Carb Counting – Ideal Meal-Planning Approach to Lower Blood Glucose Levels
Carbohydrates also known as carbs are one of the most important nutrients present in drinks and food we consume. Other essential nutrients are fat and protein. Carbs include fiber, sugars, and starches.
If we have diabetes, counting these nutrients can be highly beneficial.
Carb counting might help us control our blood sugar levels also known by the name blood glucose levels since carbs impact the blood sugar more in comparison to other nutrients.
To be more precise, carb counting is a great meal-planning approach which many who have diabetes use in order to manage their condition.
More About Carb Counting
As the name says, carb counting emphasizes the amount of carb we include in our diet.
The assumption is that a carb is a carb, meaning that as long as we are in our carb goal for a given snack or meal, it does not matter if we eat a chocolate chip cookie or an apple.
But the reality is different.
We should remember that the goal of this approach is to pick healthy foods. Chocolate chip cookie is good as an occasional treat. However they lack vital nutrients, and they come with empty calories.
Also, according to studies on GI, i.e., glycemic index scientists have learned that not all carbs behave precisely the same when it comes to blood glucose levels.
Healthy carbs like vegetables, whole grains and fruits are a vital part of a healthy meal plan. It is like that since they give both, nutrients and energy like fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
The fiber helps us control weight, prevents constipation and lowers cholesterol. On the other hand, unhealthy carbs are often drinks and foods which have added sugars.
Added sugars are different forms of sugar added to drinks or foods during preparation or processing. Naturally occurring sugars like those present in fruits and milk aren’t seen as added sugars but as carbs.
Unhealthy carbs might also give energy, but the thing is that they have from no to little nutrients.
Carbs In Foods
The amount of carbs in foods is measured in g, i.e., grams.
In order to count the grams of carbs in our food we will need to:
- Know which foods have carbs
- Learn how to assess the number of grams of carbs in the foods we consume
- Add up the number of g of carbs from every food we consume to get the total of carb for the day
Our physician can refer us to a diabetes educator or dietitian who may help us make a healthy eating plan according to carbs counting.
The Number of Carbs We Need On a Daily Basis
The amount of fat, carbs, and protein on a daily basis for those who have diabetes hasn’t been defined since what is good for one individual might not be right for another.
Everybody needs to get a sufficient amount of carbs in order to meet the needs of the body for energy, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
According to experts, carb intake for most people needs to be between 45 and 65 % of the whole amount of calories. People who are physically inactive or those on low-calorie diets might need to aim for the even lower end of this range.
One gram of carbs comes with four calories. Therefore we will have to divide the number of calories we want to obtain from carbs by 4 in order to get the number of g, i.e., grams.
For instance, in case we want to consume an overall of 1,800 calories on a daily basis and get 45 % of the calories from carbs, we would aim for approximately 200 g of carbs on a daily basis.
We need to evaluate that amount as follows: (“c” means calories)
- 45 x 1,800 c = 810 c
- 810 ÷ 4 = 202.5 g of carbs
We will need to spread out the carb intake during the day. A diabetes educator or dietitian may help us learn how much to consume, what foods to consume and also when to eat according to our blood sugar targets, weight, activity level, and medicines.
How to Know How Much Carbs Is In the Foods We Consume
We need to learn how to evaluate the number of carbs in the foods we usually consume. For instance, the following amounts of carb-rich foods each have approximately 15 g of carbs:
- Bread – one slice
- Pinto beans – ½ cup
- Jelly – one tablespoon
- Cooked cereal – ½ cup
- Dry cereal – ¾ cup
- Starchy vegetables like lima beans, mashed potatoes, peas and cooked corn – ½ cup
- One 6-inch tortilla
- Rice – 1/3 cup
- Pasta – 1/3 cup
- ½ cup of fruit juice, fresh or canned fruit, or one small piece of fresh fruit like small orange or apple
We should know that some foods are low in carbs, and we might not have to count these foods unless we consume big amounts. These foods are also known by the name of free foods. For instance, most non-starchy vegetables are actually low in carbs.
As a matter of fact, 1 cup of raw vegetables or ½ cup of cooked non-starchy vegetables has only 5 g of carbs. Free foods are tomato salsa, celery, and cucumber slices.
Carb Counting and Nutrition Labels
We can learn how many grams of carbs are in the foods we consume by checking the nutrition labels found on food packages. The nutrition label tells us:
- The total g of carbs per one serving
- The serving size of food – like a ½ cup or 1 slice
- Other nutrition info, such as the amount of fat and protein, and calories per serving
In case we have 2 servings in place of just 1, like 1 cup of pinto beans in place of a ½ cup, what happens is that the number of g of carbs in 1 serving multiplies. So, 15 multiplied by 2 get the total number of g of carbs – 30.
15 x 2 = 30
Is This Working for Us?
By checking our blood sugar, we can tell if carbs counting is working for us. We can check our blood sugar levels with the help of a glucose meter. Also, we need to do an A1C blood test twice per year.
This test shows the average amount of sugar in our blood during the past three months. In case our blood sugar levels are too high, we might need to make certain changes in our eating or maybe in other lifestyle changes.
For instance, we might need to make better food choices, make certain changes to our diabetes drugs, or be more physically active. We should consult our doctor about what changes we must do in order to have control over our blood sugar levels.
We are in charge, so we should take control of this condition and our life. We should put ourselves first, and do what’s best for us. We should always come first, no matter what.