Counting Carbohydrates

Three ways to count carbohydrates

counting carbohydrates faq Jun 13, 2021

Simply put, Total Carbs refers to all the carbohydrates in a food. This includes the fiber, the sugars and the sugar alcohols in a food. Net Carbs refers to a portion of the carbohydrates in a food. Depending on what label or recipe you are reading, this could mean:

  • Total carbohydrates minus the fiber

  • Total carbohydrates minus the fiber and the sugar alcohols

  • Total carbohydrates minus the fiber and half the sugar alcohols

Which is right for you: Total Carbs or Net Carbs?

Most sources, when they talk about "Net Carbs" are referring to total carbohydrates minus the fiber and all the sugar alcohols. When you see a processed food that screams at you: "ONLY THREE NET CARBS," it is indeed referring to this scenario. The carb camps are many and varied. One person isn't better than another for eating only total carbs. However, you may find larger and swifter success with 20 Total Carbs but, even when doing Net Carbs, you can find success. Oftentimes though, that success will depend a lot on your age, fitness and state of health. For instance, I started my journey with extremely high fasting insulin. It was close to 50, while normal is 5 or less. There is no way I could have eaten 20, 30 or more Net Carbs and have lost the weight I did or have brought down my fasting insulin levels (last test it was at 12) or have brought down my A1c (5.2 now instead of over 6!). Very simply, carbohydrates raise your insulin level. Higher insulin results in insulin resistance that leads to higher blood glucose (sugar) levels. Higher blood glucose levels cause fat storage, which leads to weight gain or stubborn fat loss. Perhaps eat 20 Total Carbs or fewer (to start), but allow some flexibility to make the Keto way of eating successful for you. 

Being flexible about the carbs helps sustain a Keto lifestyle

What do I mean by flexibility? After almost a year of eating Keto by consuming 20 Total Carbs daily, I felt somewhat "strangled" by the restriction: an ample salad, alone, would bring me to 20 total carbs for the day. I worked out a system that still, to this day, has brought me, and my clients, success. I love vegetables. I mean LOVE them. I did a lot of research and realized that, once I learned the Net Carb count of leafy green vegetables and other non-starchy vegetables such as cucumbers, celery, asparagus, etc. (also avocado is included in this Net Carb allowance), I could take the Net Carbs of those and add them to my Total Carbs (such as those for dairy or eggs) and, as long as that total was 20 or fewer, I would be successful with weight loss and continue to heal my insulin resistance.

Miriam Hatoum (“Granny Keto”) introduces her Total Carbs vs. Net Carbs system for monitoring carbohydrates while eating Keto (This is an early video made when I still had my Granny Keto website. The website is no longer available and my work is now found at

Watch this video that explains my Flexibility System.

When you watch the video note how much food this is!!! You do not have to fear "only" 20 carbs a day!

Notice, too, that all the Net Carbs are coming only from fresh (non-starchy) vegetables and avocado. 

How to make Net Carbs and Total Carbs work for your Keto plan

I know what my salad looks like. If I bring basically the same lunch salad to work every day I do not have to write everything down. I know my salad with ½ an avocado counts as 8 carbs. I can use protein that has virtually no carbs to count (for instance the left-over beef from dinner the night before) or I can add cheese or a couple of hard-boiled eggs or some sliced salami. I use either ample olive or nut oil with vinegar or a luscious full-fat dressing. The combinations (protein, fats, vegetables) are endless, and such a large lunch will hold me until dinner.

What I suggest is that you make your own chart using your favorite foods. Work with Dancing with Keto. Further, if you learn to eat in a mindful manner, Keto becomes even less cumbersome!

It is not rocket science – you just need to do a little math – trust me!

Learn more about this with my book and course:

Book Breaking Free From Diet Prison: Common Sense Keto and Low Carb 

Course Breaking Free From Diet Prison: The Roadmap to Low Carb and Keto Success

Tips for Keeping a Food Journal - Part 1

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