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May 18, 2014

Type 2 Diabetes & Carbohydrates Explained


Meal planning when you have diabetes can be overwhelming to say the least. Patients often ask, “how many carbohydrates should I eat a day?” and “what foods have carbohydrates?” Understanding what foods have carbohydrates (carbs) and how many carbs they have can help you get a better handle on your diabetes. Medicine and insulins will help your diabetes, but making the right food choices can lessen your need for these medications over time.

As a general rule for healthy eating, eat less of foods that are high in calories, cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. Carbohydrates are the main food that raise blood sugar because after digestion, most carbs=SUGAR. Carbohydrate counting can help you understand how many carbs you are eating and help you cut out unnecessary carbs, calories, and increases to your blood sugar. Carbohydrates are not all bad though, because they are what provide your body energy along with vitamins and minerals. The American Diabetes Association recommends that you eat between 45-60 grams of carbohydrates with each meal.

To begin carb counting, look at the nutrition facts on the back of the package. There are three types of carbohydrates: starch, sugar, and fiber. If you look on a food label, the “total carbohydrate” number gives you the total for the starch, sugar, and fiber-you do not have to add these separately. (The only foods that do NOT contain carbs are meats, eggs, cheese, fats and oils). Be wary of serving sizes, and if you eat a greater portion that the serving size you must increase your carb count accordingly.

Having food labels handy makes carb counting easy because you can just look at the package and add up the total carbohydrate number. As long as you are less than 45-60 grams, you are ok for that meal. But what about foods that don’t come with labels? Below you will find a list of some fruits and vegetables along with their respective carb counts.


Each of these foods has about 15 grams of carbs:

Small apple

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

4 whole fresh apricots

½ banana

¾ cup blueberries

¾ cup blackberries

1/3 cantelope

12 sweet cherries

3 dates

2 tbsp of dried fruits

2 medium fresh figs

½ large grapefruit

17 small grapes

1 kiwi

½ mango

1 small orange

¾ cup fresh pineapple

½ papaya

2 small plums

1 ¼ cup of whole strawberries

1 cup raspberries

1 slice of watermelon


Each of these foods has about 5 grams of carbs (1/2 cup cooked or vegetable juice or 1 cup raw):

Artichoke, artichoke hearts


Baby corn









Collard greens/kale/turnips








Good luck with carbohydrate counting! Remember: 45-60 grams of carbohydrates per meal is a good starting place. If you find that you are not meeting your blood sugar goals as outlined by your healthcare provider, you may need to decrease your carb count after a discussion with your provider.


Nicole Brown, FNP-C


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