How Many Carbs Should A Diabetic Have A Day: Free Guide 2023

How Many Carbs Should A Diabetic Eat Free Guide 2023

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In 2020, it was estimated that 415 million people suffered from diabetes mellitus. People with diabetes do not produce enough or react in the same way to insulin which is responsible for lowering blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates in foods are responsible for increasing blood glucose levels and should be counted to help control your diabetes and prevent long-term complications.

How Many Carbs Should A Diabetic Eat? There is no simple answer that applies to everyone as this depends on many factors including age, weight, and activity level. However, this article will provide some general guidelines to help you determine how many carbs you should eat and which carbs are better to eat when you have diabetes. 

How Many Carbs Should A Diabetic Eat A Day?

Carbohydrates should account for 45% to 65% of total daily calories. As a result, the number of carbs fluctuates with the number of calories required to maintain a healthy diet. If you are trying to lose weight, it is recommended that you reduce your daily intake by 500 calories, which according to current research should be accomplished by reducing carbohydrate intake.

Why Should Diabetics Count Carbs?

How Many Carbs Should a Diabetic Eat?

Carbohydrates are the main food source responsible for increasing blood glucose levels in diabetics. Thus it is important to count carbs to help match your intake to your activity level and medications to help maintain a stable, healthy blood glucose level. In addition, overeating carbs can lead to unwanted weight gain which can further cause problems in diabetics.

By maintaining healthy blood glucose levels, diabetics can help prevent the serious complications associated with the disease such as kidney failure, nerve damage, and damage to your eyes. It can also help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke which is elevated in diabetics. 

Finally, if you take insulin with meals, it is important to take the right amount of insulin which is based on how many carbs you are eating. So by counting carbs, you will be better at determining how much insulin to inject which can help prevent you from injecting too much.

Different Types of Carbs

Not all carbohydrates are created equal and are divided into three different classes. Sugars, starches, and fibers make up the different carbs encountered in the diet. Of these, only fiber does not affect blood sugar levels as they are not absorbed by the body. 

Depending on the sugar or starch eaten, blood sugar levels are affected to different degrees. The ability of a carbohydrate to raise blood sugar has been classified into what’s known as the glycemic index. The glycemic index ranges from 1 to 100 and the higher the number the faster and higher blood sugar levels will rise. 

Carbs with a low glycemic index are preferred by diabetics and include wholegrain foods, fruits, vegetables, beans, and lentils. High glycemic index foods such as sugary drinks, candy, white bread, and white rice.  

How Many Carbs Should A Diabetic Have A Day

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the daily intake of carbohydrates should account for 45% to 65% of daily calories. Therefore, the number of carbs changes depending on the number of calories needed to maintain a healthy diet. If you are trying to lose weight, it is recommended to reduce your daily intake by 500 calories, and based on current research this should likely be accomplished by cutting carbohydrate intake. 

A simple, quick way to determine portions and intake is by using the MyPlate method in which half of your plate should consist of carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. Next, a quarter (25%) of your plate should consist of carbohydrates from grains and starches. With a healthy source of protein to complete the plate. 

Calculate The Ideal Carb Intake

How Many Carbs Should a Diabetic Eat?

To determine the ideal amount of carbs per day, the first thing you must do is calculate how many calories you need to consume in a day. Then take this number and simply cut it in half. This gives you the number of calories you should consume in the form of carbohydrates.

Now, divide that number by four (1 gram of carb = 4 calories) to convert the calories into grams of carbohydrates. This number corresponds with food labels to make it easier to track your carbohydrate intake. 

For example, a 2000-calorie per day diet would mean 1000 calories should come from carbs. This then correlates to 250 grams of carbohydrates per day which can then be divided into meals and snacks.  

Food Affects Blood Sugar Levels

The primary reason carbohydrate counting is important stems from the fact that carbs are what affect blood sugar levels. To control blood sugar levels, eating a consistent diet of carbohydrates limits daily fluctuations in sugar levels and allows your medications to be dosed more effectively.

As mentioned above, foods with a high glycemic index will raise blood sugar levels quickly after consumption and are less preferred than low glycemic index. In general, less than 10% of carbohydrates should come from added sugars found in foods and beverages. These added sugars can raise blood sugar levels without providing any nutritional benefits. 

If you use insulin before meals, knowing the number of carbohydrates consumed allows for the proper dosing of the insulin to account for the sugars and starches in that meal. This allows the body to use up the sugars entering the blood from the meal. 

When To See A Doctor

If you are newly diabetic or planning to lose weight it is important to discuss with your doctor dietary modifications or diet planning to help maximize control over your blood sugars. In addition, meeting with a registered dietician can significantly improve your dietary selections and ultimately improve your blood sugar control. 

If you experience symptoms of low blood sugars (hypoglycemia) including sweating, shaking, dizziness, irritability, and confusion, contact your doctor. This could mean your medications or diet may need to be adjusted.

If you experience symptoms of elevated blood sugars (hyperglycemia) including increased urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger, contact your doctor. This too could mean your medications or diet needs to be adjusted.  


Achieving good blood sugar control can help prevent the many complications associated with diabetes mellitus. One way to do this is to count carbohydrates and select healthier carbohydrate choices. Determining your daily carb requirements can be difficult, so seek guidance from your doctor or a registered dietician.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I be concerned about carbohydrate intake as a diabetic?

Yes. Carbohydrates are the key component of diets that impact blood sugar levels. Therefore, to adequately control diabetes, counting carbs and making healthier choices is necessary. Making sure you have a consistent carb intake helps to prevent hyper and hypoglycemia complications.

Are there certain carbohydrates a diabetic should avoid?

Highly processed foods and foods with added sugars should be limited as they can rapidly raise blood sugar levels. These foods often have a high glycemic index and include sodas, candy, cakes, white bread, and white rice.

What are the different types of carbs?

Carbohydrates are divided into sugars, starches, and fiber. Naturally occurring sugars are present in many fruits and vegetables. Starches are commonly seen in foods like potatoes, bread, and pasta. Fiber is found in beans, whole grains, and brown rice.

How many carbs should I eat in a day?

Carbohydrates should make up approximately 45-65% of your daily calorie intake. The majority of these should come from fruits and vegetables.

How many calories are there in a carbohydrate?

There are four calories in every gram of carbohydrate. When converting daily calories into how many grams of carbohydrates, simply divide the number of calories by four. This will give you the grams of carbohydrates for one day.

Are low-carbohydrate diets good for weight loss in diabetics?

Yes. Clinical studies have shown that a low-carb diet is safe and effective for losing weight and improving blood sugar control. However, the ability to maintain such a diet long-term is one of the main drawbacks of this diet strategy.

+ 5 Sources

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  2. CDC. Diabetes and Carbohydrates . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published 2019. Accessed June 11, 2023.
  3. American Diabetes Association. Nutrition Principles and Recommendations in Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003;27(Supplement 1):S36-S36. doi:
  4. Saslow LR, Daubenmier JJ, Moskowitz JT, et al. Twelve-month outcomes of a randomized trial of a moderate-carbohydrate versus very low-carbohydrate diet in overweight adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes. Nutrition & Diabetes. 2017;7(12). doi:
  5. USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 -2025 .; 2020. Accessed June 11, 2023.


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