Diabetes and carb counting

The carbohydrates (or carbs) we eat have the most impact on our blood glucose levels. Understanding which foods contain carb and learning to carb count lets you know how much carb you are eating at any one time. Depending on your type of diabetes, you can use this information in different ways to help with your diabetes management.

Carb counting is often classified as simple or advanced carb counting.

Simple carb counting

Simple carb counting refers to learning the approximate amount of carbs in foods. This helps people with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes understand how much carb they are eating and to plan their meals to spread carbohydrates evenly over the day.

When carb is spread evenly over the day it keeps the blood glucose steadier, and is one tool to help keep blood glucose levels in your target range.

Eating too much carbohydrate at one time can result in blood glucose levels rising or spiking after a meal, above your target range.

Simple carb counting can be used successfully for some people with type 1 diabetes too, especially if they eat similar amounts of carbs each day.

Visual carb counting pictorial guides are very helpful when learning simple carb counting.  In pictorial carb counting guides, many of the common foods we eat are shown, and how much of these foods have 15g of carb, which is referred to as one carb exchange. For example, a 100g apple contains approximately 15 gram of carb, or one carb exchange. A slice of bread which weighs 30g and has 15g carb is one carb exchange. If you ate a sandwich and small apple, you have eaten 3 carb exchanges at that meal.

Learning how to count in carb exchanges allows you to choose a different meal with a similar amount of carb.

Diabetes Victoria offers an excellent visual carb counting guide which costs $1 from their online shop.

Advanced carb counting

Advanced carb counting is a more detailed and precise way of carb counting. It involves knowing the exact amount carb count in your serve of carb foods.

Resources such as pictorial guides, carb counting books and apps, and websites are all of use for advanced carb counting. Carb counting books, apps and websites are also helpful in working out the carb content of recipes.

For advanced carb counting, it is also important to able to interpret food labels and work out the carb content of your serve of packaged foods.

For advanced carb counting, you can choose to count in 15g carb exchanges, 10g carb portions or count in grams. It doesn’t matter which of these carb counting options you choose, but it is important to thoroughly understand the method you choose. Most people with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes on insulin use advanced carb counting to work out insulin doses at each meal.

It is important to use books, apps and websites that refer to the Australian food database. Your health professionals can guide you with carb counting education and introduce you to useful resources. Here are a few Australian resources which may assist you.

 

App and WebsitesSourceNotes:
CalorieKing AustraliaApple and AndroidFree
CalorieKing Control – MyWeight Calorie CounterAppleFee associated (Choose Australia in settings)
Australian Calorie Counter – Easy Diet DiaryAppleFree
Australian Carb Counter – Traffic Light Guide to FoodApple and AndroidFee associated
Carb Counting with Lenny (Australia)Apple and AndroidFree
BookSourceNotes
Allan Borushek’s Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter by Allan Borushek, Clinical Dietitian & Health EducatorIn print and apple booksFee associated

 

By Helen d’Emden, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Credentialled Diabetes Educator

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