Diabetes and Lipid Clinic of Alaska



Portion Management & Intro to Carb & Calorie Counting

There are many various methods for managing portion sizes of foods such as the Portion Plate method, the Exchange System, or by accounting for both carbohydrate and calorie intake.

If you are trying to manage your weight by “watching” what you eat, try to employ the following two strategies:

  1. Keep Eating Simple
  2. Aim for the Nutritional Guidelines appropriate for You

Strategy #1: Keep Eating Simple

Eating should not be difficult.

Aim to choose healthier foods more often…. You know, like real fruit (not fruit roll ups) and veggies (like green beans, carrots, okra, cucumbers, radishes, mushrooms, bell peppers, leafy greens, etc – getting the picture?). Aim to eat whole grains, rather than “enriched” starches. Eliminate fried foods as often as possible, and ask for creamy sauces on the side when ordering at restaurants. These are just a few ideas.

But just like understanding a “dose of medicine” you need to learn and understand your guidelines for a) carbohydrate intake and b) calorie need. This following information is a good place to start.

Strategy #2: Aim for the Nutritional Guidelines appropriate for You

Calorie intake needs are based on a few different variables, such as age, current physical activity level, sex, and age. Most persons who are not daily intentionally getting physical activity for 30+ minutes daily are considered sedentary or somewhat sedentary. You may going hiking all day on one weekend, but your daily exercise is what most influences your daily metabolism – in fact, if you aren’t getting daily activity, but are more likely being a “weekend warrior” you may not be conditioned appropriately for your weekend activities, placing you at greater risk for injury.

There are various ways to account for calories; and even more general guidelines and methods to account for the various sources of energy, also known as the balance between carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

General recommendations for a “balanced diet”
• 45-60% calories from Carbohydrates
• 12-15% calories from Protein
• 25-40% calories from Fat (<7% from Saturated fats)

You might be saying “Okay, this is starting to sound boring and difficult… I thought you said this would be easy.” Well yes we did. Let's reiterate, there are various methodologies to help a person learn how to eat a “balanced diet.”

Keep it easy! Intro to the Carbs & Calories Strategy

Just by accounting for gCHO /kcals, you can account for energy intake, as well as working on the balance of energy. But you need to know what your guidelines for gCHO/kcals are – See the following general guidelines and helpful examples. Also, refer to the resources page for links to great online sites to assist with learning to read “Nutrition Labels” – this will be key to help count carbs and calories.

General Nutritional Guidelines for Adults

Although everyone has different energy needs, and may need various calorie guidelines, here are some general guidelines to help begin. Most adults, if they are not physically active DAILY and are either overweight or obese (BMI>25+) could achieve ~1-2 lb wt loss per week with the following nutritionally sound guidelines:

gCHO = grams of carbohydrates
kcals = old school way of saying “calories”

General Rules to Remember with the General Nutrition Guidelines

  • No skipping meals – The goal is NOT to starve – Aim for a minimum of 30gcHO / 300kcals at each meal for a minimum. Most people tend to feel extremely hungry within 2 hours if this minimum isn’t reached at mealtime.

  • Most people tend to need a small snack (no more than 10-15gCHO / 100-150kcals) if there are more than 4-5 hours between meals.

  • If you are in need of a snack, consider subtracting the carbs/kcals from the next meals’ allotment; this way you will not eat more than the appropriate daily total calculated for you.

  • Want an extra “Super Healthy” guideline? Try to incorporate a minimum of 5-8g of Fiber at each meal, and 3+ g Fiber during snacks; if you aren’t accustomed to having a fiber rich diet please consider discussing this with your dietitian: (Current Fiber guidelines are 25-35g Fiber total daily).

Remember, these are generalized guidelines and are often a good place to begin especially if a overweight adult is trying to lose weight intentionally. To assist you with your efforts of weight loss, you should meet with a dietitian, and collectively assess your goals and plan for successful weight loss.

Consider a Food Diary

Accounting for meals and a few snacks appropriately, a person can work on the balance of foods, or the balance of where they get their calories. They can do this by keeping a food log or food diary and working on one meal at a time. See the following example:

Example Food Log Sheet:
Breakfast* at 7:45am
½ c. skim milk 6g CHO / 50 calories
1 c. Rice Krispie Cereal 23gCHO / 130 calories
1 8” Banana ~31gCHO / 130 calories

Total meal intake
: 60gCHO / 310 calories
*Meal goal = 50gCHO / 500 calories max

Evaluation of meal:

Although I ate less than the calories, I ate too many carbohydrates at one time, based on my guidelines. This would actually mean I ate close to ~ 78% of my calories from carbohydrates… bottom line, that is a great amount at one time, I would experience spikes in my blood sugars, and I most likely will not feel comfortably full or “Satisfied” for any long than ~ 2 hours.

So How do I change this?
There are always options. I may consider changing to a higher fiber cereal, while eating ~1/2 the banana, and ¼ c almonds or walnuts; I may swap out the banana for ~ 3 scrambled eggs (with !/2-1 egg yolk) while keeping the Rice Krispies. You may even do a high fiber, whole grain toast with peanut or almond butter spread with sliced banana on top. Really it becomes up to you.

Simple Balancing Guidelines

  • If the carbs are high, and calories are low, we need to decrease the portions of the foods with carbs, while increasing portions of foods with protein and healthier fats.
  • If the carbs are too low, and the calories are high, then decreasing the fat and increasing the carb sources is a good place to start.
    Refer to your CalorieKing book or online resource to assist with carbohydrate and calorie content of the foods you are considering.

Other Nutritious Notes

  • Aim to choose healthier foods – more non-starchy veggies, fruits and starchy veggies (be very careful of portion sizes); stay away from fried foods as well as minimize creamy sauces and marinades. If you choose a lean meat with eat meal (~ 2-4 oz, about the size of 1-2 deck of cards, or no bigger than the size of your palm) and fill ½ of the plate with non-starchy veggies, and ½ c with a starch and 1/2 c of fruit you will be off to a good start. Bottom line: accounting for what you do is an important part of acknowledging your successes and areas where you nee to improve.
  • If you tend to over eat either the gCHO or the calories, there is a strong likelihood you will have to do additional exercise (in addition to the 30 minutes of collective moderate intensity exercise you should already be doing on a daily basis) to “work off” and help your body deal with the fluxuation in blood sugar and additional (often un-needed and un-used) calories that add to additional weight day after day.

For more information, please consult with the medical professionals at Diabetes and Lipid Clinic of Alaska.

The information on this Web page is provided for educational purposes. You understand and agree that this information is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for medical treatment by a health care professional. You agree that Diabetes and Lipid Clinic of Alaska is not making a diagnosis of your condition or a recommendation about the course of treatment for your particular circumstances through the use of this Web page. You agree to be solely responsible for your use of information contained on this Web page

Return to Top