Diabetes Forecast

Which Foods Have Carbs?

By Allison Tsai , ,

The first step in counting carbs is figuring out which foods contain them. But that can be challenging. “Some people don’t realize that milk has carbohydrate in it. They think it’s a protein food,” says Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, coordinator of diabetes education programs at the University of Washington Medical Center and a dietitian and diabetes educator at the Endocrine and Diabetes Care Center there. Others don’t realize that fruit contains carbohydrate or that whole grain food, such as brown rice, isn’t a “free” food. It still contains carbohydrate. Here are food groups and a few examples of where you’ll find the most carbs:

Milk, yogurt, and ice cream

Whole fruit and fruit juice

Bread, rice, crackers, and cereal

Beans and other plant-based proteins

Starchy Vegetables
Potatoes and corn

Sugary Sweets
Limit these!
Soda, candy, cookies, and other desserts

It’s important to remember that carbohydrate isn’t inherently bad—your body needs the glucose for fuel—but it’s important to pick nutrient-rich food sources and pay attention to portion sizes. To do that, try visualizing what 15 grams of carb looks like in food. This can help you keep the carbs in your snacks and meals consistent. Foods that contain 15 grams of carbs include:

  • A small piece of fruit
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
  • 1/3 cup cooked pasta or rice
  • 4 to 6 crackers
  • 1/2 cup black beans or other starchy vegetable
  • 1/4 large baked potato
  • 2/3 cup nonfat yogurt
  • 2 small cookies
  • 1/2 cup ice cream or sherbet
  • 6 chicken nuggets
  • 1/2 cup of casserole
  • 1/4 serving of medium french fries

From 21 Things You Need to Know About Diabetes and Nutrition by Stephanie A. Dunbar, MPH, RD, and Cassandra L. Verdi, MPH, RD (2014, American Diabetes Association)

Get more great tips on carb counting!

The basics of carb counting.

6 helpful tips for estimating portion sizes.

Our top carb-counting strategies.



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