When you have type 1 diabetes, it’s important to know how many carbs you consume each time you eat or drink.

What are carbs?

Carbohydrates, or “carbs,” are nutrients in the food we eat and drink. The body’s digestive system breaks down carbs into sugar. Insulin is the key that “unlocks” the cells and allows blood sugar to enter so it can be used as energy. 

Young woman at the grocery store

When you have type 1 diabetes (T1D), it’s important to know how many carbs you consume each time you eat or drink. This is so that you can determine how much insulin you need to take at any given time to control your blood-sugar levels. 

Your healthcare provider will help you figure out what kind of insulin dosage you need each day, and how often you should take it. 

How to count carbs  

  • Find nutrition labels on foods and drinks to figure out the total grams of carbs per serving. This can be a new skill! Ask to meet with a dietitian or diabetes care and education specialist to learn how to read nutrition labels. 
  • Use measuring cups and spoons or food scales to count carbs more accurately. Be sure you use liquid measuring cups for liquids and dry measuring cups for dry foods. 
  • Use smartphone apps and websites that make it easier to determine and add up carbs. 
  • Create a list of what you most often eat and drink and their carb counts.
  • Helpful tip: Nutrition labels also tell you how many grams of carbohydrates are in a food, and this includes the amount of sugar in the food that is listed separately. You don’t need to count these sugars separately because they are already included in the total grams of carbs per serving. 

Carb counting tools

These websites and apps can help with carb counting: