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Carbohydrate Counting

Author: Marion Franz MS, RD, LD, CDE
Source: Diabetic Cooking

Q: I am a diabetic, and I just don’t know how to count carbs. Please help me if you can. Cleista M., Carlisle, Pennsylvania

A: Dear Cleista, Carbohydrate counting divides foods into 3 groups: carbohydrate, meat and meat substitutes, and fats. It is the total amount of carbohydrate eaten, not the source of the carbohydrate – be it sugar or starch – that affects blood glucose levels. Carbohydrate foods include bread, beans, rice, grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, milk, and sweets. Leafy vegetables contain smaller amounts of carbohydrate, so they’re considered “free foods.”

One carbohydrate serving is the amount of food that contains 15 grams of carbohydrate. Examples include 1 slice of bread, 1 small apple, 1/2 cup mashed potatoes, 1 cup of milk, or 2 small cookies. A diabetes educator can give you a more comprehensive list of carbohydrate foods with the portion sizes for a 1 carbohydrate serving. Women might have 3 to 4 carbohydrate servings for a meal and 1 to 2 for a snack. Men might have 4 to 5 carbohydrate servings for a meal and 1 to 2 for a snack.

Look at the serving size and the total grams of carbohydrate on food labels. Ignore the grams of sugar; they’re included in the carbohydrate total. If a 1-cup portion contains 31 grams of carbohydrate, it counts as 2 carbohydrate servings.