Carb Counting

Are you looking for a strategy to lose weight, lower blood sugar, and improve cholesterol levels? Here is the scoop on carb counting.
Carb Counting
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Are you looking for a strategy to lose weight, lower blood sugar, and improve blood lipids such as cholesterol levels? Are you wondering if carbohydrate counting can help? Here is the scoop on carbohydrate counting and low-carb diets

Basics of Carb Counting

With carb counting, you count the number of grams of carbohydrates that you get from each food that you eat in a day. Most people include the grams of sugars and starches in their totals because those are the types of carbs that contribute calories and drive up blood sugar.

You might choose to exclude grams of dietary fiber from your daily carbohydrate totals because fiber does not contribute to an increase in blood sugar levels.

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What Does a Low-Carb Diet Mean?

A low-carb diet can be a meal plan that gets fewer calories from carbohydrates than usual. The theory is that your body will switch from burning carbohydrates to burning fat and therefore you will lose weight.

Most people get most of their calories from carbohydrates, or sugars and starches. These foods are high in carbohydrates.

  • Sweets
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Fruit
  • Potatoes

Low-carb diets limit or eliminate these foods. Instead, most of their calories come from fat and protein. These foods are low in carbohydrates and high in fat and/or protein.

  • Oils
  • Butter
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Cheese

Do Low-Carb Diets Work?

Low-carb diets may help with weight loss, according to a review article in Healthcare and the American Diabetes Association (ADA). You may lose weight on a low-carbohydrate diet because you are likely to reduce your total calorie consumption when you avoid high-carb sources of calories. These include pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, cereal, and sweetened foods and beverages. 

These are some possible benefits of low-carbohydrate diets and carbohydrate counting.

  • Weight loss due to reduction in calories from high-carbohydrate foods
  • Lower consumption of added sugars and refined starches, which are carbohydrates that can lead to health concerns when you eat too much of them
  • Less hunger due to higher intake of protein and fat

These are some possible drawbacks of low-carbohydrate diets and carb counting.

  • It is hard to follow them for long because they can exclude favorite foods and make it difficult to participate in settings such as restaurants, the workplace, or at special events
  • Eating a high amount of animal protein may be harmful for the liver and kidney over time
  • High levels of animal protein can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increase the risk for osteoporosis, or thinning of the bone and risk for fractures
  • Carb counting can lead you to ignore other aspects of foods, such as their content of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and calorie contents

Nutrition tracking is an alternative to carb counting. Nutrition tracking includes logging foods and seeing the calories, carbohydrates, and other nutrients in them. Lark is a nutrition tracker that also provides coaching to help with weight loss and healthy food choices.

Foods to Eat When Carb Counting

Some foods are carbohydrate-free or are very low in carbohydrates. These are the most common foods on a low-carb diet.

  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Chicken, turkey, and other poultry
  • Beef, lamb, bacon, pork
  • Mozzarella, swiss, parmesan, cheddar, feta, and other cheese
  • Eggs
  • Oils
  • Butter
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cream cheese
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Lettuce, spinach, arugula, and other greens

These foods are relatively low in carbohydrates, but they have some. You might use small amounts of these foods to get you to your goal carbohydrate count for the day.

  • Non-starchy vegetables, including mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, okra, zucchini, cabbage, and eggplant
  • Berries
  • Watermelon and cantaloupe
  • Cream
  • Cottage cheese
  • Plain yogurt
  • Seeds, nuts, and peanuts
  • Salad dressing

Foods to Limit When Carb Counting

The following foods are higher in carbohydrates and may not fit into a low-carb diet.

More Nutritious Carbohydrate Foods Less Nutritious Carbohydrate Foods
  • Whole-grain bread, pasta, and cereal
  • Other whole grains, such as oats, brown rice, popcorn, and quinoa
  • Sweet potatoes and winter squash
  • Lentils, split peas, and beans
  • Apples, orange, pears, bananas, and most other fruit
  • Beets and carrots
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, sports drinks, and flavored or sweetened coffee and tea.
  • Sweets, such as cake, cookies, pie, candy, ice cream, and pudding
  • Refined grains, such as white bread, crackers, pretzels, pasta, and rice

Many of these foods have health benefits. They are listed in the left-hand column above. They may be linked to lower body weight or to lower risk for chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or high blood pressure

Eating healthier and losing weight are some of the most important steps you can take for your health, and nutrition tracking can help. Tracking your foods and beverages can hold you accountable with your good intentions and make sure you know exactly what you are eating and how much.

A good nutrition tracker can fit right into your lifestyle without weighing you down, and it is not hard to find one. Lark offers intuitive tracking features, such as recognizing favorite foods and keeping a history of your choices. Plus, Lark’s nutrition coaching includes instant feedback to celebrate the good choices you made and guide you towards any possible improvements next time.

Lark’s nutrition tracking is part of the entire coaching program for weight loss and improved health. The program may be available to you at no cost if your health insurer participates! Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark. You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to hitting your weight loss goals and improving health.

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