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No more carbs?

Do I Have To Eliminate All Carbohydrates From My Diet?

Many people assume that a person with Type 2 diabetes should refrain from eating any and all carbohydrates. Because there are so many fads in dieting, like the Atkins, Paleo, and South Beach diets that further promote this belief, many people with Type 2 diabetes fear that they will never be able to consume a carbohydrate again. Several of our community members have also expressed interest in this topic, asking our experts if they do, in fact, have to eliminate all carbohydrates from their diet. Our experts, Kelly, Meryl, and Joanne, all provided some great insight into carbohydrate consumption and management of Type 2 diabetes.

Portion control is key for carbohydrates

Kelly Dabel

This is a good question and one that we see often. So many times when we discuss carbohydrate foods and how they raise blood sugar, people think, “well then I just won’t eat those anymore” or “you mean I can’t eat ANY carbohydrates again?”. The thing is, everyone, diabetes or not, uses carbohydrate foods as fuel for your brain and body to function. The Diabetes guidelines for meal planning are more of a low or controlled carbohydrate way of eating and not a no-carbohydrate diet. The key is portion control. Most people should aim for about 45-60 grams of carbohydrate per meal and 15-20 grams for a snack, along with some source of protein (lean meat, egg, beans, etc). It’s best to pair carbohydrate foods with protein because protein is more slowly digested and will help to prevent your blood sugar from spiking. If your dinner plate is feeling a bit sparse, consider adding some grilled chicken and a big green salad, both of which (if prepared without added sugars) do not contribute any additional carbohydrates. Whole grains and fiber-rich foods such as beans offer great fiber and bulk to your meal, which will leave you feeling more satisfied and keep you full longer. Here’s a helpful article that discusses all things nutrition for managing Diabetes: Healthy Eating and Meal Planning.

Choose more nutrient dense carbohydrates

Meryl Profile Picture

A common misconception is that if you have diabetes you will need to follow a low carbohydrate diet or eliminate carbohydrates altogether. This is far from the truth! Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source. Our brain requires glucose (all carbohydrates are broken down into glucose). A consistent carbohydrate intake at meals along with diabetes medications can help regulate blood sugar levels. Most people do well with 45-60 grams if carbohydrate at each meal. Carbohydrates are in many if the foods we eat. Some of those foods are more nutrient-dense than others. Choosing whole grains (whole wheat bread instead of white bread), low-fat dairy and fresh fruit (instead of canned fruit) are a few quick changes to start with to ensure that the carbohydrates you are eating are nutrient dense.

Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for the human body

Joanne Lyford Bio

Over the years, in the popular press, carbohydrates have taken a beating sometimes as the “good guys” and sometimes as the “bad guys”.  Scientific evidence supports Meryl’s excellent explanation that carbohydrates are the primary energy source for the human body.  It happens that carbohydrates are the staple of most diets around the world.  Foods like rice, pasta, breads (grains) beans, legumes, and vegetables – they all provide energy to think, work and play.

For starters, a healthy meal plate with a 45 – 60 grams of carbohydrate content would look like:

  1. Half the plate filled with vegetables
  2. About one quarter filled with grains (tortilla, rice, potato, pasta etc)
  3. About one quarter filled with meat, fish, egg or beans/legumes
  4. A small side of a low-fat dairy drink or food or a small piece of fruit

Do you try to follow a diet low in carbohydrates? Do you find it challenging to stick with the recommended 45-60 grams of carbohydrates per meal in your diet? Tell us more about your experience in the comments!

Comments

  • nbaeder
    5 months ago

    The article says to stay within 45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal. Your next to last sentence says 45-60 grams of carbs per DAY. Which is it? I’m assuming per meal, not per day.

  • Kelly Dabel, RD moderator
    5 months ago

    Thanks for reaching out nbaeder. You are correct, it’s 45-60 grams of carbohydrate per meal. Apologies for any confusion. Hope this was helpful to you. Please reach out with any questions. Best, Kelly, Type2diabetes.com Community Moderator

  • Mary1975
    6 months ago

    Good article.

  • Dhyana Starr
    6 months ago

    I had been told my numerous RDs to have 30g carbs at meals and 15g for snacks with poor results. I went on Keto along with 16/8 IF and my bg plummeted and I was no longer sleepy in the pm. I shared Keto with my young doctor who had no problem with -20g carbs per day and my improved A1C verified it. There has been a large number of nutritional studies recently and RDs have not kept up. I no longer go to RDs. Check out Dr Jason Fung, Canadian Kidney Specialist. Brilliant.

  • Margot moderator
    6 months ago

    Thanks for sharing Dhyana – as reactions to different diets or ways of eating, including Keto, can differ by person, we always recommend checking in with your doctor or care team and keeping track of what is happening for you as an individual – which it sounds like you are doing! Thanks for sharing. – Margot, Type2Diabetes.com Team

  • john paulson
    6 months ago

    4 years of eating keto diet averaging about 17 carbs per day. 5.3 A1C with no meds. I am also a 3x heart bypass survivor that has seen my ejection fraction improve while eating keto–in other words the 75% of my calories from fat (mostly saturated) haven’t hurt me one bit. We do NOT need a single carb and the 30-60 carbs per meal ADA thing is just asinine. Every 4 carbs is the same as one teaspoon of sugar.

  • Jan820
    6 months ago

    Do you not eat any fruits or vegetables? Tell me how you do only 17g carbs PER DAY!

  • john paulson
    6 months ago

    I eat any animal product except the milk part of dairy, and with a few exceptions any above ground vegetable that is not a seed or fruit. In other words lettuce, cabbage family asparagus, mushrooms . Exceptions are green beans, snow peas, cucumber, zucchini are ok even though they are fruits. A bit of tomato and onion for flavor. No grains. I have many days under that 17 and I find it quite easy.

  • diabetesmom
    8 months ago

    I would fail if I had to give up all. We do however have to be careful! Great article

  • feinman
    8 months ago

    Misleading and unscientific, the advice here is unlikely to help anyone. Nobody needs advice to eat carbohydrates. We need help reducing carbohydrate (CHO). There is no biologic requirement for any CHO which does not mean that you have to do without completely although some people find this beneficial. The overwhelming scientific evidence says that low-carbohydrate diets are most beneficial and should be tried first. The evidence is that you reduce or avoid medication. In most diseases the is good evidence. Other might be that the medical establishment refuses to cite the science on low-carb but has never shown any contradiction.

  • cmom
    6 months ago

    I eat a Ketogenic diet for my T2.- between 20 to 30 carbs a day, with an A1c in the 5s with no need of any meds. There is no dietary requirement for carbs. You couldn’t pay me to go back to your SAD diet. Ever. My life is now amazing: lost 10 sizes, and 90 pounds. Keto for life.

  • kkeoppel
    1 year ago

    I try to have less than 90 carbs a day, about 30 carbs a meal. I am doing better with exercise, but portions of meat, I don’t do that good.

  • john paulson
    6 months ago

    90 carbs is the same thing as 22 teaspoons of sugar–just something to think about

  • v5e0ct
    1 year ago

    now and the fruits are abundant and I’m enjoying that. and protein shakes are a good replacement meal If I’m being lazy and don’t want to cook. I do have my drs approval for those. I use whey powder mixes as the dietician told me they were better than the soy mixes. I still cheat a little, but I’m very careful even with that.

  • Margot moderator
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much for sharing @v5e0ct – great that you’ve been communicating with your doctor and dietitian! Best, Margot, Type2Diabetes.com Team

  • josieposie76
    2 years ago

    I can honestly say at first I was really, really angry about finding out I had type 2 diabetes. I changed my diet in 2009 after being told I was going to die because at that time my weight was at 690 pounds. So I changed my diet up and had been doing really well with it. I had my ups and downs, but for the most part I have been doing great. I was down to 389 pounds, but kept getting sick. Come to find out I have diabetes. I like my carbs, but I was still eating them in moderation. I had to give up white bread, which is my favorite. I’ve lost 10 pounds since Christmas after modifying my diet. i found an Orowheat Multigrain bread that is out of this world good. So even though I don’t get the carbs from my favorite things I have manged to do well with a 38-50 carb per meal allotment.

  • Margot moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi @josieposie76! I’ve just sent you a message – thank you so much for sharing with us here on the site. It sounds like you have made a lot of beneficial changes and are working very hard! So glad to hear about the bread you’ve found too – it’s always good to find something you can eat that you also really enjoy eating! Thinking of you, Margot, Type2Diabetes.com Team Member

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