Nutrition & Diabetes

Archive for November 2010

This week’s question from is: I am very confused. I have been told to have 3-4 carbohydrate choices at each meal. Could you help me figure out what one of these carbohydrates equates to? Is it one gram of carbohydrate or one item containing carbohydrate? Please help!

One carbohydrate choice refers to one serving of a food item containing around 12 to 15 grams of carbohydrates.  A carbohydrate choice can also be referred to as a carbohydrate exchange.

Carbohydrate choices can be a starch product, milk, fruit, or a vegetable. Plant-based proteins are a Meat Choice, but some of the food items contain carbohydrates and can count as a carbohydrate choice.  Carbohydrates in alcohol products varies and some products can count as one carbohydrate choice.

According to the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association’s Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes

  • One carbohydrate choice of starch products like breads, cereals, grains, starchy vegetables, crackers, snacks, beans, peas, and lentils have 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
  • One carbohydrate choice of a fruit has 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
  • One carbohydrate choice of sweets, desserts, and other carbohydrates have 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
  • One carbohydrate choice of milk has 12 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
  • Nonstartchy vegetables have 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving.  Therefore, 3 cups of raw or 1  1/2  cups of cooked nonstartchy vegetables would equal one carbohydrate choice.

Some examples of nonstarchy vegetables are carrots, spinach, tomato, onions, and beets.

Below are some examples of a single serving size of a food item that equals one carbohydrate choice.  While meal planning, keep in mind that you might eat more than a serving size shown.  For example,  1/2 of an  English muffin is one serving size.  This 1/2 of an English muffin has 15 grams of carbohydrates and  is one carbohydrate choice.  People usually eat one whole English muffin, therefore this would be 2 carbohydrate choices consumed.


Examples of one carbohydrate choice for starch:


1 (1 oz) slice of bread = 1 carbohydrate choice

1/2 of an English muffin = 1 carbohydrate choice

1/2 (1 oz) of a hot dog bun or hamburger bun = 1 carbohydrate choice

1 Waffle (4-inch) = 1 carbohydrate choice

Cereals and Grains

1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal = 1 carbohydrate choice

1/3 cup of cooked pasta = 1 carbohydrate choice

1/3 cup of cooked rice = 1 carbohydrate choice

Starchy Vegetables

1/2 cup of corn = 1 carbohydrate choice

1/2 cup boiled potatoes or  mashed potatoes = 1 carbohydrate choice

1/2 cup spaghetti/pasta sauce = 1 carbohydrate choice

Crackers and Snacks

6 round, butter-type crackers or saltine-type crackers = 1 carbohydrate choice

3 cups of popcorn = 1 carbohydrate choice

Beans, Peas, and Lentils

1/2 cup of cooked beans (black, garbanzo, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, white) = 1 carbohydrate choice

1/2 cup of cooked lentils or peas = 1 carbohydrate choice

Examples of one carbohydrate choice for fruit:


1 (4 oz) banana (extra small) or 1 (4 0z) small apple = 1 carbohydrate choice

17 small grapes = 1 carbohydrate choice

1 (6 1/2 oz) small orange = 1 carbohydrate choice

Fruit Juices

1/2 cup of apple juice or orange juice or grapefruit juice = 1 carbohydrate choice

Examples of one carbohydrate choice for milk:


1 cup of milk (fat-free, low-fat, reduced-fat, or whole) = 1 carbohydrate choice


2/3 cup (6 oz) of  fat-free, low-fat, or reduced-fat yogurt, plain or flavored = 1 carbohydrate choice

1 cup (8 0z) of whole milk yogurt, plain = 1 carbohydrate choice

  • Note:  Cheese is considered a Meat Choice and not a Carbohydrate Choice


Examples of one carbohydrate choice for sweets, desserts, and other carbohydrates:

Beverages, Soda

1/2 cup of cranberry juice cocktail = 1 carbohydrate choice

1 can (12 oz) of soft drink, regular = 2 1/2 carbohydrate choices

Brownies, Cake, Cookies, Pie, and Pudding

1  1/4 inch unfrosted brownie = 1 carbohydrate choice and 1 fat choice

2-inch of frosted cake = 2 carbohydrate choices and 1 fat choice

2 chocolate chip cookies = 1 carbohydrate choices and 2 fat choices

1 small (about 1 3/4 oz) frosted cupcake = 2 carbohydrate choices and 1 to 1 1/2 fat choices

1/2 cup of regular pudding = 2 carbohydrate choices

1/6 of an 8-inch commercially prepared fruit pie with a top crust = 3 carbohydrate choices and 2 fats

Ice Cream

1/2 cup of ice cream regular = 1 carbohydrate choice and 2 fats

Examples of one carbohydrate choice for an alcohol choice:

12 fl oz Beer, regular (4.9%) = 1 carbohydrate choice and 1 alcohol equivalent

3 1/2 oz Wine, dessert (sherry) = 1 carbohydrate choice and 1 alcohol equivalent

Examples of carbohydrate choices for a plant-based protein meat choice:

1/2 cup Beans, cooked =  1 carbohydrate choice and 1 meat choice

3/4 oz  of soy nuts, unsalted = 1/2 carbohydrate choice and 1 medium-fat meat choice

Examples of carbohydrate choices in combination foods:


1 cup (8 oz) of stews (beef/other meats and vegetables) = 1 carbohydrate choice, 1 meat, 0-3 fats

Frozen Meals/Entrees

1 (5 oz) Burrito (beef and bean) = 3 carbohydrate choices, 1 meat, and 2 fats

14 to 17 oz Dinner-type meal = 3 carbohydrate choices, 3 meat, and 2 fats

1/4 of a 12-inch thin crust pizza = 2 carbohydrate choices and 2 meats

Examples of carbohydrate choices for fast foods:

Breakfast Sandwiches

1 sandwich Egg, cheese, meat on English muffin = 2 carbohydrates and 2 meats

Main Dishes/Entrees

1 (5 oz) chicken breast, breaded and fried = 1 carbohydrate and 4 fats


1 cup of meat and sweet sauce like orange chicken = 3 carbohydrate choices, 3 meats, 2 fats

1 cup of noodles like chow mein, lo mein = 2 carbohydrate choices and 1 fat

1/2 cup of fried rice, meatless = 1 1/2 carbohydrate choices and 1 1/2 fats


1 crispy chicken sandwich = 3 1/2 carbohydrate choices, 3 meats, and 1 fat

1 large hamburger with cheese = 2 1/2 carbohydrate choices, 4 meats, 1 fat

6-inch sub (sandwich) = 3 carbohydrate choices and 2 meats


small french fries = 3 carbohydrate choices and 3 fats

medium french fries = 4 carbohydrate choices and 4 fats

large french fries = 5 carbohydrate choices and 6 fats


12 oz milkshake, any flavor = 6 carbohydrate choices and 2 fats

1 small soft-serve ice cream = 2 1/2 carbohydrate choices and 1 fat


This week’s question that I received from is: My husband was diagnosed with diabetes as few months ago and has been working hard to lose weight and control his blood sugar.  Each year we have a family gathering for thanksgiving that includes lots of food (large turkey dinner with all the trimmings and assorted pies & cakes for dessert).  What are your suggestions to ensure my husband doesn’t overeat but also does not feel deprived this thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving!  What a glorious time of the year!  Thanksgiving is easily one of my favorite holidays.  I get to spend time with friends and family, and I must mention the food!  I know it is very difficult to try to not overeat at Thanksgiving dinner with all the delicious foods around, but I think with a little planning your husband will be just fine. Here are some suggestions that might help your husband to not overeat and especially to not feel deprived at Thanksgiving while still controlling his weight and blood sugar.

Portion size and having a balanced Thanksgiving meal is the key, especially if your husband wants to sample a little bit of everything.  Your husband doesn’t have to deprive himself of any of the foods that you will be serving.  He will just have to make sure he isn’t eating too much food in one sitting in order to avoid overeating.  In addition, he has to make sure that the majority of his meal is not carbohydrate rich foods, but is a balance of carbohydrate, fat, and protein.  The carbohydrate control is especially important to ensure that his blood glucose levels stay normal.

An appropriate amount of turkey should be on his plate because turkey is an excellent source of protein and has zero grams of carbohydrates.  The carbohydrate rich foods like stuffing, breads, potatoes, yams, rice, pies, and cakes can be a difficult area to control.  I would just take a little sample of these types of food items and not overflow his plate with these carbohydrate rich foods.  Your husband can balance out his meal and avoid overeating by loading his plate up with nonstarchy vegetables and salad greens.  These foods can help him to not consume too many calorie rich foods and to help him avoid filling his plate up with mostly carbohydrate rich foods.  Non-starchy vegetables are very low in carbohydrates and some examples are carrots, spinach, onions, zucchini, and tomatoes.  Salad greens are considered free foods and some examples are romaine lettuce, arugula, and watercress.

As for pie and cake, yes your husband can have these foods, but again would have to limit the amount he consumes.  Some pies and cakes are full of sugar and can be high in carbohydrates depending on the serving size, therefore portion size again will be key with these food items.

Some other tips that might help your husband to not overeat is to make sure that he eats throughout the day before the big dinner or to have light healthy snacks available to ease any hunger while waiting for dinner.  Maybe a fruit tray with reduced fat cheeses or some vegetables with dip might be a nice snack.  Lastly, if you have leftovers, you can portion out the Thanksgivings food items to make another dinner for your husband for the next day.  This way he will have a brand new Thanksgiving dinner waiting for him in the refrigerator.

I hope this helps.  Below I have listed some food items that might be part of your Thanksgiving dinner in terms of what they cost in carbohydrate, meat, and fat exchanges.  These exchanges are found in the American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association’s Exchange Lists for Diabetes.

One serving of  a starchy food has 15 grams of carbohydrates which equals one carbohydrate exchange (serving)

One serving of fruit has 15 grams of carbohydrates which equals one carbohydrate exchange.

One serving of milk has 12 grams of carbohydrates which equals one carbohydrate exchange.

One serving of sweets has 15 grams of carbohydrates which equals one carbohydrate exchange.

Nonstarchy vegetables have 5 grams of carbohydrates and is equal to one vegetable choice, therefore 3 cups of raw or 1 1/2 cups of cooked nonstarchy vegetables would equal a carbohydrate exchange.

Plant-based proteins and alcohol vary in carbohydrates.


1 oz turkey = 1 lean meat exchange

1 slice (1 oz) bread or 1 oz small roll = 1 carbohydrate exchange

Biscuit, 2 1/2 inches across = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/3 cup rice, white or brown, cooked = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/2 cup of corn or peas or yam or sweet potato = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/2 cob of a large corn on the cob = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/4 of a large 3 oz baked potato with skin = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/2 cup of boiled potato = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/2 cup mashed potato made with milk and fat = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/2 cup beans or lentils or peas = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1 can (12 oz) regular soda = 2 1/2 carbohydrate exchanges

1/2 cup fruit juices = 1 carbohydrate exchange

12 fl oz of regular beer =  1 carbohydrate exchange

3 1/2 fl oz Wine, dessert (sherry) = 1 carbohydrate exchange

2 inch square of frosted cake = 2 carbohydrate exchanges and 1 fat exchange

2 chocolate chip cookies (2 1/2 inches across) = 1 carbohydrate exchange and 2 fats exchanges

1/2 cup of fruit cobbler = 3 carbohydrate exchanges and 1 fat exchange

1/8 of an 8-inch pumpkin or custard pie = 1  1/2 carbohydrate exchanges and 1 1/2 fat exchanges

1/6 of an 8-inch commercially prepared fruit pie with crust covering it = 3 carbohydrate exchanges and 2 fat exchanges

1/2 cup regular ice cream = 1 carbohydrate exchange and 2 fat exchanges

1/4 cup cranberry sauce, jellied = 1 1/2 carbohydrate exchanges

1/2 cup of gravy = 1/2 carbohydrate exchange  and 1/2 fat exchange

I received this question from a person with diabetes that was submitted to “I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last spring.  I enjoy eating hearty soups in the fall and winter months.  Can I still eat soup?  Are there any soups that are better for me to eat than others?”

Of course, you can still eat soup!  🙂   Believe it or not people with diabetes can eat the same foods that anyone else eats.  This is according to the American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association.  When it comes to foods and diabetes, it is about finding the right balance in the foods you eat to manage your diabetes.   At each meal there should be a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.  This is especially true for the carbohydrates you consume during a meal.  A Diabetes Exchange list can be useful to make sure you aren’t eating too much carbohydrates in one meal, but that the carbohydrates are spread throughout the day.  Also, the exchange list can help find a balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat in your meals.   By balancing your meals you can control your blood glucose levels and help it stay at normal levels.

Soups can still be a hearty addition to your dietary intake during the fall and winter.  Just watch for the salt (sodium) content in them.  Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure.

According to the American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association’s “Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes,”  here are some examples of some soups and what they are worth in terms of exchanges (servings).

One carbohydrate exchange (serving):

15 grams of carbohydrate for starches, fruits, sweets equals one carbohydrate exchange (serving).

12 grams of carbohydrate for milk equals one carbohydrate serving.

5 grams of carbohydrate for nonstarchy vegetables is a vegetable choice; therefore, 3 cups of raw or 1 1/2 cups of cooked nonstarchy vegetables equals one carbohydrate serving.

Examples of starchy vegetables: cassava, corn, green peas, potato, pumpkin, sweet potato,  winter squash like acorn, butternut

Examples of nonstarchy vegetables:  mushrooms, broccoli, cucumber, carrots, onion, cabbage, celery, tomato, squash like summer, crookneck,  zucchini

Plant-based proteins like beans, peas, and soy-based products vary in carbohydrates.  Depending on the serving size, beans can count as 1 carbohydrate serving and 1 meat serving.

Soup examples:

1 cup (8 oz) Rice (congee) soup: 1 carbohydrate serving

All of the soups listed below might have 600 mg or more of salt (sodium)

1 cup (8 oz) of Stews that have beef or other meats and vegetables:  1 carbohydrate serving, 1 medium-fat meat and can have zero to 3 fat servings.

1 cup of Bean, lentil. or split pea:  1 carbohydrate serving and 1 lean meat.

1 cup (8 oz) of Chowder made with milk:  1 carbohydrate serving, 1 lean meat, and have 1 1/2 fat servings.

6 oz prepared Instant soup:  1 carbohydrate serving

8 oz prepared Instant soup with beans or lentils:  2 1/2 carbohydrate servings and 1 lean meat

1 cup Miso soup:  1/2 carbohydrate serving and 1 fat serving

1 cup Ramen noodle: 2 carbohydrate servings and 2 fat servings

1 cup (8 oz) Tomato soup made with water: 1 carbohydrate serving

1 cup (8 oz) Vegetable beef, chicken noodle, or other broth-type: 1 carbohydrate serving

With this information and using an exchange list, you can plan what else you might eat with the soup to make sure you get a balanced meal and not consuming too much of a carbohydrate or fat group.  In addition, to make sure that you get adequate protein.

Serving size is important to look at to make sure you are not consuming too much of one thing.

Hope this helps.

I wanted to share with everyone a list of free print resources that I tracked down.  The companies listed ship to you for free the free pamphlets.  I got most of my information from the links on this website

Food and Nutrition Information Center:

I actually looked through all of the links on that pdf to find out exactly which websites had the free resources.  Hope this helps!

Free print publications that are shipped for free:

Health Resources and Services Administration: The National Women’s Health Information Center might be able to ordered free publications, if available, by calling toll-free at 800-994-9662

National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Search this website for free publications on diabetes, digestive diseases, and kidney disease.  There are so many free publications at this website that it is overwhelming. Look at box sets for diabetes and in search box type words like magnets, nutrition, exercise, physical activity, poster, postcard, etc.

This website is connected to the one above, but has more free publications on diabetes: National Diabetes Education Program

Iowa State University Extension has a store and some of the publications are free.  You just add the free items to your cart and checkout.

Food Safety:

Food and Drug Adminstration, You can email the address on this website to request free publications:

Aging/Older Adults pamphlets: : AARP : Administration of Aging

National Institute of Aging: This website has better resources for Aging like exercise and healthy eating for older adults, but only single copies are free

For bulk order request you can ask them here:


American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: One free copy of food allergies and others >

Food Allergy free pamphlets

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:

Dietary Supplements

National Center for complementary and Alternative Medicine Clearinghouse: > You need to write to them to ask for publications, they can mail you 100 free pamphlets every month shipped for free.

Diabetes : Park Nicollet Health Services, This website has 2 books you can order about Diabetes

Digestive Diseases

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America: free pamphlets order form

Fitness and Sports

American College of Sports Medicine: > Single copies of brochures are available free of charge by sending a > self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to: > ACSM National Center > P.O. Box 1440 > Indianapolis, IN 46206-1440 USA

The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports: They will send you 5 copies if you email them. Good resources involving kids and promotions for exercise


National Institute of Child Health & Human Development: Some milk matters materials, you can get a lot of free publications including 25 of the Spanish Tooth Brush coloring books, one English coloring book. In search box write calcium, milk, leche

You can write to the Leafy-green Council to see if they have anymore materials to teach kids about leafy greens:


NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center: Get posters for strong bones

Whole Grains : Whole Grains Council

You can write an email to Bob’s Red Mill requesting copies of a document called “A Kernel of Wheat.”

National Peanut Board > Need to write them an email to request pamphlets

Weight Loss Control Network: Mail out form and get 25 free

National Heat Lung and Blood Institute: Tons of free documents from heart disease, weight loss, cholesterol, etc.

CDC: Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Overweight and Obesity I know for the, if you select the program type as other, you can get a free poster with the pyramid and one free poster for kids with the pyramid.

Federal Citizens Information Center, Section on Food–woSECTIONSdatarq=15&–SECTIONSword=ww

The Federal Citizens website has other documents on Heart Disease, but you have to look through them.  Some documents are free and some are not.  You have to read through the publications to see which ones are free. This is the homepage website, so you would have to browse through the books section: >

Food and Nutrition Information Center website has a section devoted to finding free resources:

I am a Contributor/Nutrition Editor at , which is a website designed to help people with diabetes make diabetes friendly food choices.  Food items on the website are assessed using the guidelines from the American Diabetes Association, American Dietetic Association, and American Heart Association.  The foods are rated on whether it can be eaten more often, in moderation, or less often. Also, there is additional specific nutrition information about each food. The food items are listed under specific categories, but foods can also be searched.

In addition, the American Diabetes Association & American Dietetics Association Exchange Lists for Diabetes is another useful tool to help make better food choices.  An exchange list can also be found on the Mayo Clinic Online Exchange list at

I created this blog to answer nutrition related questions from people with diabetes that were submitted to  Also, I will try to post additional credible nutrition information.

🙂  Have a great day!

November 2010
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About Me

Iris M. Pacheco, MS, RD, LD/N

This was a blog I wrote during 2010-2011 while I was a dietetics and nutrition student.

Through this blog I volunteered to answer questions from people with diabetes that were submitted to is a website that helps people with diabetes make better food choices. It holds of large databases of food items and gives recommendations on which foods to have "More Often," "In Moderation," or "Less Often."

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