Jeanette Terry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 11 years old, and she has since lived with diabetes through difficult life transitions, including the teenage years, college, and having children. She addresses the day-to-day struggles of living with diabetes—going beyond medical advice—to improve overall adherence and management.  

It seems that over the years, here in America portion sizes keep increasing. Instead of stopping when the plate is full, manufacturers started making plates bigger to accommodate all of the food that Americans consume. The trouble with this is, it becomes increasingly more difficult to calculate carbohydrates in a meal when the portions are so big. Especially carb-loaded entrees and side dishes. A lot of the mistakes made with carb counting come from not understanding serving sizes or underestimating the amount of food on your plate.

Nutrition labels often provide a serving size that is much smaller than most people would eat in one helping. This can be very deceiving and confusing when comparing low-carb options while shopping at the grocery store. Food is a major part of any lifestyle, so in order to maintain blood sugar control, it is smart to understand what you are eating and learn to count your carbohydrates on the go. Here are a few quick tips to help make carb counting a little easier.

First, decrease portion sizes. At first you may think that you are going to starve if you have been eating large portion sizes that are standard these days, but you won’t. Your body just has to get used to having smaller amounts at one time. Smaller portions are much healthier for your body all around, not just for your diabetes. It will be much easier to count carbohydrates if you don’t have to double or triple your calculations.

One way to quickly gauge about how many carbohydrates you are consuming is to take a moment before you start eating to look at what is on your plate and calculate an estimate of how many carbs there are. If there are way too many for one meal, take something off of your plate and save it for later. If you look at what you are eating before you eat it, you are much more likely to eat less, and it won’t be as hard to think back to what you ate when giving insulin or taking your medication.

A huge mistake that many people make when eating something that has a label is not reading all the nutrition facts. Make sure you look at the serving size and make adjustments in your calculations if you are eating more or less than the serving size. Many people are looking at more than just grams of carbohydrates in what they eat. Everyone is in a different place with their health, so talk with your doctor to find out what you should be looking for on a nutrition label and what to avoid. It is much easier to steer clear of foods that will have a negative affect rather than try to fix it once you have already eaten it.

Finally, find time in your day to eat regularly. If you eat on a regular basis you won’t become overly hungry, and when food is presented you are less likely to have the urge to overeat. By eating every few hours your blood sugar levels have the chance to balance out without many major spikes.

The key to good carbohydrate counting is to be aware of what is going into your mouth and stay on top of your medications that regulate your blood sugar so that you aren’t always trying to correct high or low blood sugar levels. Carb counting can be a pain, but if you take the time to learn what the carbohydrate counts are for some of the foods that you have regularly it makes it much easier to add it up in your head and stay on top it. Above all else, you need to be the one to take the initiative to make sure what you think is going in your mouth really is what you want to be going into your mouth.

To learn more on this topic:

How to Learn and Practice Carb Counting
Judging Healthy Portion Sizes
4 Tips for Reining in Food Portion Sizes