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Is Carb Counting The New Calorie Counting?



I just wrapped up my first rotation as a Dietetic Intern while I was at the Veteran’s Hospital in Temple, TX. To say I learned a lot would be such an understatement. I was learning from some of the best Registered Dietitians on how to counsel outpatients for weight loss & obesity, diabetes & renal disease management, hypertension, gastroesophagel reflux disease (GERD) plus several other nutrition-related disease states.

I found that most of the time, the same concept kept coming into light. The answer to weight loss, reducing cholesterol levels, LDL (“bad” cholesterol), triglycerides and blood sugar were all connected. The problem all came down to carbohydrates and infiltrating the body with excess amounts of starch and sugars.

When we consume carbohydrates, this macronutrient instantly gets broken down into energy for the body. Energy we harness for working out and keeping us going throughout the day. Unfortunately, it also transforms into sugar, which drives our blood glucose up after we eat a meal or snack. The key goal is to consume a consistent carbohydrate intake throughout the day, NOT suppressing carbs at one meal and then cheating or going overboard on the next.

For weight loss, counting carbs is naturally an easier process than counting calories when you get the hang of it. Unlike calories, carbohydrates are a better predictor of how much energy you’re consuming because this is the body’s main source of energy entering the metabolism. When counting carbohydrates, it’s important to know where they reside in the diet.


Sources of Carbohydrates

Grains: Oatmeal, cereal, bread, tortillas, rice, pasta, crackers, chips

Vegetables: Corn, peas, potatoes, yams or sweet potatoes, winter squash (acorn squash, butternut squash & spaghetti squash), legumes/lentils, and beans (black, kidney, white, pinto etc).

Fruit: Fresh fruit, frozen fruit, dried fruit, canned fruit, fruit juice, fruit jam or jelly, fruit smoothies

Dairy: Milk (skim, 1%, 2% and whole), yogurt, ice cream

Sweets: Cookies, cakes, muffins, candy, syrup, sodas, sweet tea, gatorade, fruit juice, honey & desserts.

How To Count Carbohydrates

Typically, we count carbohydrates in grams. The method of “Carb Counting” allows for counting carbs in increments of 15 grams per portion size. So, each portion size of a carbohydrate source is 15 grams worth towards your total goal of carbohydrates. Here is a look at different portion sizes of certain carbohydrate sources.



How Much Should You Aim For?

For weight loss:

For weight management:

GOAL: Weight Loss

ACTION PLAN: Carbohydrate Counting



Dietitians across the board are recommending their patients to fill their plate with more green (non-starchy) vegetables. The goal is to aim for 1/2 the plate filled with more green color. This is beneficial in two ways, 1. to increase our consumption of fiber and phytonutrients through more vegetables and 2. to leave less room for carbohydrates and fat. 

But don’t forget to add the protein!

Your plate should should consist of 1/4 protein, typically 4-6 ounces of meat (the size of your fist) or about 20-25 grams protein from non meat sources such as peanut butter, tofu, eggs, etc.

The last 1/4 of your plate should be enough to house the correct amount of carbohydrates your body needs. The recommended amount of carbohydrates for weight loss is 30-45 grams per meal (3 times daily) and 15-30 grams per snack (1-2 times daily).

“Carb Counting” may sound terrifying at first but it has been shown to have many benefits with weight loss, diabetes management, and reducing cholesterol (LDL, triglycerides, & total cholesterol). People are making the change towards this lifestyle everyday and see noticeable differences in their lab values as well as their appearance when they stick to this regime daily. Although it may be called a “diet,” this tactic is truly a lifestyle that is appropriate for anybody in the family. If you’ve done the whole “calorie counting” thing before and you never had success with it, I recommend you give this a try and see for yourself if it helps you and your body achieve what you set out to accomplish.

I wish you all the best and




Many thanks to the wonderful outpatient Registered Dietitians in Temple, TX for allowing me to intern with them and learn from their skills in assessing, diagnosing and prescribing proper nutrition to those who need it.




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