How to Be a Carb-Counting Pro

Track and manage your blood glucose levels with this meal-planning technique.

Maria Lissandrello

1. Know your carb target per meal.
Everyone is different, so by all means ask your doctor or diabetes educator for help, but as a general guide:

  • Women should aim for 45-60 grams per meal.
  • Men should aim for 60-75 grams per meal.
  • Snacks should contain 15-30 grams.

2. Count ’em your way.
Tally your carb intake by grams or by “carb choices,” whichever you prefer. Here’s the lowdown:

One carb choice = 15 grams, about the amount found in
1 small apple or ½ cup mashed potatoes or 5 crackers or 1 chocolate chip cookie

If you’re a woman, you should shoot for 3 to 4 carb choices per meal; a man should aim for 4 to 5 carb choices. A snack should be 1 to 2 carb choices.

3. Put your tools to work!
Look at nutrition facts labels, serving sizes and total carbohydrates. (Note: This figure accounts for both the sugar and fiber in the product.) Multiply the number of servings you’ll be eating by the total carbs per serving for how many carb grams you’ll be eating. (If a food has more than 5 grams of dietary fiber, subtract half the total fiber grams from the total carb figure.)

Use food scales, measuring spoons and cups. Weigh, pour and measure—over time, you’ll get to know what a serving of your favorite foods looks like. If a food doesn’t have a label, use a carb-counting guide, like the American Diabetes Association’s The Diabetes Carbohydrate & Fat Gram Guide.

4. Track ’em!
Jot down your meals and snacks—and their carb counts—in a diary. This lets you look for links between what you eat and your blood sugar levels.

Hint: Try keeping carb counts and food choices predictable at first; eventually you’ll learn to mix up menus with confidence.

April 2013