Apples and grains on 3 seperate strings

What is Carbohydrate Counting?

Carbohydrate counting is a system that is often used to help people with diabetes monitor their carbohydrate intake so that they can give themselves the correct amount of insulin or to help their oral medications work to their best efficiency. When you were first diagnosed, hopefully your physician referred you to a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) to help you understand carbohydrate counting.

Why count carbs?

Each person has individual carbohydrate needs. An active teenager needs more calories and carbohydrates than a more sedentary adult. Your doctor should have given you a goal of carbohydrate exchanges per meal or per day to help guide your choices and make your insulin or medication as effective as possible.

Carbohydrates are foods that contain glucose. Glucose is important, as it is the primary energy source for our brain, as well as other bodily functions. When trying to discern how many carbohydrates are in a food, first check the serving size, then the total carbohydrates. The total carbohydrate number includes grams of sugar, added sugar, and fiber as well. If you plan to eat more or less than the stated serving size, you should adjust the amount of carbohydrates accordingly.

But what if you don’t have a nutrition label to read? Most produce does not have a label. Keep this easy-to-read list of common carbohydrates handy any time you are wondering about the content of your food! Some may vary depending on size and preparation of food.

How many carbs are there in different types of food?


Starchy vegetables

  • 1 medium potato = 51g carbohydrates
  • ½ cup mashed sweet potatoes = 32g carbohydrate
  • 1 ear of corn = 38g carbohydrate


  • 1 medium apple = 25g carbohydrate
  • 1 medium banana = 27g carbohydrate
  • 1 medium pear = 25g carbohydrate
  • 1 cup strawberries = 11g carbohydrate
  • ½ cup blueberries = 10g carbohydrate
  • ½ cup blackberries = 9g carbohydrate
  • 1 medium orange = 19g carbohydrate
  • ½ cup juice = 15g carbohydrate


  • 8oz milk = 15g carbohydrate
  • 6oz light yogurt = 15g carbohydrate
  • 8oz unsweetened almond milk = 6g carbohydrate

Grain-based carbohydrates

  • ¾ cup Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes® cereal = 27g carbohydrate
  • ¼ cup dry brown rice = 38g carbohydrate
  • ¼ cup dry white rice = 35g carbohydrate
  • 1 cup white pasta = 40g carbohydrate
  • 2 oz dry whole wheat pasta = 41g carbohydrate
  • 1 piece whole grain bread = 20g carbohydrate
  • 1 slice white bread = 20g carbohydrate
  • 1 whole bagel = 56g carbohydrate


  • 1/3 cup black beans = 15g carbohydrate
  • ½ cup cooked peas = 12.5g carbohydrate

Sweets and goodies

  • 1/12 of cake = 36g carbohydrate
  • One donut = 24g carbohydrate
  • ½ cup ice cream = 30g carbohydrate
  • Milky Way® fun size candy = 24g carbohydrate

Again, this is not an all-inclusive list, but has many popular carbohydrate options and servings. If you have any specific questions or concerns about carbohydrate counting, be sure to speak with your physician, registered dietitian, or certified diabetes educator.

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