Tip of the Week: Counting Carbs

By GabbyPA Latest Reply 2012-02-09 21:38:27 -0600
Started 2011-09-06 12:00:06 -0500

Oh, that four letter word…CARB.
Whether we like it or not, it has become one of the most used words in our vocabulary right next to BG and A1c. It actually is more a friend then you think and learning how to count them can help you keep better control of your testing numbers.

Many of you know that my all time favorite video here is the pin cushion guy http://www.diabeticconnect.com/videos/39-my-l... and he makes it so simple. And in all fairness, it is pretty simple once you get the basics.

The idea of using exchanges or 1 serving = 15g of carbs is how I got started.
The ADA (www.diabetes.org) offers an exchange book for free and it is a great foundation. It worked to get me started without overwhelming me as much.

So if 1 cup of sliced strawberries = 15g of carb = 1 serving.

So lets say breakfast your doctor told you to eat between 15-45 g of carbs in that meal. That equals 1-3 servings.
So if you have an egg, 1 slice of whole grain toast, a fruit cup and some coffee how will that work out?
egg= zero carbs = 0 servings
whole grain bread = 22g carbs = 2 servings
fruit cup = 18 g of carb = 1 serving
Coffee black = zero carbs = 0 servings
Add some butter to your toast and some stevia to your coffee and you are on target.

This is where you really have to read labels and pay attention to what a serving is and how many carbs are in it. You can get a low carb bread that might have only 12 grams of carb per slice. Maybe you could have two slices of toast if you make sure your fruit doesn't exceed a serving. Now you do have to watch out for the creep in carbs. Such as a bit of jelly, even sugar free, will have some carbs, that you might want on your toast. So could that splash of milk you add to your coffee. So just make sure you are looking at all your labels. It is a pain at first, but as you find your safe "go to" foods it gets easier.

Always revisit your labels and your carb servings as things change. I have found that it is not good for me to eat many carbs at all in breakfast. My body doesn't like it and I tend to spike in the morning on foods that later in the day don't seem to bother me.

When you are learning what carbs do to your levels, keep your log at hand and test more often to see how your body reacts. You may find that there is a particular food that no matter how little you eat, it bothers you. For me, that is corn. At the same time, you may find out that a food everyone tells you is a no-no doesn't bother you as long as you keep your portions in line.

Read those labels, do your math, measure your food and test. Before you know it, you will be able to gauge a carb portion as you eat out. At least give you a fighting chance to win the carb counting game.

14 replies

LadyJacquelyn 2012-01-29 10:55:07 -0600 Report

I went to ADA and found nothing for free. That book would be of real help…but I can not pay 29.00 for a book.

GabbyPA 2012-01-29 15:26:55 -0600 Report

You might want to see if your local hospital has some you can get. A lot of times they are free with a class or something. The ADA used to give them away. Maybe they have changed that.

LadyJacquelyn 2012-01-29 19:33:42 -0600 Report

Thanks Gabby…I will give it a try…Huggz LadyJ

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-02-09 21:38:27 -0600 Report

The hospital included 2 booklets in the Welcome to the Wonderful World of Diabetes packet they gave me.
One is Nutrition in the Fast Lane I found a website that said you could order it online and free of charge at the Healthy Hoosiers Web site http://www.healthyhoosier.org. But I don't know if you need to be living in Indiana to get it. The site also provides links to other resources.
The other is Take Charge By Counting Carbs.
This booklet really helped me out. The pdf is free.
I just downloaded it to my computer a moment ago to see if the link was still good.
The following is the site that used to have the booklet. They have a few downloads that might be of interest, but I did not check any of them out just now.

Anonymous 2011-11-26 09:44:52 -0600 Report

The amount of carb choices indicated by the ADA or your dietician may be too much to control your blood sugar. 165-210 grams of carbs is way too many for some diebetics. It is better to eat to your meter and let it tell you how much you can or cannot eat. BTW, Pin Cushion Guy indicated that the sandwich would be 3 carb choices…not if it's only 30 grams of carbs. That would be 2 carb choices.

Fairlawngirl 2011-11-26 08:05:15 -0600 Report

Hey there! I count all the time and use 1 unit per 20 carbs. I have a pump that we have to work greatly on the settings.

I don't know about others but I can eat the very same meal (my typical sandwich and salad) and give the appropriate insulin dosage that results in higher sugars.

I check 4 times a day.

I find that many estimates in my most frequently used carb book are way too low! I keep track of those things and improve my management.

Potatoes, bread products, fruit, etc.

I carry a glucometer and dextrotabs with me often to manage these things.

Everyone, have a good day and good luck.


Doryian 2011-09-10 07:25:03 -0500 Report

I was interested in finding the exchange book at ADA. I went over there and looked… I can't find it. Can you point me in the right direction to find it? I've learned you really have to watch the restaurants. Wings are my "go to" item. If they're un-breaded, then they are usually a good, filling, flavorful meal. But one restaurant unexpectedly used a sweet bbq sauce which spiked me up. No more wings from there.

GabbyPA 2011-09-10 08:30:07 -0500 Report

I hate those creep in carbs. They can slap you around.

I guess it has been a while since I looked for that book and it seems to have been replaced by an online concept called "My Food Advisor" and it is electronic now. Here is the link to that. http://tracker.diabetes.org/explore/

What you can do is type in your food and it will give you the information you are needing. You might be able to find the exchange book at a diabetes education class or from your doctor. It is very think and (though limited) hits the main points.

Armourer 2011-09-06 19:18:32 -0500 Report

Yea, I count carbs, and it was a happy day that I implemented this! But hadn't thought about it but how true, carb is a FOUR LETTER WORD!!!

Type1Lou 2011-09-06 17:03:49 -0500 Report

Thanks for this discussion, Gabby! Accurate carb counting is one of my greatest challenges. I just got Gary Scheiner's book "The Ultimate Guide to Accurate Carb Counting" to help me out. (Along with his "Think Like a Pancreas") Now, all I have to do is read it! Last Friday my husband and I went to Applebee's for dinner. I ordered their spinach and grilled shrimp salad which I estimated as around 30 carbs. I didn't ask the waitress if they had nutritional info available (I should have!) When I got home, I logged onto my computer and went to the Applebee's nutritional info site. That salad had a whopping 63 grams of carb…43 as a result of the dressing. It was yummy, but I won't be ordering it again. They do have some much lower carb options and I think restaurants are beginning to provide the nutritional information that we so desperately need.

GabbyPA 2011-09-07 11:04:53 -0500 Report

I know and you think that salads are safe. There are often hidden elements in restaurant foods that floor us. It is a shame really. You are almost better to order a hamburger and not eat the top part of the bun. I like Crackerbarrel. The offer low carb choices and list the carbs of the meal right there in the menu. So if I am good and stick with sides like green beans instead of beets, I am all good.

tabby9146 2011-09-08 14:05:33 -0500 Report

I love Cracker Barrel too and I try to eat the low carb offerings and always get the salad too. I love the grilled chicken salad there, it is pretty large, so I take some home and try not to eat it all at once.

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