Over 29 million people in the United States have diabetes mellitus, a disease that often leads to chronic complications. People with diabetes mellitus need to learn a variety of behaviors such as dietary management, exercise, self-blood glucose monitoring, and medication administration to manage this disease and reduce incidence of chronic complications. Although meal planning is an important component of diabetes mellitus self-management that is utilized to improve control of blood glucose levels, it is behavior that is often challenging for many people with diabetes mellitus. While a dietitian with expertise in diabetes management should take the lead in teaching people with diabetes mellitus about meal planning, registered nurses should be able to answer questions people with diabetes mellitus may have when learning meal planning strategies. The amount of carbohydrate eaten is an important factor in achieving glycemic control. Carbohydrate Counting, which addresses the amount of carbohydrate eaten, is an effective method of meal planning for people with diabetes mellitus. While Carbohydrate Counting was first used in those people with diabetes mellitus who used insulin, it is now widely used as a general meal planning strategy. Strategies used to teach Carbohydrate Counting to baccalaureate nursing students include discussion of healthy eating through utilization of MyPlate developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, use of The Plate Method, identification of food groups that contain carbohydrate, measuring appropriate portion sizes, and utilization of food labels to identify sources of carbohydrate. Examples of activities that measure student understanding of this meal planning method, including sample exam questions and student projects, will be provided. After learning the Carbohydrate Counting meal planning method, Baccalaureate nursing students in the clinical setting have served as valuable resources to their patients with diabetes mellitus who are learning the Carbohydrate Counting method of meal planning.
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