One serving (or exchange) of carbohydrate is approximately equal to 15 grams carbohydrate. One serving of carbohydrate is either determined from the food labels on products (fig1) (and following the portion size guidelines for carbohydrate-containing foods provided by your dietician) or by following the information in food guides.

It is important to remember two key points when reading labels for carbohydrate content:

1. All the information on the label applies to the serving size stated on the label.This is not necessarily the portion suitable for you, e.g.: if you eat doublethe serving size, all of the nutrients (including carbohydrates) will be doubled.

2. After determining the serving size, look at the carbohydrate or total carbohydrate amount in that serving size. This is the total grams of carbohydrate per that size of serving.

3. Now look at the fibre. If the food serving has five, or more, grams of fibre, subtract the grams of fibre from the grams of total carbohydrate beforeproceeding to the conversion guide below.

Exchanging Grams

Converting carbohydrate grams to carbohydrate exchanges - The conversion guide below will help you to determine the amount of carbohydrate in a serving(or exchange) when the gram amount is not exactly 15g.

Using the label above (hi-fibremuesli) you can calculate the total amount of carbohydrate in 1 serving ofmuesli, 1/2 cup of low fat milk and 1 banana.

30g Hi-Fibre muesli : ± 18 g1

½ cup ofmilk : 6 g2

1 Banana : 19 g2

Total 43 g

1The fibre contentof the muesli is less than 5g (4.4g) so we do not deduct it

2 See RI September/October2011 for carbohydrate contents of non-labeled foods

How many servings are adequate?

The recommended number of servings you should include into your daily plan is based on your current bodyweight, activity levels, medications, and goals for your blood glucose levels.Consult a health care professional, ideally a dietician, to assist you with apersonalised eating plan that will suit your lifestyle.

A word of caution

Remember although carbohydrate counting is one aspect of optimal glycaemic control, it does not negate healthy eating principles. It is still recommended to spread the portions of carbohydrate foods evenly in three meals and optional snacks through out theday. It is not a good idea to eat too much carbohydrate low in fibre, such as chocolates or pizza too often, and just inject more insulin. Over time, the consequences of this can be excessive weight gain and the development of insulin resistance, especially if you are not active.

In one study, researchers have found that selecting high-fibre low-GI carbohydrates frequently, helped to achieve improved blood glucose control. Benefits were observed in adolescents who followed a low-GI high-fibre eating plan for six months, compared with others who followed a low-fibre high-GI carbohydrate eating plan for the sameperiod. The researchers found that there was a reduction in the average daily blood glucose levels, as well as reduction in the number of hypoglycaemic events per patient.