What is carbohydrate counting?

Carbohydrate counting is a way of planning your carbohydrate intake to manage your blood sugar levels. It places importance in keeping the carbohydrate content of meals and snacks consistent on day to day basis, but allows you to have variety and flexibility in your diet

For diabetics on insulin, carb counting is practiced widely, however, it is recommended by expert agencies such as ADA  even for diabetics not on insulin

The way carbohydrate counting works is the following: you need to the serving size equal to one ‘carb choice’ for common carb foods, which equals 15 grams of carbohydrate, the amount equivalent to carb present in one tablespoon of sugar

so that,

  1. You can stick to your recommended number of carb units in meals and snacks: these would depend on your age, sex and build , but in general men should have 4-5 carb choices in a meal and 1-2 in a snack, whereas women should have 3-4 carb choices in a meal and 1-2 in a snack
  2.  You can replace these staple carb foods with a carb indulgence, such as a laddoo, once in awhile, provided you keep the total carb intake in the meal constant

Carbohydrate containing foods includes cereals, pulses, vegetables especially starchy vegetables, fruits, milk, sugar, honey etc.

Foods in the fat and protein category do not affect blood glucose directly and hence are not part of carb counting. Foods in this category include meat, poultry, eggs, tofu, peanut butter, most cheeses and fats such as butter, margarine and oils

FHI diabetic carb counter

Following is the list of common Indian carb foods, with their serving sizes  containing one carb choice (15 grams of carbohydrates)

  • Rice, pasta: 1/3 cup cooked
  • Chapati: one
  • Thick roti : bajra, makka etc: ½ roti
  • Parantha: 3/4th
  • Bread (one small size; 1 oz or 28 gram in weight): white or whole grain
  • 2 pooris (small size)
  • 1 small idli
  • 1/3rd cup upma
  • ½  cup poha
  • Potato: one small boiled or baked or ½ cup mashed
  • Peas: ½ cup
  • Pulses: ½ cup
  • Milk and curd: one cup
  • Fruits: one small banana (4 inches), ½ mango, one small apple or generally nearly 4 oz (112 grams) of fruit, 1/3 cup of mango or grape juice , ½ cup of pure apple, orange or pineapple juice
  • 1 Tbsp syrup, jam, jelly, sugar or honey

Now, some snacks and sweets containing one carb choice

  • One small gulab jamun or medium ras gullah or small ras malai
  • ½ cup kulfi or ice cream or 1/4th cup shrikhand
  • One small brownie or cup cake : unfrosted
  • One small croissant
  • 6 pani puris/3/4th samosa/ 2 small mathris/2 papad, 1 oz (28 gm) banana chips/ 1 kachori/3 pcs palak bhajia
  • 10 french fries/ 3 cups of popcorn
  • 1/2 hamburger bun , 6 chicken nuggets

This means that if you want to say, have a gulab jamun in a meal, you should skip one chapatti in the same meal to keep your carb intake in check

A word of caution: carb units are only telling you how much carb is here in a given food, say a samosa, but you need to also replace calorie for calorie, to avoid excessive calorie intake!

CHECK OUT: Our references for diabetes mellitus