Nutrition: Carbohydrate counting

Christine McKinney, RD, LDN, CDE, Thomas Donner, M.D.


  • Carbohydrate counting is a meal-planning approach estimating carbohydrate intake to promote glycemic control.
  • Carbohydrate counting is recommended for patients with type 1 diabetes and patients taking multiple daily injections of insulin or insulin pump therapy. This is often recommended to determine mealtime insulin doses.
  • There is not an ideal percentage of carbohydrates, protein, and fat for all people with diabetes. This should be individualized according to current eating patterns, preferences, and metabolic goals[4].
  • Carbohydrate counting can be used by anyone with diabetes regardless of diabetes medications. Other methods for carbohydrate management strategies include the plate method, portion control, simplified meal plan or food lists and carbohydrate choices[1].
  • Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) is nutrition counseling that includes an individualized nutrition assessment, nutrition diagnosis, intervention (education and counseling) and monitoring, and evaluation with ongoing follow up by a registered dietitian.

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Last updated: December 4, 2018