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Clinical Nutrition Services

Carbohydrate Counting

Carbohydrates are in certain foods such as bread, cereal, rice, potatoes, fruit, milk and sweet desserts. The carbohydrate foods you eat are broken down into glucose and go directly into your blood. The best way to control your blood glucose is to eat the same amount of carbohydrates at each of your meals. Too many carbohydrates and your blood sugar will be too high, and not enough carbohydrates can lead to low blood sugar. In general your carbohydrate intake should be low but some carbohydrates are important to good health.

Check the chart to see how many carbohydrates you can have:
Gender For Weight Loss For Weight Maintenance Snacks
Women 30-45 grams (g) per meal 45-60 grams (g) per meal 15 grams (g) per snack
Men 45-60 grams (g) per meal 60-75 grams (g) per meal 15 grams (g) per snack
Infographic: How to Count Carbs

Example: Look at the meal on the right.

This meal has a combination of foods, some of which have carbohydrates, or, carbs for short. This information can be found on the nutrition label.

The total carbohydrates in this meal is 46 grams.

These foods are low in carbohydrates and do not raise blood sugar. They may be eaten in moderation with meals or as snacks:

  • Protein foods: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, tofu
  • Fats: butter, margarine, oil, salad dressing, mayonnaise, avocado, nuts, sour cream, cream cheese

Checking Labels for Carbohydrate

An example of a Nutrition Facts label

Look at Serving Size first. The information that follows is based on eating this portion of food.

The portion for this food is 1½ cups.

There are 2 portions in the whole container.

Look at Total Carbohydrate next. This is how many grams (g) that you get when you eat the portion listed above.

This food contains 46 grams of carbohydrates in 1 portion.

If you eat the whole container you will consume 92 grams of carbohydrates.

The “total carbohydrate” number listed on the label includes all types of carbs – sugar, starch and fiber.

  • Choose foods with less than 10% Daily Value for saturated fat and sodium.
  • Choose foods with less than 6% Daily Value for Added Sugars
  • Try to choose foods with more dietary fiber, which is listed on the label under total carbohydrates.
Carbohydrate Content of Common Foods
Food Carbs in grams
Bread, 1 slice 15
English muffin 30
Bagel, large 45
Pancakes, 2 small 30
Cornbread, muffin, small 30
Tortilla, 6 inch 15
Waffle, 4 inch 15
Cheerios, 1 cup 20
Frosted flakes, 1 cup 30
Oatmeal, 1 cup 30
Raisin bran, 1 cup 45
Grits, 1 cup 30
Grains/Starchy vegetables
Rice, 1 cup 45
Noodles or pasta, 1 cup 45
Corn, 1 large ear 30
Corn, peas, ½ cup 15
Potato, medium, 1 cup 30
Cooked dry beans, 1 cup 30
Crackers and Snacks
Ritz or saltine, 5 crackers 10
Potato chips, small snack bag 15
Popcorn, 3 cups 20
Graham, 2 squares 10
Granola bar, small 20
Apple, orange – small 20
Banana – 7 inch medium 30
Grapes – 22 20
Juice, 8 oz 30
Berries – 1 cup 15
Raisins – ½ cup 30
Milk, plain – 1 cup 15
Yogurt, plain – 5 oz cup 10
Yogurt, light, fruit – 5 oz cup 15
Sugar or syrup – 1 tablespoon 15
Cookies, 2 small 15
Ice cream – ½ cup 15
Combination Foods
Soup or stew – 1 cup 15
Casserole – 1 cup 30
Potato salad – ½ cup 15
Fast Foods
Chicken nuggets – 6 pc 15
Hamburger 30
French fry – small 30
Sub sandwich – 6 inch 45
Pizza, ½ of a med, thin crust 30

Sample menu plans for adults

These meal ideas are about 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal and 15-20 grams per snack.

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