Some foods, such as jelly beans, contain only carbohydrates. Others foods, such as animal proteins (all kinds of meat, fish, and eggs), have no carbohydrates.
Most foods, even vegetables, have some carbohydrates. But most green, non-starchy vegetables are very low in carbohydrates.
Most adults with diabetes should eat no more than 200 carbohydrate grams per day. The daily recommended amount for adults is 135 grams per day, but each person should have their own carbohydrate goal. Pregnant women need at least 175 grams of carbohydrates each day.
Packaged foods have labels that tell you how many carbohydrates a food has. They are measured in grams. You can use food labels to count the carbohydrates that you eat. When you are carb counting, a serving equals an amount of food that contains 15 grams of carbohydrate. The serving size listed on a package is not always the same as 1 serving in carbohydrate counting. For example, if a single-serving package of food contains 30 grams of carbohydrate, the package actually contains 2 servings when you are carb counting.
The food label will say what 1 serving size is and how many servings are in the package. If a bag of chips says that it contains 2 servings and you eat the entire bag, then you will need to multiply the label information by 2. For example, let's say the label on a bag of chips states that it contains 2 servings, and 1 serving of chips provides 11 grams of carbohydrate. If you eat the entire bag of chips, you have eaten 22 grams of carbohydrates.
Sometimes the label will list sugar, starch, and fiber separately. The carbohydrate count for a food is the total of these. Use only this total number to count your carbs.
When you count carbs in foods that you cook, you will have to measure the portion of food after cooking it. For example, cooked long grain rice has 15 grams of carbohydrate per 1/3 cup. If you eat a cup of cooked long grain rice, you will be eating 45 grams of carbohydrates.
Here are some examples of foods and servings sizes that have 15 grams of carbohydrate:
- ½ cup (107 grams) of canned fruit (without the juice or syrup)
- 1 cup (109 grams) of melon or berries
- 2 tablespoons (11 grams) of dried fruit
- ½ cup (121 grams) of cooked oatmeal
- 1/3 cup of cooked pasta (44 grams) (can vary with the shape)
- 1/3 cup (67 grams) of cooked long grain rice
- ¼ cup (51grams) of cooked short grain rice
- ½ cup (88 grams) cooked beans, peas, or corn
- 1 slice of bread
- 3 cups (33 grams) popcorn (popped)
- 1 cup (240 mililiters) milk or soy milk
- 3 ounces (84 grams) of baked potato
Adding up Your Carbohydrates
The total amount of carbohydrates you eat in a day is the sum of the carbohydrate counts of everything you eat.
When you are learning how to count carbs, use a log book or sheet of paper to help you track them. As time passes, it will get easier to estimate your carbohydrates.
Plan to see a dietitian every 6 months. This will help you refresh your knowledge of carb counting. A dietitian can help you determine the right amount of carbohydrate servings to eat each day, based on your personal caloric needs and other factors. The dietitian can also recommend how to spread out the carbohydrates you eat in your meals and snacks.