I saw a Los Angeles Times headline yesterday, that had the word "carb" in it. I checked the article and discovered that nutrition scientists are beginning to conclude that carbohydrate counting is a potential answer to the obesity epidemic in the United States (1). I had coincidentally begun to write an article for SharedReviews that discussed carbohydrate counting. I began this article because many diabetic military veterans seen at VA hospitals are strongly encouraged to count carbohydrates as a way of controlling their blood sugars (2) and I believe carbohydrate counting is a painless and sensible way to keep track of food intake as one is attempting to develop a healthy eating pattern and/or lose weight.
I am writing this article in two parts because there is a very large amount of information to present and explain. If you appreciate Part I, look for Part II (3). Carb counting begins with dividing grams of carbohydrate into servings. Fifteen grams of any carbohydrate is one carb serving. If you plan to eat only three meals daily, you need to plan for meals that contain three to five carb servings each. If you plan to eat several small meals daily you will want to limit meals to three or four carb servings. Proteins have no carbohydrates; nor do fats. Carbs are in those foods that are starchy or sweet. Breads, cereals and grains, pasta, cakes, pies, pastries, cookies, candies and fruits all have carbs. Vegetables are mostly carb-free. The exceptions are potatoes, corn and peas. You need to count the carbs in those three vegetables. Generally, a carb serving of many foods will be 1/2 cup.
When you read labels, carbohydrate gram content, not sugar content. A product listed as "sugar-free" is missing only refined, white sugar. If you see other words on the label that end in "ose", such as "fructose", "maltose", "lactose" or "sucrose", recognize that they are sugars. They are in the carb content, but not necessarily considered as sugar. Ingredients that end in "itol" are also usually sugars. Sugar alcohol, a newly popular ingredient for sweetening is pure carbohydrate.
Let me offer a sample breakfast within the three to five carb serving limit. Imagine two scrambled eggs, two fried strips of bacon, two slices of toast with two pats of butter, one cup of orange juice and one banana. That meal breaks down as follows: no carbs for the eggs, bacon or butter. Each slice of toast is one carb serving (15 grams [gm]), so you have two carb servings. Half a cup of any fruit juice is one carb serving, but you have one cup. That's another two carb servings. Unless it's a very small banana, one banana counts as two carb servings. Your total carb serving count is at six. Since you want to stay at five or less carb servings per meal, you will want to cut a slice of toast, half a banana or half the orange juice. I work to eat no more than three carb servings at breakfast because I eat five times a day and like to have more carbs to divide up. If you choose that option, you will want to lose three carb servings. I like the protein in two eggs, but I also like a slice of toast with each egg. That leaves me with one more carb choice. I'm happy with half a cup of juice, but I want the volume of a full cup. To make up the other four ounces without adding carbs, I add flavored seltzer or Diet Sierra Mist. It's delicious and gives me the liquid volume I want. I now have a successful breakfast--three carb servings and 522 calories.
What if you'd rather have cereal? Half a cup of almost any cereal is one carb serving before addition of milk. One cup of milk will also add a carb serving. You could have one cup of oatmeal (two carb servings), a slice of wheat toast with a pat of butter (one carb serving) and half a cup of fruit juice or a piece of fresh fruit about the size of your fist (one carb serving).
In Part II, I will discuss other meals and snacks. desserts and a basic philosophy of healthy eating using carb counting.
(1) http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-carbs-discussion, 0, 7615019.htmlstory
(2) Personal experience at Hines VA Hospital, Hines, IL