Carbohydrate Counting

 Know how much Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates supply the body with the energy it needs to function. Carbohydrates are divided into two groups: simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates sometimes called simple sugars include fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (milk sugar) as well as several other sugars. Fruits are one of the richest natural sources of simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are also made up of sugars, but the sugar molecules are strung together to form longer, complex chains. Complex carbohydrates include fiber and starches. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include: vegetables, whole grains, peas and beans.

Carbohydrates are the main source of blood glucose, which is a major fuel for all body cells and the only source of energy for the brain and red blood cells. Except for fiber, which cannot be digested both simple and complex carbohydrates are converted into glucose. The glucose is then either used directly to provide energy for the body or stored in the liver for future use. If a person consumes more calories than his or her body is using, a portion of the carbohydrates consumed may be stored in as fat..

Whats Carbohydrates Counting

Basic Carbohydrates Counting

Counting carbohydrate in the food you eat can help you control your blood glucose levels and prevent or delay long term complications of diabetes. This is because the carbohydrate in food raises your blood glucose more than any other nutrient.

Foods can be divided into three groups; carbohydrates, meat and meat substitute and fat. Carbohydrate foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables and low fat milk are healthy foods. Hey provide energy needed for everyday activities. They also provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. It is important for people with diabetes to eat foods that have carbohydrate.

The balance between the amount of carbohydrate in food and insulin determines how much your blood glucose levels go up after meals. This means you need to know what foods have carbohydrates, what average serving size are, and hw many carbohydrates servings to eat.

Carbohydrate Foods

  • Starches & Sugars.
  • Breads Crackers & Cereals
  • Pasta, Rice & Grains.
  • Starch Vegetables such as Potatoes, Corn & Peas.
  • Non starchy vegetables such as broccoli, salad greens and carrots.
  • Milk & Yoghurt.
  • Fruits & Juices.
  • Sweets & Desserts.
  • Foods that contain sugar such as cakes, cookies and candy are counted as carbohydrate servings. These foods donot contribute vitamins or minerals.

Carbohydrate Servings

  • Carbohydrate is measured in grams.
  • One carbohydrate serving is 15 g of carbohydrate.
  • The nutrition facts panel on food labels also tells you how much carbohydrate is in one serving.

Carbohydrate counting for food groups

Cereals, grains, pasta, bread, beans &
starchy vegetables, One serving = 15 g carbohydrate
One carbohydrate serving is :
1 slice bread, white, whole wheat
1 waffle or pancake size of compact disc
1 hot dog or hamburger bun
3/4 cup unsweetened ready to eat cereal
1 cup broth based soup
1/2 cup cooked cereal
4-7 whole wheat crackers
1/3 cup cooked pasta
1/3 cooked rice brown or white
1/2 cup cooked beans, peas, corn,
sweet potato, mashed or boiled potatoes
1/4 large baked potatoe with skin

Non Starchy Vegetables
One serving= 5g carbohydrate
One serving is free. If you can eat three or more servings count them as one carbohydrate serving
One serving of non starchy vegetable is
One cup raw vegetables such as tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms
1/2 cup cooked vegetables
1/2 cup tomatoes or vegetable juice

One serving= 15 g carbohydrate
One carbohydrate serving is:
1 small fresh fruit
1/2 cup unsweetened canned fruit
1/4 cup dried fruit
1/2 cup unsweetened fruit juice
1 cup cantaloupe
1 cup raspberries
2 tbsp raisins

Meat & Meat Substitutes
Plan to eat 4-6 oz per day. Choose fish more often.
Have meatless meal once or twice a week
3 oz cooked chicken, turkey, fish, beef and lamb
1 slice cheese
1/4 cup fat free or low fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup tuna canned in water
1/2 cup tofu
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 egg

One serving= 12- 15 g carbohydrate
One carbohydrate serving is:
1 cup fat free or reduced fat milk
1 cup fat free or low fat plain soy milk
1/3 cup fat free yogurt- plain or flavored & sweetened

Sweets & Dessert
One carbohydrate serving= 15 g carbohydrate
One carbohydrate serving is:
2 inch square cake brownie unfrosted
2 small cookies
1/2 cup ice cream or frozen yogurt
1/4 cup sorbet
1 tbsp syrup, jam, jelly, table, sugar, honey
2 tbsp light syrup

Other foods
These foods are combination foods.
They have servings from several food groups
1 cup casserole- 2 carbohydrate, 2 meat
2 cup chow mein and 1 cup rice- 4 carbohydrates, 2 meat
1 burrito with beef- 3 carbohydrate, 1 meat, 1 fat
6 chicken nuggets- 1 carbohydrates, 2 meat, 1 fat
1 cup cream soup mare with water- 1 carbohydrate made with water- 1 carbohydrate, 1 fat
1/4 of 12 inch pizza cheese, thin crust- 2 carbohydrates, 2 meat
1 small cup cake frosted- 2 carbohydrate 1 fat
1 medium serving French fries fat food- 4 carbohydrate, 4 fat

One serving = 5 g fat Limit
to three to five servings
One fat serving is:
1 tsp margarine, butter, mayonnaise, oil
1 tbsp cream cheese, salad dressing,
reduced fat margarine or mayonnaise
1 tbsp sesame, pumpkin or sunflower oil
1 tbsp sour cream, half and half cream or salad dressing
11/2 tbsp reduce fat cream cheese

Free Foods
These foods contain 0-5 grams of carbohydrates and less than 20 calories per serving.
If a serving size is given limit to the food to three servings per day
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp fat free cream cheese, mayonnaise, salad dressing
1/4 cup salsa
Lemon Juice
Diet Soft Drinks
Prepared Mustard
Non fat cooking spray

  • Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
    Enjoy fish, soy foods, and other foods rich in omega-3 fats.
  • Limit sugars and food high in added sugar.
    particularly if overweight. Small amounts of sugar as part of a meal may occasionally be okay. Check with your dietitian.
  • Read the nutrition facts label on foods. Check the serving size, total fat and total carbohydrate.

The Plate Method- An easy way to eat healthfully

The plate method is a helpful tool to guide your food choices until you see a dietitian for your own meal plan. For e healthy meal.

  • Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables ( broccoli, green beans, carrots).
  • Fill a quarter of your plate with carbohydrates (whole-grain bread, pasta, potato, brown rice).
  • Fill the other quarter of your plate with 3-4 ounces of lean meat, poultry, or fish.
  • Use 1-2 teaspoons of tub margarine or heart-healthy vegetable oil. Example olive- canola oil, soft margarine.
  • Add as small piece of fruit or 8 ounces of skim/ low-fat or yogurt. (3)


  1. Sue Rodwell Williams & Eleanor D. Schlenker: Essentials of Nutrition and Diet Therapy
  2. L. Kathleen Mahan & Sylvia Escott-Stump: Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy
  3. Retrieved October 8th 2009, from American Diabetes Association website

    Other Diabetes Medications
    Description: Other Diabetes Medications, American Diabetes Association.

  5. Dasman Diabetes Center Kuwait

 Guide to Sensible Serving Sizes

Serving size

The first thing to do when you read a label is to check the serving size. All the information mentioned in the label is based on the serving size. This food label of crackers shows a serving size = 4, meaning that 4 crackers contains the above information.

Notice Some food labels provide the nutrition values only per 100 grams which requires you to calculate. Practice

  1. Check product's weight (always written in the package) in this case its 50g?
  2. Get the weight of one cracker: divide 50g by the 10 crackers= 5g
  3. Compare it with the carbohydrate content of 100g crackers
    100 g crackers  70 g carbohydrate
    5 g crackers  x
    x = 70*5 / 100 = 3.5

Result: 1 cracker contains 3.5 g carbohydrates, so 2 crackers contain 7g

  • Energy: shows the Kilocalories that the 4 crackers provides = 91Kcal.
  • Daily value%: the daily value describes the percentage of nutrients found in this food item is based on a 2000Kcal diet. This food label shows for example that 4 crackers covers only 4% of the required iron that you need to take per day.

If you take more calorie than what your body needs, you will gain weight   

  • Fat: Most of the food labels will mention the amount of the fat composition, such as in this example it mention saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. We should limit the saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol since they are very harmful when taken in large amounts. As healthy guidelines suggest, saturated fat should not exceed 10% from your total daily intake (the 4 crackers here provides 8% so now you know it's very high), while cholesterol should not exceed 200 mg per day. Look for products with zero trans fat.

  • Sodium: As mentioned above salt is the common name of sodium. Too much salt can cause high blood pressure which is dangerous to your health.

  • Carbohydrates: All carbohydrates increase your blood glucose. You should look at the total grams carbohydrate. In this example, 4 crackers provides you with 14 grams of carbohydrates. Fibers and sugar are parts of carbohydrates so their content are already included.

  • Protein: Proteins are needed for tissue buliding. Crackers are not a good source of protein.

  • Ingredients:  The order of mentioning the ingredients in the food label is not random. The ingredient list starts with the biggest ingredient of the product to the smallest ingredient. So here; the most content of the crackers is the whole wheat (carbohydrates).


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