How To Accurately Count Carbs on Keto
Starting a new diet can be overwhelming, especially if it involves tracking your food intake. That's why we're here to help! If you're like every beginner keto dieter wondering how to count carbs accurately, you've come to the right place.
Counting carbs is a crucial aspect of the keto diet, and correctly doing it can help you reap the benefits of this popular diet. That’s why we’ve put together a beginner's guide to counting carbs on the keto diet. So, let's get started!
What Is Keto, and Why Is It Popular?
The ketogenic diet, or "keto," is a high-fat, low-carb diet that has gained popularity recently for its potential weight loss and health benefits. The keto diet aims to encourage your body into the metabolic state of ketosis, meaning instead of glucose, your body burns fat for fuel. This state is achieved by drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake and increasing your fat intake.
When you consume fewer carbohydrates, your body has less glucose for fuel, so it turns to stored fat instead. As your body breaks down fat, it produces molecules called ketones, which it uses for energy instead of glucose.
The keto diet has various potential health benefits, including supporting healthy blood sugar levels. In fact, many people have reported significant weight loss on the keto diet.
Why Is Counting Carbs Important on Keto?
When following the ketogenic diet, paying attention to your total carbohydrate intake is crucial to maintain a state of ketosis. That means carefully tracking the number of net carbs you consume daily, calculated by subtracting the grams of fiber from the total carbohydrates in a food item.
By tracking your carbohydrate count and sticking to your carb limit, you can ensure you stay within your daily amount of carbs to maintain ketosis. That's because consuming too many carbs, even healthy ones, can prevent you from reaping the diet's benefits.
Helps You Stay in Ketosis
Counting your net carb intake can help you achieve and maintain a state of ketosis. When you consume low amounts of carbs, your body switches its primary energy source to ketones, produced by breaking down fats.
By closely tracking your macronutrients and net carb intake, you can ensure that you stay within the recommended carb range to achieve and maintain ketosis. When you consistently maintain ketosis, you can experience the benefits of it.
However, every person's carb limit to maintain ketosis can differ, so it's essential to experiment and find what works best for your body.
Encourages Mindful Eating Habits
When it comes to following a keto diet, it's not just about limiting carbohydrates but also about being mindful of what you're eating. Reading nutrition labels is an essential skill that can help you make informed decisions about what foods to consume.
Food labels provide important information about the macronutrients and micronutrients in your food. This information can help you keep track of your carbohydrate count, as well as your protein and fat intake.
By reading nutrition labels, you can also become more aware of how different foods affect your body. For example, you may notice that you feel more energetic after eating a meal high in protein and healthy fats, while you feel sluggish after consuming a high-carbohydrate meal.
Understanding nutrition facts can help you avoid hidden sources of carbs in your food. For instance, some foods may contain added sugars or other types of carbohydrates that are not listed as "carbs" on the label. By paying attention to the nutrition label, you can identify these hidden carbs and make better-for-you choices.
Supports a Healthy Long-Term Diet
When you're trying to make a change to your diet, think beyond short-term goals and consider the long-term benefits. By adopting a keto diet and accurately counting carbs, you can develop a sustainable and healthy eating plan that will keep you feeling good for years.
One of the main ways that accurately counting carbs can support a healthy long-term diet is by encouraging you to incorporate whole foods into your meals. Eating whole foods provides the necessary nutrients for your body to function at its best.
That can keep you feeling fuller for longer, prevent overeating, and help to keep your total calories at a number that supports maintaining a healthy weight. Whole foods are often lower in calories than processed foods, which can help you maintain a healthy weight over time.
Another way that accurately counting carbs can support a healthy long-term diet is by encouraging you to meal plan. When you plan your meals ahead of time, you can ensure that you're getting a balanced and nutritious diet without the temptation to reach for convenience foods or takeout.
Meal planning can also save you time and money, making it easier to stick to your diet over the long term.
How Do You Count Carbs on Keto?
Counting carbs is crucial for success on the keto diet. It may be challenging to figure out how to count carbs when starting, but it doesn't have to be complicated.
Here are the best ways to accurately keep track of your carbs:
- Use an online keto macro calculator, which calculates the number of grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates needed per day based on an individual's age, weight, height, and activity level. You'll get customized macronutrient targets, and you can adjust your macros as you learn more about what you can or can't fit into your daily nutrition.
- Get a tracking app like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer to count carbs and track macronutrients and a net carb calculator to ensure you stay within your daily carb limit. These apps let you input recipes, serving sizes, and weight-based servings to track your macros more accurately.
- Invest in a quality food scale. Weighing food, especially in grams, can more accurately determine your exact macronutrient consumption. It's also easier to adjust the amount of food in grams to perfectly hit all your macro targets.
What Are Net Carbohydrates vs. Total Carbohydrates?
Now let's discuss how to count your net carbohydrates vs. your total carbohydrates.
Some sweeteners like erythritol and allulose are zero-carb sweeteners, which means they won't raise blood sugar or insulin levels as sugar does. The body typically does not fully absorb these sweeteners and excretes them through urine without metabolizing them. You can subtract these two sweeteners entirely from your total grams of net carbs.
Just because a sweetener has zero carbs doesn't necessarily mean it's the healthiest option. Some sugar alcohols like maltitol, sorbitol, and xylitol can impact blood sugar levels, so it's generally best to track these as part of your total carb count.
Depending on the individual, sugar alcohols or insoluble fiber sweeteners can also cause digestive upset, so use them in moderation.
There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. The body can partially or fully break down soluble fiber, while insoluble fiber isn’t broken down as easily. Soluble fiber can affect blood sugar levels, so some keto dieters choose not to subtract the grams of fiber from their net carb count.
However, some strict keto dieters do not deduct either fiber from their total carb count to ensure they stay within their carb limit and prevent insulin spikes.
Over time, as you become more familiar with the carb count of different foods, you'll develop a routine and may only need to count carbs with new or unfamiliar foods.
What Foods are High-Carb?
One of the fundamental principles of the keto diet is limiting the intake of high-carb foods. These foods are rich in carbohydrates, which can quickly add up and sabotage your efforts to reach and maintain ketosis.
Some of the most common high-carb foods include grains, sugary drinks, legumes, and starches. Let's review some food categories with examples of high-carb options to avoid on the keto diet.
While dairy products are a great source of healthy fats and protein, many can also be high in carbs. Milk, for example, contains lactose, a natural sugar that can quickly add up in carb count. One cup of whole milk contains about 12 grams of carbs.
Cheese is generally lower in carbs, but it still contains some lactose. Soft cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese have more carbs than hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan.
Yogurt is another popular dairy product that can be high in carbs. Flavored yogurts can have added sugars that significantly increase their carb count, so it's best to opt for plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt and add your flavorings like berries or a low-carb sweetener.
Grains are often a staple in many people's diets, but they are also one of the most significant sources of carbs. Grains like wheat, rice, and corn make a variety of common foods like bread, pasta, cereal, and crackers. A slice of white bread can contain as many as 14 grams of carbs, while a cup of cooked pasta can contain up to 43 grams.
Even seemingly healthy grains like quinoa and brown rice can be high in carbs, with a cup of cooked quinoa containing about 39 grams and a cup of cooked brown rice containing about 45 grams of carbs.
Sugary drinks like soda, juice, and sports drinks are some of the biggest culprits of high-carb foods. A single 12-ounce regular soda can contain as many as 40 grams of carbs, while a cup of orange juice can contain 26 grams.
Even seemingly healthy drinks like smoothies and sweetened coffee beverages can be high in carbs due to added sugars and sweeteners. If you’re on keto, you should avoid sugary drinks altogether and opt for water, unsweetened tea, or coffee.
What Low-Carb Foods Can You Enjoy on Keto?
Focusing on low-carb foods high in healthy fats and protein is essential when following a keto diet. Here are some delicious and nutritious options:
Non-starchy vegetables are low in carbs and high in fiber. These veggies include spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and asparagus.
You can eat them raw, steamed, roasted, or grilled, and they are great for salads, stir-fries, and omelets. If you're also watching your fiber intake, don't forget to keep track of those.
Soups are an excellent way to enjoy a warm and filling meal while keeping your carb intake low. Look for soup recipes that feature low-carb vegetables like cauliflower, spinach, and broccoli and include healthy fats like coconut milk in Thai Red Curry soup.
Bone broth is a fantastic base that provides nutrition in addition to being delicious. Dr. Kellyann's Bone Broth Liquids and Powdered Bone Broths come in various flavors, and they’re an easy way to add extra flavor to your soups. Add the bone broth to your favorite soup recipe, or enjoy it as a standalone drink.
Keto or bulletproof coffee is another popular option. It typically involves adding healthy fats like butter, MCT, or coconut oil to coffee to increase satiety and sustain energy throughout the day.
You can also use low-carb sweeteners to sweeten it up, and spices like cinnamon or extracts like vanilla can add extra flavor. Keto-friendly alternatives like almond milk or heavy cream are also available for those who miss their lattes.
Dr. Kellyann's Vanilla Collagen Creamer and Collagen Coffee mix are also great for keto coffee lovers. The creamer is made with grass-fed collagen, coconut milk powder, and natural vanilla flavoring, providing a creamy texture and added protein. Our coffee mix is a blend of instant coffee and collagen, providing a convenient and quick way to get caffeine and protein.
Dr. Kellyann's keto-friendly collection offers a range of convenient protein and collagen sources. These products can support a healthy keto lifestyle and also provide essential nutrients to keep you full and energized.
The Bottom Line
Listen to your body and adjust your diet to meet your unique nutritional needs. When you’re on the keto diet, focus on high-quality, nutrient-dense foods, limit carbohydrate intake, and incorporate healthy fats into your meals.
By following these guidelines and incorporating the tips and strategies for counting carbs, you can successfully follow a keto diet and enjoy its many benefits. For more keto tips and tricks, head on over to the Dr. Kellyann blog.