How Does Carb Counting Work?

Q: I see references to carbohydrate counting as a way to plan and eat healthful meals in your magazine. Can you please explain how this works?

A: Carbohydrate counting is a useful meal-planning tool for many people with diabetes. You need to learn which foods contain carbohydrates: starches (such as breads, pasta, and cereal), starchy vegetables (such as potatoes and corn), fruits, milk products, sugars, and desserts. Nonstarchy vegetables also contain carbohydrates, but in smaller amounts.

Next, you need to learn how many servings of carbohydrate-containing foods you should select for meals and snacks to help you control your blood glucose and achieve your weight goals.

In carbohydrate counting, the emphasis is on the total amount of carbohydrates, rather than the source or type. You can keep track of the number of grams of carbohydrates you eat or tally carbohydrate choices. One carbohydrate choice contains 15 grams of carbohydrates -- the amount in one slice of commercial bread or 1/2 cup of cooked pasta.

A registered dietitian can help you determine how many grams of carbohydrates or carbohydrate choices you need each day and help you learn how to fit them in your meal plan.

Jeannette Jordan, M.S., R.D., CDE, is the American Dietetic Association's national spokesperson for African-American nutrition issues and oversees nutrition education at the Medical University of South Carolina.