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    Happy 2019! It's a new year--time for a restorative. Me? Bok choy broth with tofu for lunch. The purple tinge is not your hangover talking to you--I added purple and gold "black" carrots to the bowl and it got a little Rose Parade on me.

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    Copyright 2008-2019Slow Food Fast. All writing and images on this blog unless otherwise attributed or set in quotes are the sole property of Slow Food Fast. Please contact DebbieN via the comments form for permissions before reprinting or reproducing any of the material on this blog.


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    SlowFoodFast sometimes addresses general public health topics related to nutrition, heart disease, blood pressure, and diabetes. Because this is a blog with a personal point of view, my health and food politics entries often include my opinions on the trends I see, and I try to be as blatant as possible about that. None of these articles should be construed as specific medical advice for an individual case. I do try to keep to findings from well-vetted research sources and large, well-controlled studies, and I try not to sensationalize the science (though if they actually come up with a real cure for Type I diabetes in the next couple of years, I'm gonna be dancing in the streets with a hat that would put Carmen Miranda to shame. Consider yourself warned).

Carb Counts

Carb Counts, Ratios and Rules of Thumb

I’ve developed this set of carb counts as rules of thumb based on our experience at home with foods that are and aren’t listed in the American Dietetic Association’s “Choose Your Foods”  carb count book which my diabetic daughter brought home from the hospital. Get the ADA book and learn to use it for general eating purposes.

The lists below are what I’ve worked out for both for eating and cooking estimates.

I’ve tried to simplify this for home cooking portions and some of the basic categories of foods (ie, just “Beans,” not “Kidney beans…pinto beans…black beans) to answer the cook’s question: how much of this potato is one 15 gram carb serving?

These lists  include most of the basic carb-containing whole foods and ingredients I use, not brand-name processed frozen pizzas or restaurant chain foods (the ADA book does the generic version for a lot of these, and you should be able to find specific food counts online at the company web sites).

There’s one exception to the no-brand, no-processed-stuff rule: candy (or see the bottom of this page for my rule of thumb and brand-name candy list links). Why candy? Because diabetic kids want to go trick-or-treating too.

Spike Foods

A couple of basic foods like summer fruits (peaches, nectarines, blueberries) and sometimes whole wheat bagels have given us more trouble with delayed “spikes” or unexpected blood sugar highs than their carb count according to the ADA book would have indicated. We treat them as though they had more carb–in the case of nectarines and peaches, about double what the book says, and our diabetes educator at the hospital mentioned this as well–but every diabetic reacts differently, so your experience may vary.

2013 note: Three years down the line, some of the fruits that used to spike my daughter don’t anymore, but the spike food strategy of counting them a bit higher in carbs for the weight worked while she needed it, so it’s worth keeping in mind if you need it. As always, pay attention to your blood sugar before and 2 hours after a meal and see how your body is reacting to a given food.

Processed snacks: One food group I don’t have good estimates for but which has given a LOT more trouble than it’s worth is processed cracker-snacks. Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers, Keebler and Ritz crackers, Wheat Thins, taco chips, pretzels, Cheet0s, potato chips, etc. all list a small or modest carb count per serving and all of them seem to be seriously spike-prone. Be very careful with these or skip them altogether in favor of unprocessed snacks (bread, pasta, nuts, cheese, fruit, vegetables). It may be the added cornstarch, maltodextrin, modified starches, and so on that make these act as though they were more carby than listed on the label. Or it may be that the labels underestimate the carb–recent studies have shown that commercial food labels frequently understate the calories per serving by 20 percent or more, and carb counts might also be off.


If you need to count carbs precisely (to calculate how much insulin to give), you need a good carb count reference book like the ADA one and these three tools in your kitchen:

  • a food scale that can weigh in ounces or grams, from 1 gram up to 2-3 kilos (1 gram up to about 6 pounds)
  • a set of standard cup and spoon measures (1 c, 1/2 c, 1/3 c, 1/4 c, 1T, 1t, 1/2t, 1/4t)
  • a basic calculator (cheap elementary-school grade is fine) for scaling up or down from whatever portion the package label lists to whatever carb level you want

How to Use the Carb Ratio Charts

Weigh the food you’ve got in grams. Multiply by the ratio or the percent number to get the approximate number of carb grams in that amount of food.

Example: 120 g potato x 1/6 = 20 g carb (or just divide 120 by 6) OR 120 g potato x 0.17=20.4 g (close enough)

Carb Count Ratios (carb grams per total grams, includes both sugars and starches)

  • 1 oz = 28 g
  • Can subtract half of the fiber grams in purchased breads and cereals etc. from the total carb grams on the label

Weighable Whole-Food Starches and Fruits

Food Ratio (carb g/total g) % Carb Example Servings
Apples (whole, raw) 1/7.5 (~1/8) 13% 112g(4oz)=15g carb,168g(6oz)=22g
Banana (whole, w/peel) 1/7.5 (~1/8) 13% 112g(4oz)=15g (one small 4″ banana or half of a regular large banana)
Orange (whole, w/peel) 1/7.5 (~1/8) 13% 112g (4oz)=15g
Apricots (whole, fresh) 1/5-1/6 15-20% 1 sm/med = 10-15g
Peaches, nectarines, plums 1/4-1/5 20-25% 112g(4 oz)=25-30g (acts like this or more in our experience even though the book says a 5-oz nectarine has ~15g carb)
Corncob (whole, w/husk) 1/9 11% 1/2 cob ~140g(5oz)=15g carb
Potato (whole, raw) 1/6 17% 120g=20g carb
Sweet Potato (whole, raw) 1/5 20% 120g=24g carb
Bread (nonsweet) 1/2 50% 40g sandwich bread slice=20-25g carb
NEW! Raw Bread or Pizza Dough (for homemade) 2/5 40% 100 g raw pizza dough (for 1 calzone, pita or personal pizza)=40 g carb
NEW! Matzah (plain) 3/4 75% 1 square standard matzah (33 g) =28 g carb
Baked goods (scone, cake) 2/3 67% 30g (small 2x3x1/2″ slice)=20-25g
75g (2″ slice of layer cake from a 8-9″ diameter cake with frosting)=45-50g carb
Frosting or icing alone is ~90% carb
Fruit pie (2 crusts) 2/3 67% 1/6 standard 8″ pie=45-50g; 1/8=35-40g
Pumpkin pie 2/3 67% 1/6 std 8″ pie=35-40g; 1/8=25-30g

Measurable Starches–Carb Counts by volume

  • 1 standard carb serving=15g carb
Oatmeal 1/2 c dry (makes 1c cooked thick or 1 decent bowlful)=27-30g carb (2 carb servings)
Pasta and rice, most other cooked grains 1/3c=15g carb
(The book says for tabbouleh 1/2 cup=15g, but it acts like more so for my daughter so we use 1/3 c for a serving. It’s easier to remember too.)
Beans, chickpeas and lentils (cooked, not mashed), and lentil soup 1/2c=15g carb
Hummus and refried beans (the thick mashed bean spread) 1/3c=15g carb
Peas (black-eyed or fresh/frozen green) and corn kernels (fresh or frozen) 1/2c=15g carb
Winter squash (butternut, acorn) 1c=15g carb

Measurable fruits

Apple or Orange Juice (most fruit juices EXCEPT prune) 1/2c (4oz)=13-15g
Applesauce 1/2c=15g
Strawberries 1/2c(4-5 strawbs or 3-5g ea)=15g
blackberries, raspberries 3/4c=15g
blueberries 3/4c=15g BUT acts much higher so check
cherries 12-15=15g (~100% carb)
grapes 1 grape=1 g carb (~100% carb) PER GRAPE
raisins 1 raisin=1g carb PER RAISIN–so watch out if you get a huge clump in your raisin bran, it could really skew the average carb count
prunes 5 prunes=27g carb or ~5g EACH
dried apricots 4 apricots=20g or ~5g carb EACH
other dried fruit CHECK PACKAGE LABEL

Measurable Non-starchy Vegetables (green beans, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini, etc. etc.)

1 svg=5 g carb

  • raw 1c=5g
  • cooked 1/2c=5g

Dairy (everything except hard cheeses, cream cheese and butter)

  • Hard or aged cheeses, anything with the whey pressed out completely–1oz=1-2g carb, considered NONCARB
  • Cream cheese (plain unsweetened)–2 T=1-2g carb (~NONCARB)
  • Butter–mostly fat, no carb
Milk 1c=12g carb
Yogurt, plain unsweetened 1c=17g carb
Sweetened commercial yogurt CHECK LABEL, typically 1/2-2/3c (4-6oz)=25-27g carb
Ricotta cheese, plain 1/4c=3-4g carb
Nonfat powdered dry milk 23g (enough to make 1c reconstituted milk)=12g carb; a 92g packet (enough for a quart)=48g carb
Ice cream without too much candy/cookie/syrup/fudge stuff included CHECK LABEL, typically 1/2c serving=15-20g carb


  • Soymilk–unsweetened, no starches added, can be as low as 4g/cup, but more often up to 8-12g/cup
  • Almond Milk–as with soymilk, can be as low as 2-4g/cup, but more often up to 8-12g/cup
  • Rice Milk–automatically contains starches, check label
  • Coconut Milk–check label


  • “Proteins” — fish, chicken, meat, eggs, tofu, nuts, hard cheeses
  • Nonstarchy vegetables raw — up to 1c (EXCEPT TOMATOES AND CARROTS IF THEY SPIKE YOU PERSONALLY)
  • Nonstarchy vegetables cooked — up to 1/2c
  • “Free” vegetables — watery, not very bulky vegetables such as celery, lettuces, spinach, cabbage

Baking Ingredients (See also main Cheat Sheet)

Ingredient Total Grams/Cup Calories Carb Grams
Granulated sugar 200 774 200
(per teaspoon) (4) (16) (4)
Brown sugar, packed 220 836 220
all-purpose flour 125 455 88
whole-wheat flour 120 407 92
almond meal 120 720 (mostly unsat fat) 20


Maple syrup (real) 0.25c(aka 2oz, 4T or 60mL)=53g carb (88% by weight)
Honey 1T (21g)=17g carb (81% by weight)
Blackstrap Molasses 1T=11g carb (52% by weight); CHECK LABEL to make sure it’s only molasses and not a mixture with corn syrup.
Most other syrups (agave etc) CHECK LABEL; usually 16-17 g carb per tablespoon
Diet or sugar-free syrup, e.g. with Splenda CHECK LABEL, still contains starches as thickener
Standard Jam or Jelly CHECK LABEL, usually 1T=12-13g
“All-fruit” or “naturally sweetened” preserves CHECK LABEL, usually 1T=7-9g, but still sweetened with apple or grape juice concentrate which is loaded with (“natural”) sugar
“Diet” or “low-sugar” jam CHECK LABEL, usually 1T=7-9g, so no great advantage over all-fruit

Plain taco chips (corn, oil, salt) ~10 chips=15g

(I don’t contemplate any other edible junk foods except maybe pretzels…which I haven’t bought in years)

Candy–CHECK LABEL–often very concentrated carb content for the weight

RULE OF THUMB : If all else fails, weigh the candy in grams and figure ~80-90% is carb.

Kids with diabetes or braces (we’ve had both kinds of woes):

If you work it out ahead of time with your kid, you can save a lot of heartbreak at Halloween or Valentine’s Day or birthdays (or any day when other kids are scarfing candy thoughtlessly in front of them) by showing them they don’t have to be left out altogether. They can’t just eat any amount of candy on the spot, and they probably can’t have it every day, but if there’s a special occasion with candy, they can take their share home and save it for the next meal. It helps if they bring a ziplock sandwich bag or the like ready to take it home in. They can choose which (limited amount of) candy they’re going to have, as long as they know how much carb is in it and they have their insulin to cover it. Helping them plan this ahead of time helps them look forward to events and take control. It can really make the difference between panic and contentment.

How to have it safely: one or two pieces at a time, at the end of a larger, nutritionally balanced meal as a special treat. And then their stash can last longer. It’s really what everyone should be doing–if you do it yourself, your kid will feel better–maybe even superior. Especially if they’re more of an expert than you are!

Plain dark bittersweet chocolate 1 small (1/2″) square=2-3g; a strip of 3 squares (out of 24) on a standard 3.5 oz bar is ~6g (more for Hershey’s, which is sweeter, more for milk chocolate, also sweeter, more if raisins or other fruit included)
Chocolate chips CHECK LABEL, typically 15 chips=5-10g carb
Jellybeans ~1g carb EACH
3Musketeers, Snickers, Mars Bar, etc. “minis” (3/4″ x 1/2″ squares) ~5-6g carb EACH
Hershey’s Kisses ~4-5g carb EACH
Chewing gum CHECK LABEL, 3-6g/strip; BETTER YET–go for the sugar-free and your kid can enjoy it without worry

***Here’s a more comprehensive candy carbs list for parents of diabetic (or any) trick-or-treaters…and the new American Diabetes Association PDF sweets list

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