How To Manage Carbohydrates

Effectively managing diabetes means effectively managing many aspects of your health, lifestyle, and diet. This includes regular and vigilant monitoring of blood sugar levels. But it also includes keeping a close and thoughtful eye on one of the most significant factors that impact those levels: your consumption of carbohydrates.

Carbs are the sugars, starches, and fibers contained in foods and elevate blood sugar levels faster after meals than proteins or fats. That is why managing your intake of carbs is so critical. Too much, too soon, or with too little attention paid to what else you are eating can send your glucose levels skyrocketing.

Managing and counting and carbs allow you to calibrate doses of mealtime rapid-acting insulin to the kinds of foods you eat. This can give you broad dietary flexibility and minimize post-meal highs and lows. If you control your diabetes with exercise and diet, pills, or just one or two insulin injections a day, carbohydrate counting can also help improve your control over blood sugar levels.

What Is Carbohydrate Counting?

As the name implies, carb counting simply means adding up the total amount of carbohydrate (in grams) you consume from meals and snacks. These carbs include all types of sugars, such as sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), and lactose (milk sugar). They also include starches, which make up most of the carbs found in rice, bread, potatoes, and cereal. When you eat something that contains starch, it breaks down into glucose before entering your bloodstream. That is why you need to include both sugars and starches when counting carbs.

How To Accurately Count Carbs

Counting carbs is made a lot easier by readily available information about the carb content of various foods. Here are three tips for accurately counting carbs at the grocery store or at a meal.

  • Check the label. In the United States, labels on packaged food must include lots of information about nutritional content and ingredients. This includes listing the grams of total carbohydrate as well as grams of dietary fiber and sugar in a single serving of the food item. Pay close attention to serving size and the percentage of the recommended daily intake of each category contained in the item.
  • Use online resources. Fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, and the items you order at a restaurant don’t come with labels. This means you’ll have to look elsewhere for carb content information. There are plenty of online sites, such as the popular CalorieKing, that can instantly tell you the amount of carbs in the food you are considering buying or eating.
  • Portion conversion. This carb counting technique involves estimating the volume of a serving of food by comparing it to a common object such as a soft drink can, a milk carton, or your fist. You then convert the volume into a carbohydrate count based on the usual carb content for a known amount of that kind of food. For example, an average adult’s fist, a half-pint of milk, and a baseball are typically equivalent to one cup, while a soda can is equivalent to 1 ½ cups.

Monitoring Glucose Levels As Part Of Your Healthy Lifestyle

As noted, regular monitoring of blood sugar levels is an essential complement to managing carbohydrates in controlling diabetes.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) is a transceiver device that helps those with diabetes monitor their blood sugar levels 24 hours a day without needing to interrupt their day with finger pricking to obtain a sample.

CGM has easy-to-use features that can help each person proactively record and track glucose levels—as well as provide valuable insights on data that helps manage exercise, meals, and daily health status.

If you have recently received a diagnosis of diabetes, ask your doctor about CGM and contact us today to see if you qualify for CGM and access our guide to continuous glucose monitoring.


If you are not insured, or have a high deductible health insurance plan, you can still purchase the Freestyle Libre Reader and Sensors at extremely competitive prices. Prices starting as low as $99 per month

*Fingersticks are required for treatment decisions when you see Check Blood Glucose symbol, when symptoms do not match system readings when you suspect readings may be in accurate, or when you experience symptoms that may be due to high or low blood glucose.

Reference 1: Data on file. Abbott Diabetes Care. 2, FreeStyle Libre 14 day User’s Manual

Indications and Important Safety Information

FreeStyle Libre and FreeStyle Libre 14 day Flash Glucose Monitoring systems are continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices indicated for replacing blood glucose testing and detecting trends and tracking patterns aiding in the detection of episodes of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, facilitating both acute and long-term therapy adjustments in persons (age 18 and older) with diabetes. The systems are intended for single patient use and require a prescription.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Remove the sensor before MRI, CT scan, X-ray, or diathermy treatment.

WARNINGS/LIMITATIONS: Do not ignore symptoms that may be due to low or high blood glucose, hypoglycemic unawareness, or dehydration. Check sensor glucose readings with a blood glucose meter when Check Blood Glucose symbol appears, when symptoms do not match system readings, or when readings are suspected to be inaccurate. The system does not have alarms unless the sensor is scanned, and the system contains small parts that may be dangerous if swallowed. The system is not approved for pregnant women, persons on dialysis, or critically-ill population. Sensor placement is not approved for sites other than the back of the arm and standard precautions for transmission of blood borne pathogens should be taken. The built-in blood glucose meter is not for use on dehydrated, hypotensive, in shock, hyperglycemic-hyperosmolar state, with or without ketosis, neonates, critically-ill patients, or for diagnosis or screening of diabetes. When using FreeStyle LibreLink app, access to a blood glucose monitoring system is required as the app does not provide one. Review all product information before use or contact Abbott Toll Free (855-632-8658) or visit for detailed indications for use and safety information.html. . FreeStyle, Libre, and related brand marks are trademarks of Abbott Diabetes Care Inc. in various jurisdictions. Other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2018 Abbott. ADC-09691 vLO 10/18

*The FreeStyle LibreLink app and the FreeStyle Libre 14 day reader have similar but not identical features. Fingersticks are required for treatment decisions when you see Check Blood Glucose symbol, when symptoms do not match system readings, when you suspect readings may be inaccurate, or when you experience symptoms that may be due to high or low blood glucose.

The FreeStyle Libre 2 app and the FreeStyle Libre 2 reader have similar but not identical features. Fingersticks are required for treatment decisions when you see Check Blood Glucose symbol and when your glucose alarms and readings from the system do not match symptoms or expectations

‡‡‡Based on the sensor being replaced once every 14 days, and scanned at least once every 8 hours.

§§§Glucose readings are not available during 1-hour warm-up, when sensor is too hot or too cold, when you see an error or "LO" or "HI" message, or no current glucose reading