Balancing The Gram Scale

A variety of carbohydrates can be enjoyed with smart substitutions

“Go through your pantry, take out the cookies and potato chips, and throw them away.” 

Have you ever read that advice in a health column? And did you keep reading, or move on?

Certified Diabetes Educator Aggie Cowan, RD, teaches people with diabetes about balancing their diet in the St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Diabetes Management. She knows it’s not realistic to tell people never to indulge in a treat such as cookies.  

She also knows that most people enjoy variety in their meals, even when they need to be aware of the carbohydrate intake. Luckily, as people learn about the content of their food choices, they also learn that they can find a balance.

“The amount of carbohydrate calories a person consumes each day affects blood glucose levels more than the type of carb,” Cowan says. “So patients can make substitutions and still meet their diet goals.”

Awareness of your recommended daily amount of calories, along with the percentage that should be carbohydrates, is something that can benefit anyone who is trying to maintain a balanced diet.

Here is a one-day example of how someone might successfully substitute one healthy carbohydrate (or an occasional sweet) for another. This chart is based on a person whose diet requires 1,400-1,500 calories a day, with 50 percent of those calories coming from carbohydrates. This would limit the carb grams to 175-185 a day. Your individual calorie and carbohydrate requirements may be different.


Eggs + 4-ounce glass of OJ + English muffin = about 45 grams

Healthy substitution: Switch out the juice for a yogurt.

Occasional substitution:  Switch out the English muffin for one doughnut.


Turkey sandwich + Water or unsweetened tea + Piece of fruit = about 45 grams

Healthy substitution: Roasted potatoes instead of the fruit or 1 piece of sandwich bread.

Occasional substitution: Potato chips instead of the fruit or 1 piece of sandwich bread.

Snack (Once or twice a day)

One serving of a healthy food such as fruit, whole-grain crackers, popcorn, or yogurt = about 20-40 grams

Occasional substitution: Candy bar


Chicken breast + Large baked potato + Low-carb veggies (Broccoli, zucchini, celery, etc.) = about 45 grams

Healthy substitution:  A serving of higher carb veggies (corn, lima beans, peas, etc.) in place of ½ of the baked potato.

Occasional substitution: Two cookies for dessert in place of ½ of the baked potato.

“There’s a reason that things like doughnuts, cookies, and potato chips should only be eaten occasionally,” Cowan says. “Even though their carbohydrate grams may be the same as fruit, whole-grain foods, and even some vegetables, they also come with a lot of added sugar and unhealthy fats. Too much of this in your diet can put you at risk for obesity, heart disease, and other illnesses.”

So don’t throw away your package of cookies, but keep it sealed well. It needs to last a long time if you’re only dipping into it occasionally.

Take our quiz on to learn more about calorie and gram amounts, and other helpful information, that can be found on a food product’s nutritional label.

To learn more about the services in the St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Diabetes Management, including nutrition education, call 912-819-6146 or visit

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