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How to do carb counting

Counting your carbohydrates – or carb counting, as it’s usually known – is a useful tool for any person with diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2). Whether you’ve chosen a low carb diet or a more traditional diabetes diet, it’s helpful to know exactly how many carbs you’re eating, so that you know exactly how much insulin to inject. Portion control is essential, as it’s often surprising how many carbs are hiding in certain foods.

carb counting for diabetics

Carb counting basics

Here’s a list of common carbs and how much of them makes up one portion: 15g is one carb. Click here to download a more detailed list. Those diabetics on insulin can then work out their insulin to carb ratio: for example, when I eat 1 carb I need to inject 3 units of insulin. Although there are many factors that affect blood sugar – the temperature, hormones, sickness, sleep – being able to accurately test the effect of different food can help significantly. Carb counting is helpful for adults and kids with diabetes.

Note: This isn’t a suggested eating list. Our approach to eating well with diabetes is to cut out refined carbs and reduce carbs as much as possible. But we understand that everyone approaches diet differently, and we want to empower each person to make up their own mind. If you understand carb counting, you can make better food choices.

Dairy: 15g carb =

  • 1 cup milk (fat-free, low-fat or full-cream)
  • 1/3 cup dry milk powder
  • 1 cup soy milk (low-fat or fat-free)
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • ½ cup flavoured / sweetened yoghurt

Fruits: 15g carb =

  • 1 small apple
  • 4 apricots
  • ½ banana
  • ¾ cup blueberries
  • 12 cherries
  • 3 dates
  • ½ grapefruit
  • 10 grapes
  • 1 slice honeydew melon
  • 1 large kiwi
  • ½ small or ½ cup mango
  • 1 small nectarine
  • 1 small orange
  • ½ papaya or 1 cup cubes
  • 1 medium peach
  • 1 large pear
  • ¾ cup pineapple
  • 2 small plums
  • 3 prunes
  • 2 Tbsp raisins
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1½ cup strawberries, whole
  • 2 small tangerines
  • 1½ cup watermelon cubes
  • ½ cup fruit juice
  • ½ cup canned fruit (in natural fruit juice)

Vegetables: 15g carb =

  • 1/3 cup cooked beans (kidney, pinto)
  • ¼ cup canned baked beans
  • ½ cup lentils
  • ½ cup corn
  • ½ corn on cob
  • ½ cup peas
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables
  • ½ cup boiled potato
  • 1 small baked potato
  • ½ cup mashed potato
  • 10 hot chips
  • ½ cup sweet potato
  • 1 cup pumpkin

Cereal: 15g carb =

  • ½ cup bran cereal
  • ¼ cup muesli
  • 1½ cup puffed cereal

Breads: 15g carb =

  • 1 slice wholewheat bread
  • 1 slice rye bread
  • ½ bagel
  • ½ English muffin
  • ½ hot dog bun
  • ½ hamburger bun
  • 1 small muffin
  • 1 thin slice banana bread
  • 1 pancake
  • ½ pita
  • ¼ naan

Grains: 15g carb =

  • 1/3 cup couscous
  • 3 Tbsp flour (dry)
  • ½ cup oats
  • 1/3 cup cooked pasta
  • 1/3 cup cooked rice (white or brown) / pap / mealie meal / samp

Snacks: 15g carb =

  • 4-6 round crackers
  • 4 rice cakes (4 in. across)
  • 3 cups popcorn
  • 20g pretzels
  • 28g chips

Treat: 15g carb =

  • 5cm brownie, no icing
  • 5cm square piece of cake, no icing
  • 2 small cookies
  • ½ cup custard
  • 1 small granola bar
  • ½ cup ice cream
  • 5 vanilla wafers
  • 1 Tbsp. regular syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. all fruit jam
  • 2.5cm square piece of cake with icing
  • 1/2 small cupcake, iced
  • 1/2 plain donut
  • 1/2 cup chocolate milk
  • 1/2 small soft serve cone

Photo by Lewis Fagg on Unsplash

Published inAsk the Dietician

One Comment

  1. […] keep in mind how important portion size is. Whether or not you’re carb counting, you want to ensure that your plate is half-full of nutrient-rich green vegetables, with a small […]

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