Counting Carbs: Three Approaches continued...
The Plate Method
The basic level, Campbell says, is using the plate method. "You divide your plate so that half of your plate is vegetables, a quarter of your plate is a healthy carbohydrate, like brown rice, and then a quarter of your plate is a healthy protein food like fish, chicken, or lean meat," she says. This method can help people who have just been diagnosed become more aware of carbs and learn how to identify healthier portions.
Basic Carb Counting
"Once a person is comfortable with that, we move on to basic carb counting," Campbell says. Often a person will meet with a registered dietician or diabetes educator who recommends a specific number of carbohydrates based on that person's weight goals, activity level, and gender. Most women aim for about 45 grams of carbs per meal, and men tend to have 60 to 75 per meal. Snacks should contain about 15 to 30 grams of carbs.
You have a choice of either counting carbohydrate servings or counting carbohydrate grams, says Campbell. One serving of carbs equals 15 grams. And one serving is 1 slice of bread, or 1 small fruit. Counting grams is more accurate, but it can be easier to count servings. It's really up to the person, Campbell says.
Advanced Carb Counting
The advanced level of carb counting is for people with type 1 or type 2 who use insulin before a meal. You can adjust the amount of insulin you use before a meal, which will be based on the number of carbs you eat and your pre-meal blood sugar. For example, if you were going to eat a big pasta meal, you would take more insulin. "It offers a lot more flexibility," Campbell tells WebMD.
When counting carbs, you first have to identify which foods contain carbs, figure out the portion size, then determine the number of carbs in the portion, says Loghmani. Food labels provide exact carbohydrates grams, but you need to be careful to note the serving size on the label.
There are also many resources you can use to look up the number of carbs in foods, from books to web sites -- even smart phone apps. These resources can be very helpful for people just learning to count carbs.
All carbohydrates, Campbell says, eventually turn into blood glucose. "Of course some are healthier than others so we want to promote the healthy carbs," she says.
Fiber is a particularly healthy carb. "We don't digest it, so fiber doesn't really impact blood glucose," Campbell says. So it's actually good to eat more fiber for that reason, plus it helps you feel full longer.
Carb Counting: Tips for Home and Away
Because it's easy to overestimate portion sizes, Loghmani and Campbell recommend using measuring cups and scales at home. "Keep your measuring cups on the counter, get a little food scale, and keep it in full sight so that you get in the habit of checking your portions of pasta or bread," Campbell says. "It's a really good way to keep portions in check."