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Why Count Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrate counting is a way of figuring out how to swap one carbohydrate-containing food for another. Why carbohydrates? They are the nutrient that has the biggest impact on blood glucose levels.

When you use the plate method to figure out what portions of each food type you should be eating, you're carb counting without even realizing it!

The two basic ideas behind carb counting are:

  • learning how to identify foods that contain carbohydrates
  • making sure that you eat a consistent amount of carbohydrates at each meal

When carb counting, here are some terms you will become very familiar with:

  • Spend - the amount of food you eat
  • Budget - the amount of food you are allowed to eat - your personal plan

It's important that you try to eat balanced meals most of the time. This will help you achieve and maintain good health and good blood glucose control. Occasionally, you may want to spend your whole "carb budget" on one carbohydrate-rich food. For example, you have 60 grams of carbohydrates to "spend" at a meal. You decide you want to have a pasta meal. Your main source of carbohydrates at a meal will come from your starch and your fruit, by skipping fruit, you can "spend" all your carbohydrates on the pasta. Do not forget to include your protein and vegetables as well.

  • Ready to start carbohydrate counting? Talk with a registered dietitian/nutritionist to calculate your carbohydrate budget at each meal.
  • Next, look at the carbohydrate content of different foods.
  • Start counting carbs!

This link will take you to a useful tool that provides you with the carbohydrate and nutrient values of many foods:

For more information, read the Canadian Diabetes Association's excellent guide to carbohydrate counting.