How Many Carbs Should I Be Eating?

We hear this question all the time! Exactly how many carbohydrates should I eat for meals and snacks? The American Diabetes Association used to publish recommendations. But recently, they changed course, and have said that a carb goal needs to be set for each person individually by his or her health care team.

We agree! There really isn’t one answer. A lot depends on your lifestyle. Are you taking medication? Are you using insulin? Are you trying to gain weight or loose weight? Or just maintain your weight? Are you very physically active for your job or by exercising every day? Or do you sit at a desk or at home most of the day? What is your diet like? Do most of your carbs come from veggies that are high in fiber? Do you get enough protein? Is your diet high in fat?

The ADA used to recommend between 45-60 carbs per meal and between 10-25 carbs per snack. Women were told to stick to the lower end and men the higher end of the range. But, for a lot of people, this was still too many carbs. If Rhodes ate 60 grams of carbs at every meal and ate two 25 carb snacks, he would need to take a lot of insulin or he would feel awful.

Working with his endocrinologist and after a lot of trial and error, got Rhodes to some targets that are right for him. He is physically active in the morning, but spends a lot of time at a desk during the day. He eats a fairly low fat, medium fiber diet, and because he is Type 1, he takes insulin with every meal. So for him, he shoots for about 30-40 carbs per meal, and uses 15-20 gram snacks to treat low blood sugar. If he’s snacking for hunger, he sticks with high protein, low carb foods, like nuts and yogurt. This relatively-low carb range means he has to avoid starches (like bread, potato and rice), fills up on lean protein and lots of high fiber leafy veggies, and usually avoids desserts.

If you can’t hire a nutritionist or certified diabetes educator (CDE) out of pocket, how do you figure it out?

  • If your general practitioner isn’t up on best practices for carb counting and hands you a brochure, we recommended seeing an endocrinologist who can help you create some basic guidelines for meals and snacks based on your lifestyle, what mediation you take, and how often you take it.
  • Look online for a diabetes treatment center in your community that may have more affordable group classes with a nutritionist to help develop a safe and healthy meal plan.
  • Call your insurance company and find out if they have free health coaching services that would allow you to talk to a CDE or nutritionist.
  • And remember, if you are on medication or insulin, don’t make any drastic changes to your diet without checking in with your doctor.

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