Practical Resources for Counting Carbs When Eating Out

Carb counting can be easier said than done and sometimes you just don’t want to do it at all. However, for the best blood sugar control I do recommend at least being familiar with counting carbs and understanding food labels. Carb counting can be difficult when eating out at restaurants and even more so when the nutrition facts are not presented to you.

In this post, I offer my practical tips for counting carbs when eating out.

For starters and when at all possible, refer to the companies nutrition facts provided by the restaurant. They’re your most accurate source of information. Having said that, ever notice how sometimes you are only provided with the calories? Like hello – where is the rest of the info???

This is where my favorite resource guide comes in:

The Calorie King

I love having the book to keep in my car or purse. It’s great for traveling. The book is updated every year.




If you’re more “tech-savvy” and prefer to go paperless, I recommend their website. I use it on a regular basis with my patients and it’s so easy to use and follow.

First you want to go to

In the search bar in the upper right hand corner you can type in any food item. It’s great if you know the restaurant that you are eating at so you can be more specific.

Calorie King is primarily good for fast food and large national chain restaurants. It remains a challenge to get exact carbohydrate counts for foods served in many independent single-location restaurants, but if you go to a restaurant that is not so commonly known, it will give you an “Average all brand” type of answer.

You can change the portion/serving size as needed depending on what and how much you ate.

Remember to focus on total carbohydrates – this includes fiber AND sugar.

Go check out the Calorie King and let me know if you have any questions.

If you don’t want to fuss around with a book or a website, you can also use your hands. “Handy” hand guides you might say! You’ve always got them by your side to help you with carb counting wherever you are – so there is literally no excuse.

  • Tip of the thumb (to the first knuckle) — 1 teaspoon
  • Whole thumb — 1 tablespoon
  • Palm of your hand — 3 ounces (a portion of cooked meat/protein).
  • Loose fist or open handful — 1 cup (about 45 grams of carbs)
  • Tight fist — 1/2 cup ( about 20-25 grams of carbs)

(Note: These guidelines hold true for most women’s hands, but some men’s hands are much larger. Do your best at guessing.)


Tell me: do you have a favorite resource for counting carbs when eating out? Share below!

Author: Katie

Hi! I'm Katie, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. This website it dedicated to those looking to heal their bodies from the inside out - and it all starts with balancing out your blood sugar. Let's heal disease together one plate at a time.

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