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Carb Counting


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Counting carbs is always a challenging task, but it can be especially difficult with tons of high-carb foods around. Here at the U-M Pediatric Diabetes Clinic, we are ready to help! Check out our carb counting tools and milk and cereal tips so you can still enjoy the foods you love while keeping your blood sugar levels in check. Take a look at some additional carb counting tips from our guide here

What Needs to be Counted

Foods that contain carbohydrates or 'carbs' include grains, legumes, bread, cereal, pasta, crackers, fruits, juices, milk, yogurt, sweets, and snack foods. Identifying the number of carbs is often found on the package label and is calculated by determining the serving size. For foods that do not have labels, using a food scale and a reference list such as Calorie King can help to determine the portion size and the amount of carbs. Check out the ADA's guide on carb counting that can be found here.

What needs to be counted
Carb Countig Tools

Carb Counting Tools

Do you know how many carbs you ate today at lunch? Was your last snack closer to 20 grams or 30 grams of carbs? Some people with diabetes find carb counting easy, while others may struggle with finding the right answers. Some use apps like Calorie King, Fooducate, or mySugr (check our favorites under Digital Tools!) to keep track of all their numbers, and others find it easier to do the math (and it can be a lot of math!) in their heads. Whether you’re newly diagnosed with diabetes, a pro at living with diabetes, or just someone trying to stay healthy, everyone can always use a refresher on carb counting.


One of the most important steps in carb counting is being sure you know how to read the labels on your favorite foods. Our diabetes educators go over this essential skill in our Basic Diabetes Education class, but if you need a refresher, check out our Reading Food Labels handout to review the key pieces of information you need to read in the Nutrition Facts.​ The American Diabetes Association also breaks down this information on their website here. It's a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about how different ingredients can impact T1D.

Helpful Hack: Counting Carbs Like a Pro!

Are you a parent trying to carb count for a young child with diabetes? Check out this parent’s guide to counting carbs like a pro. Also, talk to your diabetes educator if you're having trouble keeping your child's blood sugars in range. Need help with the insulin dosing math? Be sure to download our Calculation Sheet for Insulin Doses.

Let's Talk About Fiber

You probably have heard fiber is good for our health, and most people know fiber as the nutrients that helps us have more regular bowel movements. And for those of us with diabetes, fiber is even more important.

In general, there are two types of fibers: soluble and insoluble. Let's talk about the benefit of each of them!


Soluble Fiber:

  1. Great for making our stool softer and easier to pass.

  2. Could lower our cholesterol (cholesterol can build up waxy substances that can clot your arteries).

  3. Usually found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, and barley.


Insoluble Fiber:

  1. Increase the bulk of your stool so that your guts would get stimulated to move the stool along.

  2. Keeping us feeling full for longer.

  3. Usually found in whole grain products (whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, corn, brown rice, etc.), vegetables, beans, peas, avocados, and some starchy vegetables.

Both soluble and insoluble fibers are great for lowering blood sugar spikes, and that's why our blood sugar typically doesn't go as high when you have fresh apples compared to apple juice, where the fiber has been filtered out.


How can we eat more fiber?

  1. Switch out refined grains, such as white bread, regular pasta, and white rice, to whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice

  2. Have old fashioned oats (rolled oats) for breakfast.

  3. Have fruits or vegetables or both at all meals.

  4. Snack on some nuts

  5. Eat the skin of certain fruits and vegetables: cucumber, apples, pears, grapes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

  6. Have more plant protein. Most plant-based protein products are made from beans and peas, which are high in fiber.

  7. Add chia seed or ground flax seed to your hot cereal or yogurt.

  8. When shopping for packaged food, aim for having at least 5 g of fiber in each serving.

So how much fiber does my child need?

A good way to figure out is by adding 5 to 10g to your child's age. For example, if your child is 10 years old, they would need 15 to 20 g of fiber per day. 10+5=15g, 10+10=20g.

Pro tip! If you plan to increase fiber in your meals and snacks, please increase it slowly and drink plenty of water. Otherwise, you may temporarily experience more bloating and gas, as well as worsening constipation.

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Let's Talk About Fiber
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