Friday, 4 May 2012

Carbohydrate Counting

When I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes my Dr. told me to eat 75 grams of carbs with every meal and to take 8 units of Humalog with every meal.  Breakfast, lunch and supper.  It was exhausting.  It's not easy to eat that many carbs all the time!  You get full.  It was a pretty rough two weeks to be honest.  Is this what I was going to have to do for the rest of my life? 

It reminded me of hearing all of those old stories of rigid diabetes regimens from the past.  Eat at 7:30 am. same thing every day, take 10 units of insulin, eat at 12:00 pm. everyday, take 12 units of insulin, eat at 6:00 pm. everyday, take 15 units of insulin.  Lucky you, today is boiled fish day.  Now go on your walk!  Yikes.

After about two weeks and my Dr. saw that I had responded well to the insulin program he introduced me to carb counting.  What a lifesaver!  So much freedom was re-introduced into my life.  It was great.  It was a learning curve but it is definitely worth it. 

Basically, I count the carbs on all of my meals as accurately as possible.  For the first few weeks it was a challenge because I had to measure everything.  After I have been doing it for a few months I am getting fairly good at estimating the amount of carbs in foods that I do not have the info for.  For my staples I can just look at the plate and know how many carbs are there. 

I have different carb ratios for each meal.  For breakfast I have 1 unit of Humalog for every 7.5 grams of carbs.  At lunch I have 1 unit of Humalog for every 9 grams of carbs.  At supper I am back to 7.5 grams for every 1 unit of Humalog. 

Now it is a lot more complicated than just counting up the carbs and then injecting the right amount of insulin.  There are lots of other things that you must do and pay attention to when you are carb counting.  You have to make sure you are measuring your glucose at regular intervals to make sure you can correct for errors if you make them.  You also have to test before eating because that may make you take more or less insulin.  You also need to make adjustments and it takes a while to find your correct ratio but your Dr can help you with that.

I am not trying to give a lesson or anything here.  The message I have is that carb counting has made my life as a diabetic much more flexible.  I would encourage everyone  to at least learn about it.  A few websites that have good info on it are linked below...

Find a dietitian or a diabetes educator to help you with the fine points of carbohydrate counting.  They have all sorts of fabulous resources to help people with carbohydrate counting.  The online community also has tons of great information on carb counting. 


  1. Yes - the way I was raised when I was first diagnosed with T1D in the 60's - was much the same as you describe above! LOL Times have changed - and now with the great insulin types available to us - and ability to use them to OUR best advantage - the old way of "eat this - take this much insulin EVERY time" is hopefully going to be a thing of the past - if endos/GP's that we go to our up-to-date on how a diabetic can live today. I just recently helped a T1D of many years - learn how to carb count. They were always injecting the same amount of rapid insulin for their 3 main meals a day - of course - dong the roller coaster ride of low/high. Not fun - when they own their own business and have to be with it. I think they now are getting how to carb count - I check in on them once in awhile at their cafe - to make sure. I know very few T1D's here in Montreal - so it's nice to get together with them - and not just talk about our diabetes - but also our other passions in life (like mine - motorcycles, sports cars, sailing, living life to the fullest).

    1. It is amazing how much freedom you feel when you realise that you have choices and flexibility in regards to your food choices as a newly diagnosed diabetic.