Paving Your Path to Diabetes Management: Basic Carbohydrate Counting and Glycemic Index

Choosing The Right Types of Carbohydrates

The Glycemic Index (GI) groups carbohydrate foods by how they affect your blood glucose levels. Using the Glycemic index, you can make better food choices.

Chose Low and Medium GI foods more often.

Low GI Choose most often Medium GI Choose more often High GI Choose less often

100% stone ground whole wheat
Heavy mixed grain

Whole wheat

White bread
Kaiser roll
Bagel, white

All Bran™
Bran Buds with Psyllium™
Oat Bran™

Puffed wheat
Quick oats

Bran flakes
Corn flakes
Rice Krispies™

Parboiled or converted rice

Basmati rice
Brown rice

Short-grain rice

Sweet potato
Kidney beans
Split peas
Soy beans
Baked beans

Potato, new/white
Sweet corn
Stoned Wheat Thins™
Ryvita™ (rye crisps)
Black bean soup
Green pea soup

Potato, baking (Russet)
French fries
Rice cakes
Soda crackers

Adapted with permission from: Foster-Powell, K; Holt, S.H.A.; Brand-Miller, J.C., International Table of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: 2001;76:5-76.

How much carbohydrate do you need?

The amount of carbohydrate you need depends on your age and weight. It also depends on how active you are. Speak to the dietitian on your health care team to see what is the right amount for you.

General guideline for women and men:

Women Men
In a meal 3 to 4 carbohydrate choices 4 to 5 carbohydrate choices
In a snack 1 to 2 carbohydrate choices 1 to 2 carbohydrate choices

Making food choices

In this chart,each food choice contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate. That is what we call ‘one carbohydrate choice’. In the chart, we show in brackets how to measure the portion, using either:

  • cup measure
  • milliliters (mL)
  • tablespoons (tbsp) or
  • grams (g)
Grains and Starches Fruits Vegetables

bread, 1 slice

cold cereal (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

oatmeal, cooked (3/4 cup, 175 mL)

cream of wheat, cooked (3/4 cup, 175 mL)

large bagel, 1/4

pita bread, (1/2, 6 inch/15 cm)

tortilla (10 inch/25 cm)
cooked rice (1/3 cup, 75 mL)

pasta, barley or buckewheat, cooked (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

rice, brown and white, long grain, cooked (1/3 cup, 75 mL)

small potato ½, or potato (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

corn, kernel (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

corn, cob (1/2 ear, 73 g)

cooked beans, lentils, split peas, (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

orange, apple or pear (1 medium)

peach (1 large)

Banana (1 small or ½ large)

canned fruit in light syrup (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

Grapes (1/2 cup or 15 pieces)

medium kiwis or plums (2)

Apricots (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

blueberries or melons** (1cup, 250 mL)

Raisins (2 Tbsp, 18 g)

fruit juice (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

canned peas (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

fresh or frozen peas, parsnip (3/4 cup, 175 mL)

yam (½ cup, 125 mL)

sweet potato (1/3 cup, 75 mL)

squash or pumpkin (1 cup, 250 mL)

tomatoes, canned, regular (2 cups, 500 mL)

tomatoes, canned, stewed (1 cup, 250 mL)

Most other vegetables are very low in carbohydrate and high in nutrients and dietary fibre

Milk and Alternatives Other Choices Food and Beverages with very little Carbohydrate

Skim milk powder (2 tbsp, 30 mL)

Evaporated milk, canned (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

milk or buttermilk (1 cup, 250 mL)

plain or low-fat yogurt – ¾ cup, 175 mL (for yogurt with fruit, read the Nutrition Facts Table)

plain fortified soy beverage (1 cup, 250 mL)

sugar, syrup, jam, molasses or honey, (1 tablespoon, 15 mL)

regular soft drink (1/2 cup, 125 mL)

1 plain muffin (45 g)**

cream filled cookies, 2

arrowroot cookies, 4

popcorn, air popped or low fat (3 cups, 750 mL)

granola bar, oatmeal type, 1 (28g)

coffee, black

tea, black

diet soft drinks





other condiments

Format adapted from: Carbohydrate Counting, Vancouver Coastal Health (
Information taken from Beyond the Basics: Meal Planning for Healthy Eating, Diabetes Prevention and Management (2005).

For an extensive list of foods containing carbohydrates: