, dressings)
For this meal: