Carb Counting Made Easy

Is carb counting hard? One night my daughter asked me what I did at work. I tried to make it simple and told her that I help people learn to count carbs.  She looked at me puzzled and said “Why do you need to teach people how to do that, all they have to do is look at a label?”  I replied “What if something doesn’t have a label?” “Well, you just guess 15,” she said.  It baffled her why people have trouble with counting carbs.  I guess when you have grown up since kindergarten counting carbs, it’s no big deal to you.

 Carb counting really can be made simple!

When you have a label, you just look at the serving size and the Total Carbohydrates.  The total carbohydrates is listed in grams.  That is how many grams of carbs you are eating if you eat the serving size listed.  You may have to do the math to adjust the serving size. (That’s why kids with diabetes are usually great at math! They have to do fractions all the time counting carbs!)

Carb counting using a food scale.

Here’s a cool food scale that will tell you the number of carbs in the serving you are weighing: Kitrics Scale

There are some rules for advanced carb counting, like looking at fiber.  In general, I rarely teach subtracting fiber. It just isn’t worth the time and usually doesn’t impact blood sugars. For my kids, this usually doesn’t apply.  In order to subtract out fiber, the rule is that if it is over 5 grams, you can subtract out half the fiber.  Rarely are foods over 5 grams, and if it is over 5 grams, usually half of it isn’t worth subtracting out/it doesn’t make a huge difference.

There are also rules about sugar alcohols, same as fiber except only start subtracting out half if it’s 10 grams or more.  I prefer to not use anything with sugar alcohols and just dose insulin for the total carbs of the real foods.

So what do you do if you do not have a label or a scale?

That’s where Sara’s “rule of 15” applies.   I teach kids that 15 is the magic number.  If you don’t know, generally 15 is a good guess.  This applies to fruits/breads/starches/milks.

Essentially, one piece of bread or anything equivalent to a piece of bread is 15. A small piece of fruit is 15. 1/2 cup of a starchy vegetable is 15 (except rice/pasta is 1/3 cup cooked). A cup of milk is 12, but we round up to 15 to make it easy.

There are lists such as the Lilly books on carbs which list out what is equivalent to 15 grams, along with this great book by Hope Warshaw, RD, CDE that I highly recommend! ADA Complete Guide to Carbohydrate Counting

Here are some basic examples of portions for 15 grams of carbohydrates:

1 slice of bread

Small biscuit/dinner roll/cornbread

CD size waffle/pancake

6 in tortilla

1/3 cup cooked rice/pasta

1/2 cup beans/peas/potatoes/corn/starchy vegetable

Baseball piece of fruit: apple/pear/peach/small banana or 1/2 regular banana

1/2 cup juice

8 ounces milk

6 ounces lite yogurt

1/2 cup ice cream

These are just estimates, but a quick way to get close with “guess-estimating”.  Of course, labels are more accurate, and if you do carb factors, that’s even closer.  But for my family, just getting close enough has worked fine with their blood sugars and they are well controlled.  So my goal is to lower stress related to diabetes, so getting close works for us.

Not sure your child is getting adequate nutrients and vitamins because of being a picky eater? I highly recommend a good overall quality multivitamin. Metagenics is my favorite brand but can only be purchased through practitioners. Here’s a link to my favorite kids multivitamin and  you can get 10% off your first order.

Here’s a great tool to help your child start learning about carb counting and what food groups have carbs!

Author photo
Publication date:
Author: Carol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *