Carbohydrate counting is a flexible way to plan your meals. It focuses on foods that contain carbohydrate as these raise your blood glucose (sugar) the most.

Follow these steps to count carbohydrates and help manage your blood sugar levels. Your registered dietitian will guide you along the way.

Step 1: Make healthy food choices

  • Enjoy a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low fat milk products, and meat and alternatives at your meals. A variety of foods will help to keep you healthy.
  • Use added fats in small amounts. This helps to control your weight and cholesterol.
  • Choose portion sizes to help you to reach or maintain a healthy weight.

Step 2: Focus on carbohydrate

  • Your body breaks down carbohydrate into sugar. This raises your blood sugar levels.
  • Carbohydrate is found in many foods including grains and starches, fruits, some vegetables, legumes, milk and milk alternatives, sugary foods and many prepared foods.
  • Meat and alternatives, most vegetables and fats contain little carbohydrate. Moderate servings will not have a big effect on blood sugar levels.

Step 3: Set carbohydrate goals

  • Your dietitian will help you set a goal for grams of carbohydrate at each meal and snack. This may be the same from day to day or may be flexible, depending on your needs.
  • Aim to meet your target within five grams per meal or snack.

Step 4: Determine carbohydrate content

  • Write down what you eat and drink throughout the day.
  • Be sure to note the portion sizes. You may need to use measuring cups and food scales to be accurate.
  • Record the grams of carbohydrate in these foods and drinks.
  • For carbohydrate content of foods, check the nutrition label on food packages, food composition books, restaurant fact sheets and websites.

Step 5: Monitor effect on blood sugar level

  • Work with your health-care team to correct blood sugar levels that are too high or too low.

Sample carbohydrate counting

Food Portion size Grams of carbohydrate Carbohydrate choices
Example - sandwich lunch
Bread, whole wheat* 2 slices 30 g 2
Chicken breast 2 oz/60 g 0 0
Margarine 1 tsp/5 mL 0 0
Carrot sticks 1/2 cup/125 mL 0 0
Green grapes* 1/2 cup/125 mL 15 g 1
Milk* 1 cup/250 mL 15 g 1
Tea/coffee 1 cup/250 mL 0 0
TOTAL 60 g 4 choices

*Taken from the Beyond the Basics resources, 2005

Ask your health-care provider about the Beyond the Basics resource for more information.

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