Becoming your own Carbohydrate Detective
By Tammy Stogner, RN, CDE
Over the years as a Diabetes Educator I’m asked one question at nearly every visit: “How many carbohydrates can I eat?” Although I have a standard “boxed” answer— 30 grams of carbohydrates per meal and 15 grams of carbohydrates per snack — I really don’t like to use it. The fact of the matter is that every body is different. Individuals with diabetes are just that — individuals — and therefore require a carbohydrate intake based upon their own individual needs and circumstances.
Some people may need less carbohydrate than stated in the “boxed” answer, while others might be able to consume more. So how much is right for you? Here is where a little bit of work by you and your glucometer come in handy. Using your fasting blood sugar level and a two hour, after-meal blood sugar level can paint a picture of how your body reacted/processed the carbohydrates you consumed.
Let’s say that your morning fasting blood sugar was 120, then you have breakfast consisting of eggs, toast and 1 cup of strawberries, for approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates. After two hours you test your blood sugar again and get a reading of 160, a difference of 40 points. At this point you might be saying so what, what does that tell me? Well, after eating carbohydrates we know there will be a rise in blood sugar, since all carbohydrates are converted to sugar by our body. But, how much rise is appropriate? The answer is 30 to 60 points. If your blood sugar had started at 120 and risen to 200, a difference of 80 points, then your intake of carbohydrates at breakfast exceeded your body’s ability to process it.
This technique can be used for any meal and will give you the opportunity to become your own detective and adjust your carbohydrate intake accordingly.
For more information on post-meal blood sugar ranges go to: