Living with diabetes blog

Practice portion control for better health with diabetes

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. February 12, 2010

Greetings, fellow bloggers. Let's take a look at food portions and portion control. I remember a decade or more ago when the new food fad was to eat low fat foods.

I'm human like everyone else and as humans we have a tendency to look for the quick and easy way out. When it comes to food (which is near and dear to our hearts), we all want that magic diet or pill that will dissolve away the fat with little or no behavioral change on our part. During the low fat diet craze, I discovered that bagels were a low fat food and so that meant I could eat an unlimited amount and lose weight, right? Wrong!

A bagel is not just a bagel, the calories count. In fact, in any weight loss program, the bottom line is how many calories you take in and how many you use (exercise). Simply, to lose weight you need to eat fewer calories.

During the low fat diet craze, bread maker machines became popular. During the bread maker phase of my life, I was introduced to carbohydrates and carbohydrate counting. It was an eye opener to find out that one serving of a carbohydrate was equivalent to 15 grams of carbohydrate. A 1500 calorie diet provides 4 carbohydrate servings per meal or 60 grams per meal.

I also discovered that one ounce of bread by weight is equal to one carbohydrate serving. One slice of my homemade bread weighed four ounces and was equal to four carbohydrate servings or 60 grams of carbohydrate and approximately 340 calories. Just add butter, cream cheese or jam and you could have a quarter of your daily caloric intake if you're on a 1500 calorie a day meal plan.

Other carbohydrate food items I've become more aware of are rice and pasta. A carbohydrate serving of rice or pasta is 1/3 cup, so 1 cup of either pasta or rice is 45 grams of carbohydrate or 3 carbohydrate servings. It's not that we can't have these foods, but we need to pay attention to the serving size, because carbohydrate grams and calories can add up quickly. I call these foods carbohydrate dense.

One way I estimate the portion sizes of pasta dishes is by first measuring them in a measuring cup, and then dumping them on a plate for better observation. Another tip is to compare the serving size to your fist. A general rule is, an average woman's fist is equal to 1 cup portion size and an average man's fist is equal to 1 2/3 cup portion size.

  • People with diabetes on rapid insulin meal coverage need to develop their skills at portion control so they can match their rapid insulin to the total grams of carbohydrate they are eating for better glucose control. See the exchange lists on These books also are helpful: (1) The Calorie King Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter, and (2) The Diabetes Carbohydrate and Fat Gram Guide.
  • Remember that portion size estimation is a learned skill and takes practice and is a just part of the balancing act of diabetes management.

Carbohydrate estimating of portions:

Food 1 serving/
15 total grams carbo-hydrate
2 servings/
30 total grams carbo-hydrate
3 servings/
45 total grams carbo-hydrate
4 servings/
60 total grams carbo-hydrate
6 servings/
90 total grams carbo-hydrate
Muffin 1 oz. mini 2 oz. homemade     6 oz. bakery
Bagel 1 oz. mini 2 oz. (small frozen)   4 oz. bakery  
Apple 4 oz. very small 8 oz. medium 12 oz. large    

Dig out your food scale and measuring cups and practice portion sizing.

Have a good week.

- Nancy

6 Comments Posted

Feb. 12, 2010