How many carbs should a diabetic have per day?

Updated April 17, 2017

A diabetic's daily carbohydrate intake varies based on age, weight, gender, activity level and goal. An individual diabetic's needs can also vary, if he is to be active one day, but resting the next. Roughly half of all calories should come from carbohydrates, regardless of the day's carbohydrate total.

Per Meal

Women should have between 2 and 3.5 carbohydrate servings per meal, while men can have between 3 and 4. A carbohydrate serving is considered 15 grams, meaning that the total number of carbohydrates a woman should have at one sitting is between 30 and 55 grams and for men is 50 to 65. Be sure to read labels carefully to make sure the math adds up. For instance, a serving size of peanut butter is not the same as a serving size of carbohydrates. A two-tablespoon serving size of peanut butter is 8 grams of carbohydrates, making two servings of peanut butter 16 grams of carbohydrates or roughly one carbohydrate portion for meal purposes.

Weight Variations

Overweight diabetics should consume fewer carbohydrates than normal-weight diabetics, but never consume less than 130 grams of carbohydrates for an entire day. Important nutrition could be lost, or blood-glucose levels could dip too low, leading to hypoglycaemia.


Do not get all your carbohydrates from one source. Eat a variety of proteins, fruits, vegetables and starches. A good rule is to keep carbohydrate totals from each group at roughly 12 to 15 grams per meal.


Eat the same amount of carbohydrates at every meal throughout the day, since this prevents blood-sugar spikes. If on a 180-gram carbohydrate diet, but you can't consume 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal three times a day, try smaller meals, say four 40-gram carbohydrate meals and a 20-gram snack. Always add grams from snacks to your daily carbohydrate total.

If you are going to be more active one day, eat a few extra carbohydrates. One serving of 15 grams of carbohydrates before working out is usually enough to prevent hypoglycaemia.


According to the American Diabetes Association, 50 to 60 per cent of all calories should come from carbohydrates, with fats being a quarter of the day's total and proteins making up the rest. Avoid high-fat foods since they slow carbohydrate absorption and can increase blood-glucose levels for an extended period of time. Focus on high-fibre foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, as these items don't cause spikes in sugar levels by exiting the body quickly and not being absorbed into the intestinal tract. Get at least 25 grams, and preferably 50 grams, of dietary fibre every day.

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About the Author

Over the course of a 15-year career, John Briggs has written for print and online clients. As a syndicated TV critic, his work appeared in some of the country's top dailies. He has a degree in political science from Temple University and took additional writing classes at NYU.