Step 2: Carbohydrate counter for weight loss

Know your Carbohydrates:

Losing weight is not about eating less, some of us need to eat more—of certain foods. And because so many people are eating things that don’t serve them, various organs and systems are now also suffering and may need some extra help.

Keeping things simplest, losing weight is about understanding the role certain foods especially carbohydrates play in energy and in your health. The fact that our bodies will convert carbohydrates to sugars and then has mechanisms to use those sugars for its energy preferentially over fats has created some confusion. Just because carbohydrates/sugars are used first, does not mean these are the best fuel for the body. If you want to return to your ideal weight, balance your sugar handling, and have energy all day long then you must shift your body away from burning carbs and sugars and over to burning fat—the stored fuel source for your body.

With the USDA and other nutrition agencies recommending that a 2000 calorie typical daily diet should include  800 to 1,300 of calories from carbohydrates, and as there are 4 calories in 1 gram of carbohydrates, this amounts to 202.5 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day. Houston, we have a weight control problem.

Burning carbs (fast energy) and burning fat (slow burn, energy all day) are mutually exclusive: Your body will use one or the other—if carbohydrates and sugars are available, it will use those first. It will not burn the fat you so badly want to loose. Period.

This step keeps it simple—we trade out carbohydrates for more nutrient-dense foods. If you want to know why then please read the posts here and here (or type “carbohydrates” in the search bar). And please, if you have a complicated health situation then please seek out a trained professional who really understands nutrition science and who will work with you one-on-one. Warning: A LOT of people have jumped on the low-carb bandwagon without really understanding it and most formal nutrition schools haven’t embraced it at all. Studies consistently show that low-carb diets result in more weight loss and improve most risk factors for disease than the failed low-fat diet that is still being pushed by nutrition organizations all over the world. If hiring someone, please make sure they understand the current science and have experience with situations similar to yours.

First we work out your current carbohydrate intake.

In the next step, on a gradient, we move the existing patterns to something more appropriate for your body: We are all different.


Work out your current carbohydrate pattern:

Depending on your nature… there is a simple way or a precision way to do this.

The simple carbohydrate counter:

Most of the carbohydrates we eat come from four main food groups: desert, starch (breads, pastas, potatoes…), fruit and milk. While vegetables also contain some carbohydrates—most is in the form of a soft fiber that we don’t digest. And the meat and fat groups contain practically no carbohydrates.

This chart is a quick-and-dirty way to work out your carbohydrates in each food group per serving—be careful with those serving sizes! And… if you have sauces or add other things, you’ll have to count those too. For easy math, we use lots of rounding and generalizing; you can always look at the nutrition data label on any food…

12 oz 40 (sugar) Drinks:
celery juice
1 cup 10 (mostly sugar)


12 oz 15 (sugar) orange juice 1 cup 25 (mostly sugar)
(any fat) milk 1 cup 12
2 small 20(sugar) Snacks:
½ cup 12
pie sm slice 45 (sugar) GORP ½ cup 30
ice-cream scoop 40 Cliff or Lara bar… bar 40
  Granola bar bar 60
Breads: per slice 15 Pasta: small side 30
pizza per slice 20   main dish 80
(white, yam…)
1 medium 40 Cereal: 1 cup 25
Hash browns ½ cup 25 Granola 1 cup 65
French fries ½ cup 45
Potato chips 13 chips 15
Fruit: 1 whole 25 Veggies:
½ cup 60
berries ½ cup 15 greens unlimited >1
Meat any 0 Butter, oil, fats any 0

The typical wake-up start is a bowl of cereal and milk with a glass of OJ = 62 grams, or maybe you know how important protein is and start with 2 eggs, toast, hashbrowns and OJ for 15 grams of protein but a whopping 80 grams net carbs.

Carbohydrate counting that lunch sandwich adds another 40-ish when you consider the mayo, and dinner will probably run you another 80-100 grams.

Most people are easily in the 200 grams of carbs range before we start adding in the drinks, snacks and deserts. The Standard American Diet has carbs hidden as soy, corn, wheat… fillers in pre-made convenience (even organic, healthy) foods. Which leads me to…

The precision carbohydrate counter:

If the above doesn’t do it for you or if you are not buying and combining individual foods…

Use the handy tool at to search for exact foods you eat. If you want to sign up as a member they will send you a newsletter with a bunch of sales pitches and nutrition dogma but you can then create your own lists of reference foods.

  1. Write down everything you eat, including brand and portion—if it goes in your mouth, write it down.
  2. Pick the appropriate serving size.
  3. Determine your net carbohydrates this way: Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Dietary Fiber (avoid sugar alcohols as they can convert to glucose)

example: a medium banana has 27 grams total carbs 3 of which are dietary fiber = 24 grams (14 grams are already sugar!!)

Unless you are in a clinical trial or enjoy detailed research, just eat the way your regularly eat and track a 2-3 days. This is the most honest way to get your baseline level.

Use your carbohydrate intake to plan your weight loss program: Go to Step 3


Westman EC, Feinman RD et al., Low-carbohydrate nutrition and metabolismAm J Clin Nutr August 2007 vol. 86 no. 2 276-284

Santos FL, Esteves SS, et al., Systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials of the effects of low carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk factorsObesity Reviews 13(11) pages 1048–1066, November 2012

Hession M, Rolland C, et al., Systematic review of randomized controlled trials of low-carbohydrate vs. low-fat/low-calorie diets in the management of obesity and its comorbiditiesObesity Reviews. 10(1) pages 36–50, January 2009

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