A to Z Health Guide

Carbohydrate Counting with Chronic Kidney Disease

What is carbohydrate counting?

Carbohydrate counting is a way for you to keep track of the amount of sugar, known as carbohydrates, that you eat. If you have diabetes, it is important to learn about carbohydrates found in food. Keeping track of your carbohydrate intake will help you control your blood sugar levels.

What is a carbohydrate?

A carbohydrate is a nutrient found in many foods and drinks that is turned into sugar (glucose) when you digest it. Any food or drink that has carbohydrates can raise your blood sugar. However, some foods and drinks will raise your blood sugar faster than others, depending on the type of carbohydrates they contain. There are two types of carbohydrates:

  • complex carbohydrates or starches, which usually raise blood sugar more slowly (it takes your body longer to digest and absorb these)
  • simple carbohydrates or sugars, which usually raise your blood sugar more quickly than complex carbohydrates

Where are carbohydrates found?

Carbohydrates are naturally found in many different foods.

CARBOHYDRATE
NOT A CARBOHYDRATE
BREAD
ROLLS
TORTILLA
RICE
PASTA
POTATO
CORN
DRIED BEANS
SODAS
FRUIT
FRUIT JUICE
MILK
YOGURT
CANDY
CAKE
COOKIES
ICE CREAM
BEEF
CHICKEN
FISH
LAMB
BUTTER
MAYONNAISE
CARROT
CUCUMBER
LETTUCE
CHEESE
EGGS
PORK
TURKEY
MARGARINE
OIL
CAULIFLOWER
GREEN BEANS
ZUCCHINI

Some carbohydrate foods may be used less often in your diet due to high potassium, sodium, or phosphorus content. Your dietitian will help you know which foods are best for you.

What is a serving size of carbohydrate?

A serving size of carbohydrate is the amount of food that will give you about 15 grams, or one serving, of carbohydrate. The serving size of carbohydrate varies depending on the type of food.

The following foods are examples of one serving of a carbohydrate food:

1 slice of bread
1 cup of fresh fruit
½ cup of canned fruit
¾ cup dry cereal
½ cup hot cereal
½ cup mashed potatoes
½ cup corn

½ cup of pasta
1/3 cup of rice
1 medium sugar cookie
1 small piece cake, no icing
½ cup non dairy creamer
4 oz. juice or regular soda
6 pieces of hard candy

1 Fruit = 1 Milk = 1 Starch = 1 Low Calorie Dessert serving

Carbohydrate Counting and Meal Planning

Important things to remember when carbohydrate counting:

  1. Eat at about the same time every day to keep blood sugars stable throughout the day.
  2. Eat the same amounts of carbohydrate at each meal and snack.
  3. Eat a meal or snack every 3-4 hours to keep blood sugars even.
  4. Do not skip meals.

The amount of carbohydrate you need will depend on your weight and activity level. In general, 3 to 6 servings of carbohydrates are recommended at meals and 1 to 3 servings are recommended at each snack. Your dietitian will help you know how many servings are best for you.

You can check food labels for the grams of carbohydrates and convert the grams into servings. For example:

15 grams = 1 serving
30 grams = 2 servings
45 grams = 3 servings

Ask your dietitian to help with your carbohydrate counting plan.

Breakfast:___________________# of Carbohydrate Servings
Morning Snack:__________________# of Carbohydrate Servings
Lunch:_________________# of Carbohydrate Servings
PM Snack:_________________# of Carbohydrate Servings
Dinner:__________________# of Carbohydrate Servings
Bedtime Snack:_________________# of Carbohydrate Servings

Sample Meal Plan
Meals = 5 Carbohydrates, Snacks = 2 Carbohydrates

 
    Carbohydrate/Choices
Breakfast ½ grapefruit 1
  1 ½ cups cold cereal 2
  1 slice of toast 1
  ½ cup nondairy creamer without added phosphorus 1
  6 oz tea or coffee 0
 
Snack 1 small bagel 2
  2 tablespoons of cream cheese 0
  4 oz water 0
 
Lunch Sandwich with 2 slices bread, 2 oz meat, 2 tsp mayonnaise 2
  1 cup grapes 1
  ½ cup macaroni salad 1
  1 medium sugar cookie 1
  8 oz water or diet non-cola soda 0
     
Snack 1 ½ cups pretzels unsalted 2
  4 oz water 0
 
Dinner 4 oz steak 0
  ½ cup mashed potatoes with margarine 1
  ½ cup corn 1
  1 cup fresh fruit 1
  salad(lettuce, carrot, red peppers) with dressing 0
  1 dinner roll 1
  1 medium cookie 1
  8 oz ice tea or diet non-cola soda 0
 
Snack 6 low salt crackers 1
  2 oz tuna with 2 tsp. mayonnaise 0
  1 apple 1
  4 oz water 0
 
Total Carbohydrate Choices 21

If you would like more information, please contact us.

Acknowledgment: Reviewed by the Council on Renal Nutrition (02/2019)

© 2019 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.

Date Reviewed: 
March 21, 2019

The information shared on our websites is information developed solely from internal experts on the subject matter, including medical advisory boards, who have developed guidelines for our patient content. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.