How To Figure Out Net Carbs


When I decided to start eating low carb, I had no idea how to figure out net carbs. It’s actually super easy, so it didn’t take me long to pick up on it.

In this post I’ll show you how to calculate net carbs, and how to figure out net carbs on foods without labels such as fast food and fresh produce and others.

I admit, it was (or seemed) a bit confusing at first, because some things can seem very high carb (relatively speaking). Take almonds for example. If you didn’t know to subtract the fiber, they would seem higher carb than some other snacks.

I’ll start with an easy example…

Take the product to the left, Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter. With packaged products it’s generally easy because you can flip over and check out the nutrition facts right on the label.

For this product, the nutrition label is:

First, look at the Total Carbohydrates, which on this label is 6g.

That’s 6 grams of total carbs.

To get the net carbs, you subtract the Fiber – which on this label is 2g. That makes the peanut butter a total of 4 net carbs (6 minus 2) for a two tablespoon serving.

It’s easy math: total carbs minus fiber.

I honestly thought it was going to be complicated, especially when I realized I had to learn how to figure out net carbs – not just read the label and see how many carbs it has. But as you can see, it’s super simple – and now I do it in a flash, like second nature.

How to Figure Out Net Carbs on Foods Without Labels

For produce, or any other fresh food without a label, you can use the USDA National Nutrient Database. I haven’t found ALL online sources to be accurate, so this is a good resource to bookmark.

For example, I put in “strawberry” and chose the “fruit” group – and it told me that a strawberry is generally 1 net carb per berry (which is what I have found other places as well).

Next I tried “frozen chopped spinach” which I sometimes like in an omelet or something. Half a cup is about 1 net carb (again, subtracting the high amount of fiber from the total carbohydrates).

This is a handy search tool to keep. I often just Google “food nutrition facts” – replacing “food” with the actual food I am researching.

For restaurants, I search “restaurant nutrition facts”. I usually view these before I go out and make my meal choices ahead of time. I also look them up on my smart phone when I’m on the go and stop in somewhere. If you don’t have a smart phone, you can usually request a nutrition fact sheet at the restaurant – but not always. I recommend looking them up before you head out to make it easy. ;-)

I also referred to the Atkins Acceptable Food List for Phase 1 of their eating plan quite a bit in the beginning. Not only did it give me the net carbs on specific vegetables and other foods, it gave me a lot of ideas on things I could eat – various types of meat & vegetables I hadn’t considered, etc.

So again, it’s just “Total Carbs minus Fiber = Net Carbs”. Easy!

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32 Responses to How To Figure Out Net Carbs

  1. Traci Knoppe says:

    Hey Lynn
    I bought some Almond Butter – actually had lower net carbs than natural peanut butter! It’s GOOD!!

  2. Rhonda Page says:

    Hi Lynn, I love your new site. I lost 40 ponds eating low carb.” Carb Master” is a free app I use to check anything. The paid versuon has resturant food. You can also track carbs and build your own record. I’d love to know what you think! Rhonda

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Thank you Rhonda :D

      That app didn’t come up in the Android market so I’ll have to check for it on my iPad.

      A lot less convenient since I don’t carry my iPad everywhere… but I can usually find anything I’m looking for on Google anyway.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      P.S. congrats on losing 40 pounds!! I’m halfway there at 20 pounds lost myself. Love it!

  3. Lisa Marie Mary says:

    One resource I rely on a lot for nutrition info is http://www.dwlz.com Dotti’s Weight Loss Zone. She lists a bunch of restaurants. And another one that I’m finding to be really good and have only recently discovered is http://www.fatsecret.com/

    You’ve really inspired me to steer clear of carbs as much as I can! The weird thing is, I’ve been back ‘on track’ at SparkPeople.com for a few weeks now. And when I get ‘back in the groove’, I actually find myself craving meats. Which is so odd for me, as I’m not really a big meat eater.

    Well, so that started happening to me, then you let us all know what you were up to, and so your new blog and my cravings are kind of reinforcing each other, you know?

    • Lynn Terry says:

      I’ve heard great things about SparkPeople. That was one of the things I looked into using before I started eating low carb – but I just couldn’t get self motivated (big confession lol).

      I was never a big meat eater either but am craving it more now too. Seems strange to me, but I don’t even crave the carbs I used to love anymore. I’m not even tempted to eat a blueberry muffin or something.

      Thanks for the links, Lisa – will check those out! ;)

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  5. Bo Johnson says:

    Love this new site!
    I’ve been needing to lose 40 lbs. for a couple of years now.
    I’ve been on the Atkins back when it was craze, and tried a few others.
    Like your lifestyle change perception; that’s the mindset I’m adopting now for permanent change.
    Thanks a bunch.
    You make wading through all the scammers worthwhile.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Thank you Bo & Welcome :D

      I’m no good at diets, and the last thing I want to do is diet for awhile – lose the weight – then quit and gain it all back. Going low carb is an easy non-diet lifestyle change that is really working well!

      I am pleased, and still a little surprised, at how quickly I lose 20 pounds.

      Did you enjoy Atkins when you tried it? This is my first go at it, and while I’m not following a program per se, I am eating what would be considered “an atkins plan”.

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  11. Kari says:

    Just an FYI, the link above for Atkins Acceptable Food List is broken! Love this site by the way! :)

  12. Nicole says:

    Just curious, I never knew you subtracted the fiber, when I tried cutting carbs in the past, I just used the carb count in the label…why DO you subtract the fiber??

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Good question. The Atkins site will explain it best, but it has to do with how Fiber is digested (as a carb) vs other types of carbs. By counting net carbs you can eat more of the good foods (nuts, greens, etc) and still reach the ketosis state and lose weight very quickly.

  13. Marge Burkell says:

    Hi Lynn,
    I have a question I am hoping you can help me with since you are the low carb queen.

    I have an app for tracking carbs that a developer just submitted and after reading your site I asked him if the carbs in his app were “raw” carbs or net (minus the fiber grams).

    He said that all his info comes from the USDA site and says:
    “The USDA listing, which I used as the source for my app’s data, has in its title, “Carbohydrate, by difference ” … so it sounds like is may very well be NET carbs.”

    He then quoted the USDA site:

    “How is Carbohydrate, by difference determined?
    Carbohydrate is determined as the difference between 100 and the sum of the percentages of water, protein, total lipid (fat), ash, and, when present, alcohol. Total carbohydrate values include total dietary fiber.
    Total carbohydrate by difference = 100 – [water, protein, total lipid, ash and alcohol in g/100g]”

    To me this is Greek. So if he is taking his data straight from the USDA site is it or is it not NET carbs?

    I don’t want to steer my readers wrong, especially if they are thinking of using it with their low carb diet.
    I don’t like it when someone answers me “it may very well be.” He made the app, he should know!

    Thanks for your help. See why some reviews take so long? LOL
    Marge Burkell

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Since their total values INCLUDE fiber, it is NOT net carbs. You subtract the fiber from the total carbs to get the Net Carb value. You also subtract sugar alcohols if there are any. Hope that helps!

      I would be really interested in your review of the app – please send me a link when it’s live if you choose to review it! ;-)

  14. Thanks Lynn!
    I will certainly let you know when the review is written.
    I am branching out to include a number of carb-counting apps in the article.

    Marge

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  17. Marge Burkell says:

    What’s your take on subtracting sugar alcohol Lynn?
    Thanks!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      I do that – subtract sugar alcohol from the total carb count – and it has worked out just fine for me from the start. Obviously I keep those to a minimum though. They can do a real number on your tummy, and my current goal is to eat as “clean” (real food) as possible.

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  20. Evelyn Vollgraff says:

    Hi I am starting the July 16th challenge I have a lot of weight to lose but have been trying to do low carb for the past week. I cannot walk to far do to a back injury but found that bike riding is fine. Is this a good source of exercise right now I am riding about 1/2 hour a day around 2 miles. Also I am 65years old I am so excited to join will keep you posted as the journey begins.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi Evelyn :D I have a lower back injury too so I understand. My issue is inflammatory arthritis due to an old injury, which causes my sciatic nerve to get pinched and binds me up from my shoulder down to my opposite foot. Miserable! Fortunately eating low carb naturally reduces inflammation so it dramatically reduces symptoms with arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc. Meaning, I can now hike, hit the gym and water ski even! Eating low carb has amazing health benefits…

      That said, I think low impact workouts are ideal, and that’s what I did myself for a long time. And KUDOS for riding two miles a day – that’s awesome!!

      I look forward to following your journey throughout the challenge -and beyond. ;-) *cheers*

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