How Many Carbs Should People with Type 2 Diabetes Eat Daily? A Guide

Medically Reviewed By Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD

Though carbohydrates (carbs) are essential to a healthy diet, they can also raise your blood sugar. The right amount of daily carbs for someone with type 2 diabetes will depend on several factors, such as their weight and activity level. Setting limits on carb intake — and tracking what you eat to ensure you stay within those limits — can help you manage blood sugar. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can help you find a meal plan that works for you.

Read on to learn more about how carbs fit into eating plans for type 2 diabetes.

How many carbs to eat per day

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As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source notes, there is no set amount of recommended daily carbs for people with type 2 diabetes. The daily amount that’s right for you will depend on factors like:

  • your age
  • your weight
  • your activity level

Ask your doctor for guidance on more specific goals for you.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) also recommends eating carbs throughout the day as opposed to lots of carbs in one sitting. This helps keep your blood sugar from spiking.

Read some expert advice about eating with diabetes.

What to know about carbs

Carbs are nutrients that are broken down by the body into glucose, or blood sugar. Foods that contain carbs include:

  • grains, such as:
    • bread
    • cereals
    • pasta
    • rice
  • fruit and fruit juices
  • starchy vegetables, such as corn and potatoes
  • dairy foods, such as milk and yogurt
  • sweets, such as:
    • cookies
    • pastries
    • cakes
    • candy
  • snack foods, such as potato chips

To find the carb content of a food, check the amount of total carbohydrates on the food label. Be sure to look at the serving amount as well. If you’re eating twice as much as the listed serving, you’ll need to double the total carbs you’re consuming.

You can find the carb content of foods that don’t have labels online or in carb-counting apps. With time, you’ll learn how many carbs are in your favorite foods.

Impacts of carbs on type 2 diabetes

When carbs break down in the body, they raise your blood sugar levels Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source . Moderating the carbs you consume daily can help you manage your blood sugar more effectively.

Also, you may be able to enhance blood sugar management by restricting carbs and maintaining a moderate weight. A 2022 randomized controlled trial Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source involving 72 adults with type 2 diabetes found that 6 weeks of moderate carb restriction, when combined with weight loss, contributed to better blood sugar levels than just weight loss alone.

People with diabetes need to be more careful about their eating than those without the condition. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can help you choose the best method based on your preferences and needs.

Learn more about possible benefits and risks of a low carb diet.

Tracking carbs

Below are three techniques for planning meals that can help you get the right amount of carbs:

  1. Carb counting: This method is the most straightforward. You and your doctor or a registered dietitian will work together to set a limit for how many carbs you’ll consume at each meal. Then you track the grams of carbs in the foods you eat.
  2. Exchange lists: This method categorizes foods into groups, such as carbohydrates, meat or meat alternatives, and fats. The plan outlines how many servings you can have from each group at a meal. The plan specifies how much of each food equals one serving within each group based on its nutrient content. You can exchange one food serving for another within the same group.
  3. Glycemic index (GI): This method lets you refine carb counting. It considers the quantity of carbs in the foods you eat and the quality. Foods with a high GI value raise blood sugar more than those with a low GI. The goal is to choose your carbs from foods with a lower GI value, such as:
    • many whole-grain foods
    • most fruits
    • nonstarchy vegetables
    • dried beans and peas

If you need some diabetes-friendly recipe ideas, check out the Diabetes Food Hub at the ADA.

Learn 6 things to know about carb counting for diabetes.

Summary

Although carbohydrates are part of a healthy diet, they also raise blood sugar. If you have type 2 diabetes, you need to aim for a balanced carb intake.

Carbs are found in many foods. You can check food labels to find the carb content or use a website, app, or book to help you.

There are several methods to help you plan meals, including carb counting, exchange lists, and the glycemic index.

Your doctor or a registered dietitian can help you determine how many carbs you should eat daily and what your eating plans should look like.

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Medical Reviewer: Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD
Last Review Date: 2023 Aug 2
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.