Carb or Carbohydrates are the main sources of energy for the body. Most people should receive between 50 to 60 percent of their total energy from carbohydrates. 1 gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories of energy.

Food Exchange Lists

Food exchanges are the amount of food categorized by similar energy and nutrients. Each group lists foods by serving size, called “Portion”. Food exchange lists consists of the following six groups:

  • Rice/Starches
  • Fruits
  • Milk and Dairy product
  • Vegetables
  • Meat
  • Fats

The major sources of carbohydrates are rice/starches, fruit, and milk/dairy products. Within a food group, one serving of each food item in that group has about the same amount of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and calories.


Average 15 grams of Carbohydrate = 1 Carb

The food in the various groups have a different amount of carbohydrate. 15 grams of carbohydrates is equivalent to 1 carb. Consuming desserts, sweets, and sugar will count as carbs. For example, 1 tablespoon (equals to 3 teaspoons of sugar contains 15 grams of carbohydrates, which is equivalent to 1 carb.


The Importance of Carb Count

Carb count is necessary for people with diabetes or people who have to restrict energy to lose weight. For those with diabetes, carbs count can help to control the diet, resulting in better management of blood sugar. On average, men should eat no more than 5 portions of carbs per meal. Women should eat no more than 4 portions of carbs per meal. People with diabetes will have different carbohydrates requirements. They should consult with a dietitian or nutritionist to determine the appropriate amount.

Carbohydrate Food Exchange Examples

The following serving examples each contain about 15 grams of carbohydrate which is equivalent to 1 carb portion.


The exchange lists provide meal planning flexibility and can be tailored for individual needs and preferences. Check with your dietitian regularly to review your meal plan and ask any questions you may have.


Nujeejan Bunyapattanapong

Dietitian, CDT

Bangkok Hospital Chiang Mai