Keto and Low Carb Success

Counting Carbs!

July 13, 2023 Miriam Hatoum Season 3 Episode 58
Keto and Low Carb Success
Counting Carbs!
Show Notes Transcript

Episode #58: Counting Carbs!

I want to talk today about being flexible with Keto, but I thought I would be jumping the gun because I haven’t done an episode yet on counting carbohydrates, and that is so important before you can begin to be flexible with them! So, this episode is all about counting carbs. I talk a little bit about how you can be flexible later in the episode.

Before we even start, I want to make sure you understand what a carbohydrate is. After getting that, I will talk about three ways to count carbs. I am sure you have heard of Total and Net, but I introduce you to a THIRD way to count carbs: My own Granny Keto Hybrid System that my clients have been wildly successful with. My YouTube link is included below so that you can see for yourself, after listening to the podcast.

3:54.     What is a carbohydrate?
6:04.     Think of the system as a lock and key
7:40.     Choosing how to count your carbohydrates
8:29.     The net carb myth
10:18.   Which is right for you: Total Carbs or Net Carbs?
12:07.   Being flexible about the carbs helps sustain a Keto lifestyle
13:28.   Hybrid Counting
14:38.   Yogurt
16:30.    Bacon
17:31.    Salami and Ham
18:24.    Legal definition of zero carbs
19:08.    Sugar alcohols
20:53.    How to make this all work for your eating plan
23:05.    This week's actionable coaching advice
25:25.    Next week's episode: The Lying Scale that Lies

You Tube video on Counting Carbs

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Episode #: 58 How Do You Count Carbohydrates?

You’re Listening to the Keto and Low Carb Success podcast, Episode # 58, How Do You Count Carbohydrates?.

Did you know that you don't have to spend money on a diet program or weigh, measure and track your food? What if you could learn to have success by following an easy roadmap that takes you on adventures from learning how to change your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, to learning about what foods work best in your body and why? Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author of Conquer Cravings with Keto, as I give you actionable coaching advice that is sure to empower you so that you will finally find peace with food and learn to trust your body’s signals. You’ve got this, girl! 

Be sure to go to to get all the free guides to help you along the way. I am in your shoes, my friends, and I wrote these guides for both of us. The link is in the show notes and transcripts.

Oh, and before we start, I want to let you know that the primary purpose of this podcast and the course is to educate and does not constitute medical advice or service, and I’m keeping up with the science as fast as I can so I can share with you the latest breaking research in this area to help you achieve your dreams!

Now on to today’s episode:

I want to talk today about being flexible with Keto, but I thought I would be jumping the gun because I haven’t done an episode yet on counting carbohydrates, and that is so important before you can begin to be flexible with them! So, this episode is all about counting carbs. I talk a little bit about how you can be flexible later in the episode.

3:54    What is a carbohydrate?

Before we even start, I want to make sure you understand what a carbohydrate is. 

·       When we talk about food, we know it’s potatoes, bread, rice and starchy things like that. 

·       To be a little more technical, carbohydrates, or carbs, are sugar molecules. Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are one of three main nutrients found in foods and drinks. 

·       Sugar is a type of carbohydrate found naturally in many of the foods we eat. It can either occur naturally in foods or be added in. 

·       But when we use the term carbohydrates, we are talking about foods that can be made up of starches, fiber, and sugar. 

·       Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose which is sugar. 

·       Glucose is the main source of energy for your body's cells, tissues, and organs, and that is what we are trying to change when we follow a ketogenic diet. 

·       We are trying to convert our bodies into fat burners instead of sugar burners.

When your body cannot use all the sugar you are consuming, you develop insulin resistance. In Episode 51, which aired on May 25th, I talked about this. 

·       Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas after you eat. 

  • It helps the glucose (sugar) in your blood enter cells to be used as energy. 
  • When you are constantly consuming glucose (in any form) your pancreas keeps pumping out insulin to open the receptors to your cells so that they will take in the glucose for energy. 
  • At some point, your cells become "deaf" to the insulin knocking at the door, and they lock themselves up from accepting any more glucose to use as energy. 
  • This is why your blood sugar will go up. 
  • It circulates instead of being moved into the cells for energy. 
  • This state of the cells no longer responding to insulin is known as insulin resistance

6:04    Think of the system as a lock and key 

  • Insulin is the key that unlocks the cell. 
  • If the cell does not get unlocked the glucose has nowhere to go so it stays in your blood (ultimately being moved to fat cells for storage). 
  • When your blood sugar reaches a high level you are said to have developed type 2 diabetes. 
  • Pre-diabetes is when some glucose is getting into your cells to be used as energy, but not totally and not efficiently.

Under this "lock and key" condition the pancreas secretes even more insulin in the hopes it will lower the glucose in the blood. 

  • This condition leads to high insulin levels, called hyperinsulinemia.
  • Hyperinsulinemia then leads to an exaggerated insulin response. 
  • This means that eating even a small amount of carbohydrates may cause the pancreas to release large amounts of "useless" insulin. 
  • This exaggerated insulin response results in a vicious cycle where you feel you are on a hamster wheel getting nowhere with your efforts to diet. 

So, you can see that it becomes necessary for you to become aware of the carbohydrates you are eating. This might be enough if you prediabetic. But, if you have already crossed that line, or are afraid you are teetering on the cusp of it, then it’s time to learn to count carbohydrates.

7:40    Choosing how to count your carbohydrates

  • You can choose several levels of carbohydrates and you have the option to count them as total or net carbs:
    • Total is the full amount of carbohydrates in the food 
    • Net  is the amount of carbohydrates in the food after you have subtracted the fibers in the food.
    • When using packaged or prepared foods, people usually also subtract the sugar alcohols in the foods as well.

If you want to do "full-on Keto," you will want to start at 20 total carbohydrates and see how you feel and whether it is best for you to go up or down from there, or whether you would feel best, and do best, counting Net carbs.

8:29    The net carb myth

Please do not get caught up in the net carb myth. A food can have 2 net carbs (sometimes called impact carbs) but be loaded with, for instance:

  • sugar alcohol
  • various types of fiber
  • starches

For example, the label on PowerBar®’s double chocolate flavor "ProteinPlus Carb Select" bar says it has "2 grams of impact carbohydrates." The Nutritional Facts label on the product says it has 30 grams of total carbohydrates. 

Unless you are talking about fresh vegetables, net carbs are usually a manufacturer's way of making you think they are inconsequential when, in fact, many of the subtracted carbohydrates do impact blood sugar and insulin in many people.

If you decide to go the net-carb route, be very aware of stalls in weight loss, how your body feels and whether your blood glucose is affected (if you test regularly).

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

10:18   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. 

·       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. 

12:07   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), 

o   I could take the Net Carbs of those and add them to my Total Carbs (such as those for dairy or eggs) and, 

o   as long as that total was 20 or fewer, I would be successful with weight loss and continue to heal my insulin resistance.

13:28   My successful Keto system, that I call "Hybrid Counting" combines Net and Total :

  • Count the net carbs for natural foods that will have fiber 
  • Count the total carbs for food with no fiber
  • The sum of these two together is your goal (usually 20, total)
  • Do not count leafy greens at all

In the show notes and transcript is the link to one of my YouTube videos that explains my Hybrid 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. 

There are carb questions about a few popular foods: yogurt, bacon, salami and ham and I would like to go through them because questions are sure to come up once you start counting carbohydrates, especially if you take the Keto route.

14:38  Yogurt

For some ketogenic dieters, full-fat yogurt is acceptable on a ketogenic diet. However, as with many other things, there are differences of opinions. 

·       Here is why many consider it okay to not count the sugar in yogurt, as long as it is FULL-FAT PLAIN UNFLAVORED (and preferably Greek) yogurt: 

·       The bacteria in yogurt eat the lactose for energy. 

·       What is on the label is what goes into the product before it is processed.

·       Carbs that are left behind after this process are a fraction of what is on the label. 

·       Some "Ketonians" will say count all the carbs on the label. 

·       Some will say don't count any. 

·       The way I count it is to split the difference. 

o   If I get a yogurt that states six grams of carbohydrates for the cup, I will count three. 

o   However, this is for PLAIN UNFLAVORED FULL-FAT yogurt ONLY. 

o   We are not talking about flavored or light yogurts. 

o   No exceptions.

Add your own flavorings to the plain unflavored yogurt. Here are some suggestions:

o   Diced cucumber and mint (or dill)

o   Fresh berries with chopped walnuts or pecans

o   A touch of fruit-flavored extracts such as banana or orange

o   Keto granola or chopped nuts and seeds

o   Keto-approved sweeteners 

16:30   Bacon

Sugar and carb counts in bacon follow a similar path. 

·       Sugar is often used in the curing process and is burned off in the cooking.

·        However, as with yogurt, manufacturers have to state the grams of sugar going into the process.

·        Many "Ketonians" stand by the belief that the sugar is burned off in the cooking and used up in the processing and don't concern themselves with the word "sugar" on the label. 

·       Again, as with the yogurt, the manufacturer must state all the ingredients in the raw product, but things change with the curing and cooking.

When buying bacon – do not buy bacon that is advertised as "Honey," "Maple," "Sugar," etc. This often indicates that meat has been coated with sugar and has nothing to do with the curing process.

17:31    Salami and Ham

A similar question comes up with salami, because you will almost always see sugar as an ingredient. 

·       Any lactose (milk sugar) or dextrose (corn sugar) used in the manufacturing and curing process is eaten by beneficial bacteria that dry out the meat raising the acid levels, which, in turn, prevents the spoiling of the meat. 

·       That is why in bacon and salami you will often see 0 carbs even though there is sugar in the product.

This is the same for ham. 

·       Ham is considered a safe keto food, but we are talking plain boiled, roasted or baked ham. 

·       Again, sugar may be used in the curing process, but make sure you are not buying hams that are coated with sugar. 

·       You know what I’m talking about: the Honey hams or Sugar Maple hams.

18:34  What is The Legal Definition of "Zero Carbs"

Keep in mind that manufacturers can legally say 0 carbs per serving if there is only a fraction of one carb per serving (and often they try to fool you by making a serving size fit the equation). In this case remember, "The poison is in the dose." This means that ONE serving of the food may be 0 carbs but that does not give you carte blanche to eat 10 servings and call it 0 carbs! 

19:08  Sugar Alcohols

Circling back to sugar alcohols for a moment: Sugar alcohols include 

·       Sorbitol

·       Xylitol

·       Mannitol

·       Isomalt

·       Maltitol

·       Lactitol

Sugar alcohols are hard for the body to digest and the effect on blood sugar levels is less than standard sugar. However, some people do still have an insulin reaction when eating them. When counting carbohydrates for products made with sugar alcohols, a common practice is to subtract half of the grams of sugar alcohol listed on the food label from the total grams of carbohydrate. That being said, most people (and all manufacturers) subtract the full amount of sugar alcohols from the food or recipe.

Not to do with counting them, but it is necessary to know that that because sugar alcohols are harder for your body to digest, eating too many sugar alcohols may cause digestive complaints like gas, cramping and diarrhea. That is why some people get so sick after eating copious amounts of sugar-free candy!

Even most people strictly counting total carbohydrates and not net carbohydrates will subtract half or all of the sugar alcohols in a food or recipe. If you have a stall in your weight loss or you still have trouble controlling your blood sugar, I would suggest that you count half the sugar alcohols toward your total carb count. 

20:53  How to make Net Carbs and Total Carbs work for your eating plan

For an example, I know what my salad looks like. 

·       If I have basically the same lunch salad several times a week, 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 such as blue cheese or buttermilk ranch and I know a tablespoon runs around 1 total carb. 

·       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. If you haven’t already downloaded Dancing with Keto and Low Carb check the link in the show notes and transcript. Further, if you learn to eat in a mindful manner, Keto and Low Carb become even easier.

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

23:05  This week’s Actionable Coaching Advice:

Make a list of some of your favorite foods, meals and recipes. Even if your ultimate goal is to not weigh, measure and track your food, I would like you to look up the total carbohydrates in these foods just to build awareness. I know I have asked you to do this for coaching advice in other episodes, but if you are seriously contemplating either Keto or Low Carb, you need to build this awareness even if ultimately you track nothing.

Then I would like you to do a little math. Looking at the same source of information, look at the fiber count and subtract that from the total carbohydrate count. This is your net carb amount.

If you are looking at packaged foods or recipes using sugar derivatives, also look at the amount of sugar alcohols in the product or recipe. As I said earlier, if you are having a hard time controlling your blood sugar even with careful counting, or you have a stall in your weight loss, count at least half of the sugar alcohols toward your total carb count. But for now, just build an awareness of where they are and how they factor into a food. 

I also encourage you, as part of this week’s coaching advice, to look at my new program, Keto and Low Carb Success, at There is so much in there that will help you find your footing with all of this.

And, let me remind you. If you’ve ever got a question you’d like to ask me or share a topic idea that you would like me to cover on a future episode, don’t be a stranger! I always look forward to hearing from listeners like you. You are welcome to email me directly… And don’t forget to leave a review wherever you listen to this podcast. I would SO appreciate it. Leaving a review makes it easier for other people who are looking to listen and learn about Keto and Low Carb.

25:25  Coming up in the next Episode

Next week I am going to talk about the lying liar that lies. That got your attention? Tune in next week and see what I’m talking about!

 Please share this show with your friends and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison with my Keto and Low Carb Success podcast. Especially share this podcast with anyone you know who is struggling with their weight or eating plan. This podcast and my course can be game changers if you take the information and coaching advice that are in them, they really are. It will help so many people transform their lives – not just with food but with how they feel about themselves, how they approach the food they eat, and how they make decisions about any area of their lives.

Until the next episode, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time.

Get all my free guides
Take a look at this great course
Join me on Facebook
Follow me on Instagram
Check out Pinterest
And don't forget my book! (Dancing with Keto is on this page)
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