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Carbohydrate Counting

Carbohydrate counting is a tool that helps to add flexibility to meal planning and may help to keep blood glucose levels under control.

Step 1:

Identify carbohydrates in foods. The body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose, which raises blood sugar levels. Foods that raise blood sugar are grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, milk and legumes. Watch portion sizes and the amount of fat you use.

Step 2:

Set carbohydrate goals with a Dietitian or Diabetes Educator. Try to meet your daily goals plus or minus 5 grams.

Step 3:

Write down grams of carbohydrates you consume. Using measuring cups or food scales may be helpful in figuring out portion sizes.

Find Carbohydrate Values on the Nutrition Facts Panel

Find Carbohydrate Values on the Nutrition Facts Panel
The amount of carbohydrate in a food is listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel.
  • The amount is for the serving size given. Compare your serving size to figure out the amount of carbohydrate you are eating.
  • The total amount of carbohydrate in grams is listed first. This number includes starch, sugars and fibre (starch is not listed separately). Fibre does not raise blood glucose and should be subtracted from the total carbohydrate. That number will give you the total available carbohydrate – the amount that will cause your blood sugar to rise.

Things to consider:

  • One serving of carbohydrate is 15 grams. This is also called “one carbohydrate choice”.
  • A snack will usually contain 15-20 g of carbohydrate. A meal will usually contain 30-50 g of carbohydrate.

Sample Carbohydrate Counting

Food Portion Size Grams of Available Carbohydrate (Carb)
Example – Sandwich Lunch
Bread, Whole Wheat 2 Slices 36 g carb minus 6 g fibre = 30 g
Chicken Breast 2 oz/60 grams 0 g 0 g
Margarine 1 teaspoon/5 mL 0 g 0 g
Carrot Sticks 1/2 cup/125 mL 0 g 0 g
Green Grapes 1/2 cup/125 mL 15 g 15 g
Milk 1 cup/250 mL 15 g 15 g
Tea and Coffee 1 cup/250 mL 0 g 0 g

Adapted From:

Handy Portion Guide

Your hands can be very useful in estimating appropriate portions. When planning a meal, use these portion sizes as a guide.

 Handy Portion Guide - Carbohydrates  Handy Portion Guide - Protein
CARBOHYDRATES (grains and starches):
Choose an amount up to the size of one fist. Fruit should also be about the size of one fist.
Choose an amount the size of the palm of your hand and the thickness of your little finger.
 Handy Portion Guide - Vegetables  Handy Portion Guide - Fat
VEGETABLES:Choose as much as you can hold in both hands. Choose low-carbohydrate vegetables (e.g. green beans, broccoli, lettuce, carrots). FAT:Limit fat to an amount the size of the tip of your thumb.