6 Tips for Carb Counting With Type 1 Diabetes

Carbohydrates, or “carbs,” are nutrients (coming in the three types: starches, sugars and fiber) found in the food we eat and drink. They are the body’s source of energy — when your digestive system, with the help of insulin, breaks them down into glucose. People with type 1 diabetes (T1D) must balance the amount of carbs they consume with the right dose of insulin. That’s why carb counting is so important. It is often said that to manage type 1 diabetes we have to be doctors, mathematicians, personal trainers, and dietitians, all at the same time. This is definitely true when it comes to counting carbohydrates, but with some basic knowledge and practice, carb counting can become second nature! Here are six ways to improve your carb counting:

1. Know What to Look For on Nutrition Labels

2. Measure What You Make

Nutrition labels can be pretty easy to follow, but only if you know what the size of your servings are! For more accurate carb counts, use measuring cups when serving sizes are given in volume and use food scales to help count carbs by ounces or grams. Carrying around a food scale is by no means practical but weighing common foods at home can help you guestimate going forward.

3. Use Technology

New carb calculator apps and websites are making carb counting a lot easier, especially when you are eating out or on-the-go! Find a few that you trust. Technology can not only help count carbs on a meal-by-meal basis, but also keep a record of your diet throughout the week and even months.

4. Find Out What’s Right for You

There are recommended proportions of how carbohydrate, protein and fat can make up the daily diet of people with type 1 diabetes. With these as a guideline, you can find what works for you. While everyone needs the energy, vitamins and fiber of carbohydrates, you can decide your carbohydrate intake throughout the day. If you want advice or a full-fledged plan, a dietitian or diabetes educator can help figure out which foods to eat, how much to eat and when to eat based on your body, lifestyle and blood sugar targets.

5. Practice and Have Fun With It!

Often carb counting is not as simple as reading a nutrition label. When eating out or having others cook for you, you won’t be able to measure each ingredient. That’s where estimating comes in. When you are home, train your eye to measure food or use household items to estimate portions. Carb counting is both a science and an art and learning the carbs in food can be hard. Test yourself with our Hidden Carbs quiz to find out your ‘carb-comprehension’.

6. Find Your Go-To Meals and Snacks

Meal planning is something a lot of busy and health-conscious people are doing these days, and for good reason. It can help you make healthy choices rather than succumbing to unhealthy cravings, especially helpful for those with type 1 diabetes. A meal plan can take into account the timing of your meals, how much to eat and what foods to choose, taking the guesswork out of carb counting. Find meal inspiration from others in the JDRF community here or submit your own!

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