Carbohydrate Counting Necessities

Tools for Accurate Carbohydrate Counting

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Oftentimes people with Type 2 diabetes need to follow a consistent carbohydrate diet to help manage their blood sugars. Carbohydrates are the type of food that impact blood sugars the most. When metabolized, carbohydrates get broken down and turn into sugar. Insulin is the hormone that takes sugar from the blood to the cells to use for energy. When you have Type 2 diabetes, cells can resist insulin and sugar remain in the blood stream instead of being taken to the cells.

Modifying carbohydrate intake by keeping portions consistent can help the body to regulate blood sugars and result in weight loss (which helps your body to use insulin). One of the ways to do this is to eat the same amount of carbohydrates at around the same time daily. It doesn't mean that you have to eat the same food daily; rather aim to eat a fixed amount of carbohydrates per meal. Ask your certified diabetes educator or registered dietitian how many grams of carbohydrate you should eat per meal. 

What Foods are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are counted in grams and found in foods such as starches, starchy vegetables, legumes, fruit, milk/yogurt and sugary foods. Foods that contain labels are easier to count than those that do not have labels (such as fruit). To learn how to count carbohydrates correctly you may want to invest in certain items. Read below to find out what you'll need to count carbohydrates accurately: 

Food Labels: 

If you don't know how to read a food label, you should learn. Food labels can help you determine the total amount of carbohydrate in a food and where those carbohydrates are coming from. The first thing you want to look at when reading a label is the serving size. Next, you want to determine the servings per container and finally, you want to see the total carbohydrate.

For example, if you are reading a cereal label and the label states Serving size: 3/4 cup: Servings per container: 12: Total carbohydrate: 24 g: Fiber 3 g: Sugar 3 g and Other carbohydrate: 18 g then you can interpret it this way: 

  • One serving of cereal is considered 3/4 of a cup and, in that 3/4 cup, there is 24 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, and 3 g sugar. The whole box contains twelve, 3/4 cup servings. If you are going to eat more than 3/4 cup you must multiply the amount of servings you are going to eat by the total carbohydrate to determine the total amount of carbohydrates you will have eaten. For example, if you eat 1 1/2 cups of cereal (which is two 3/4 cup servings) you need to multiply the total carbohydrate by two, which means you'll be eating 48 g of carbohydrate. 
  • For more information on label reading: How to Read a Food Label

Measuring Cups and Spoons: 

Measuring cups and spoons help you to accurately portion out a serving size of a particular food item. You will want to get dry and wet measuring cups.

Typically, these tools can be used for measuring carbohydrates such as beverages, cereal, grains, legumes, spreads, condiments and other jarred or boxed items. Some good cheat tips: 

1/3 cup cooked of pasta or rice = 15 g carbohydrate

1/2 cup cooked oatmeal = 15 g carbohydrate

1 8 oz cup of milk = 12 g carbohydrate 

1 Tablespoon of honey, syrup, agave = ~15 g carbohydrate 

1 Tablespoon ketchup = 4 g carbohydrate 

Food Scale

Food scales are helpful when you are trying to calculate the amount of carbohydrates in a food item that does not contain a label or for those foods where the serving size is posted in weight. For example, foods such as fruit, potatoes, and certain grains list the portion in weight. If you have a food scale, you can determine the weight of the food item and cross reference with a carbohydrate counting book or app to determine the total amount of carbohydrate in that food item.

Here are some cheat tips for weighing food: 

4 oz of a whole fruit = 15 g carbohydrate

3 oz of potato = 15 g carbohydrate

2 oz dry of most grains = 45 g carbohydrate (2 oz dry yields about 1 cup cooked)

1 oz of bread = 15 g carbohydrate (you can use this for fresh bread, rolls, bagels, etc)

Carbohydrate Counting Apps and Websites: 

You can use websites or apps to look up the nutrition information for specific foods.These applications are also useful when you are looking up specific cuisine types as well as restaurant food items. Some carbohydrate apps can also help you to create labels and carbohydrate amounts based on recipes you've created which saves time from having to look up each specific food item. Some websites include: 

CalorieCount

CalorieKing

NutritionData

Some apps include: 

CalorieCount

GoMeals

EatOutWell

CalorieKing

dLife

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