Number of Carbohydrates Needed Per Meal

basket of ripe apples and pears
Fruits, packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, are also good sources of healthy carbohydrates. (Image: irisphoto2/iStock/Getty Images)

Contrary to the fad diet craze, carbohydrate-containing foods can be healthy choices and may not necessarily add to excess weight gain. Like anything, your carbohydrate intake should be balanced. You must understand the carbohydrate needs of your body and also how to choose the healthiest sources of carbs.

Total Carbohydrates Per Day

Carbohydrates generally make up the bulk of the average person's diet. According to MayoClinic.com, somewhere between 45 and 65 percent of your total daily calories should be eaten as carbohydrates. For example, if you are on an 1,800-calorie-per-day diet, you would need to consume between 810 and 1,170 calories from carbohydrates in an average day.

Carbohydrates Per Meal

Once you have determined how many carbohydrates you need per day, you can break them up into values for each of your meals and snacks. For breakfast, cereal, oatmeal or toast is a good option, so you may want to consider eating a larger amount of carbohydrates for breakfast. Lunch and dinner generally feature a protein as the main portion, so you may reduce the number of carbs you eat at those meals. Snacks are usually carbohydrate based, so don't forget to balance your eating plan to include one or two carbohydrate snacks in a day.

If you follow an 1,800-calorie diet, and eat 810 to 1,170 carbohydrate-based calories a day, this calorie count equals 202 to 292 g of carbohydrates. Allow for 75 g of carbohydrates during breakfast, around 50 to 60 g of carbohydrates for lunch and dinner, and the rest for snacking.

Special Populations

Certain people, like those who have diabetes, need to limit the amount of carbohydrates they eat at each meal. Eating too many carbohydrates at one time can increase blood sugar levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, most diabetics should eat 45 to 60 g of carbohydrates at each meal. However, your needs may be different. If you have diabetes, speak with your doctor regarding how many carbohydrates you should eat.

Choosing Carbohydrates

Not all carbs are created equal; some are better for you than others. Certain carbohydrates are accompanied by other important dietary nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber. When choosing carbohydrates, try to pick unprocessed or whole sources -- fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grain rice, barley, oats and wheat. Avoid processed and refined sugars, such as white bread, soda and desserts.

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