Carbohydrate Counting 101

The Basics of Carbohydrate Counting 

Spaghetti 101

Spaghetti 101

For  many people with diabetes, carbohydrates seem to everywhere and for many counting carbohydrates can be a jarring task. On the other hand, counting carbohydrates is an essential skill to manage your diabetes. But what exactly is a carbohydrate? 

Most food from a plant source contains carbohydrates. Fruits typically contain more carbohydrates than vegetables. Starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes contain more carbohydrates than leafy vegetables such as lettuce and kale.  Grains and pastas contains carbohydrates. The more processed the grain, typically the more carbohydrates it contains per serving. Also, many people are unaware most milk products contains carbohydrates. However, whatever the food source you should be mindful and count the total amount of carbohydrates.

 Now I will teach you basic nuts and bolts of carbohydrate counting.

Carbohydrate servings are also called exchanges. The rule of thumb is 15 grams of carbohydrates are equal to one carbohydrate exchange. Most people with diabetes are recommended to limit their carbohydrate intake each meal to  3 to 4 carbohydrate exchanges or 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates. Medical experts also advise your snack  to be no more than 1 to 2 carbohydrate exchanges or 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates.

Three meals is recommended to keep blood glucose(sugar) levels stable. Some individuals need two to three snacks daily to prevent hunger pains.  

Most of these foods contain 1 carbohydrate exchange:

Fruit Group

1 small apple, orange, pear or nectarine

1/2 banana or grapefruit

3/4 cup of fresh pineapple, blueberries or blackberries

1 cup of fresh melon or papaya

3 prunes

1/2 cup of unsweetened canned fruit

4 ounce of fruit juice

2 Tablespoon of Raisin


Milk Group

8 fluid ounces(1 cup) of milk, buttermilk or soy milk

2/3 cup of plain yogurt

2/3 cups of artificially sweetened yogurt

Starch Group

1 ounce slice of bread

1/4 of large bagel

1/2 hamburger bun, hot dog bun, pita bread or English muffin

1/3 cup of rice, pasta, millet or couscous

1/2 cup of oatmeal, grits, kasha or bulgur

1/2 cup of beans or lentils

1/2 cup of starchy vegetables(corn, peas, potato, sweet potato or yam)

1 small(6 inch) corn or flour tortilla

6 saltine crackers

3 graham cracker squares

3 cups of popcorn


The good news is  1/2 cup of cooked  or 1 cup of raw non-starchy vegetables contain 5 grams of carbohydrates or 1/3 of the carbohydrate content of the carbohydrates listed above.  Also, because many of these vegetables contain fiber high blood sugar is usually not an issue when eating these vegetables. Examples of non-starchy vegetables includes artichokes, asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, eggplant, greens, spinach, brussel sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes, leeks, kohlrabi, summer squash, turnips and zucchini. 

I provided a high fiber recipe to help you manage your blood glucose. It is a Greek Inspired Garbanzo Bean Salad. Enjoy

Greek Inspired Garbanzo Bean Salad

1/2 cup of Cooked Garbanzo Beans

1 medium chopped tomato

1/2 tablespoon of  chopped onion

1 small clove of  minced garlic

1 tablespoon of feta cheese

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1/2 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar 

Juice of  1/2 a 1emon

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Combine Garbanzo Beans, chopped onion and garlic together. Add remaining ingredients. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour and serve. Enjoy