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How to Calculate Total Carbs in a Food

By Dakota Karratti

You may choose to count carbohydrates in your meals because you are on a low-carb diet, have diabetes or are simply curious. "Nutrition Facts" labels make keeping track of carbohydrates easy for people who make their own meals or eat prepackaged ones. Simple guidelines will help you calculate the number of carbohydrates in any food you eat.

Determine which food group the food belongs to: starch, milk, fruit, vegetables, meat or fat. Starches, fruits, milk products and vegetables all contain carbohydrates. Meat and fat do not have any carbohydrates.

Weigh or measure the food to determine how many servings you have in your portion. One serving of vegetables is equal to 1/2 cup of cooked veggies, 1 cup of raw veggies or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice. One serving of milk is 1 cup of milk, 3/4 cup of plain yogurt or 1 cup of artificially sweetened yogurt. One serving of fruit could be 1 cup of fresh berries, one small apple, 4 ounces of unsweetened juice or 4 teaspoons of jelly. One-third cup of rice or legumes, 1 slice of bread or a quarter of a bagel counts as one serving of starch.

Multiply the number of servings you have by the number of carbohydrates per serving for that food group. The carbohydrate counts for one serving of starch is 15 grams; for fruit, 15 grams; milk, 12 grams; and vegetables, 5 grams. For example, if you drink 2 cups of milk, multiply 2 by 12 to find that there were about 24 grams of carbohydrates in the milk.

Tips

If you are counting carbohydrates for diabetes, counting net carbohydrates instead of total carbohydrates might help better control your blood sugar. Using the Nutrition Facts label for reference, subtract the number of grams of fiber from the total carbohydrate to find the net carbs in a food. This is because fiber cannot be digested and does not affect blood sugar levels.

Warnings

Depending on how the food is prepared, the carbohydrate count may vary. Counting your own carbohydrates should not be a substitute for consulting with your physician or registered dietitian about your diet.

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