Consistent Carbohydrate Diet and Type 2 Diabetes

Following a consistent carbohydrate diet may help someone with diabetes.
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Following a consistent carbohydrate diet can help a person with diabetes can keep blood sugar levels under control. 

People with type 2 diabetes have trouble regulating blood sugar levels because they're not making enough insulin or their cells are not responding to the insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows muscle, liver, and fat cells to absorb glucose from your blood. Treatment of type 2 diabetes usually involves taking medications that help regular blood sugar, and in some cases, a person with diabetes needs to take insulin, but dietary changes are also necessary. 

How the Consistent Carbohydrate Diet Works

Carbohydrates include sugars and starches that your body breaks down and uses for energy. A person with diabetes needs to monitor his or her carbohydrate intake. Some people go on a low-carbohydrate diet and just avoid most carbs, but the focus of the consistent carbohydrate diet is keeping a level intake of carbohydrates throughout each day and from one day to the next.

It isn't much different from a regular, healthful diet, except that you need to be careful and monitor the number of carbs you take in at every meal and snack. It seems like a lot of work, but with help and practice you'll get the hang of it.

Carbohydrate Choices or Exchanges

Your health care provider can help you know how many grams of carbohydrates you can have every day, and then a dietitian, nutritionist, or diabetes educator can help you design a menu that spreads that carb count evenly throughout the day. It's not easy to count every single gram of carbohydrate in every serving of foods, so the American Diabetes Association has converted the number of grams of carbohydrate into "exchanges" for many different foods.

Each carbohydrate exchange is worth about 15 grams of carbohydrate, so if you need 200 grams of carbohydrates each day, your total of carbohydrate exchanges for the day should be 13. Everything you eat has a certain number of carbohydrate choices. Foods that don't contain any carbohydrates (or less than 5 grams) have a choice of zero.

Foods that are high in sugar or starches are equal to more exchanges compared to foods that have fewer carbs. For example, a small piece of chocolate cake is probably going to use up two of your daily exchanges, and half a cup of orange juice is worth one exchange. Typically, each meal will have about three to five exchanges, and each snack has one or two.

Example Menu

Here's an example of a full day's menu that has 13 exchanges:


  • 1/2 cup oatmeal - 1 exchange
  • One cup fruit juice - 1 exchange
  • One slice toast - 1 exchange
  • One hard-boiled egg - 0 exchange
  • One cup coffee - 0 exchange

Midmorning Snack

  • One medium peach - 1 exchange
  • One glass water -0 exchange


  • 1/2 chicken breast - 0 exchange
  • 1/2 cup corn - 1 exchange
  • One cup cooked spinach - 0 exchange
  • One dinner roll - 1 exchange
  • One teaspoon butter - 0 exchange
  • One cup low-fat milk - 1 exchange

Midafternoon Snack

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt -1 exchange
  • One cup berries - 1 exchange
  • One glass water - 0 exchange


  • 4-ounce salmon filet - 0 exchange
  • One cup steamed broccoli - 0 exchange
  • 1/2 cup mashed potatoes - 1 exchange
  • One dinner roll - 1 exchange
  • 1 cup low-fat milk - 1 exchange

Nighttime Snack

  • 3 cups popcorn - 1 exchange
  • One glass water - 0 exchange

Keep in mind that having an exchange value doesn't reflect the overall nutritional value. Bacon and beef jerky both have an exchange of zero but that doesn't mean they're good for you. Continue to make healthful choices with lots of green and colorful vegetables, low-fat protein sources, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • American Diabetes Association. "Making Healthy Food Choices."  
  • Maher AK. "Simplified Diet Menu." Eleventh Edition, Hoboken NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, October 2011.  
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. "Diabetes Diet - Diabetic Exchange Lists."