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Corn and carbs

August 7, 2013
By Cheryl Rude , Marshall Independent

As the month of July winds down, the locally-grown sweet corn becomes available and does it ever taste good! The season got a late start this year, since it was so cool and wet for such a long time this spring. That didn't deter my dad, who is an avid gardener, as he compensated by planting a little patch of "early corn" that was supposed to be ready in 63 days! We had some of that this past week, and now I'm seeing the signs advertising sweet corn for sale along the highway on my commute home from work in the evening.

Sweet corn is a favorite food of many people, but if you have diabetes and are "counting carbs" or trying to lose weight and watching your calorie intake, you know that corn is one of those starchy vegetables that have more calories than other vegetables, such as green beans or carrots. But does that mean we shouldn't eat corn?

It is true that corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes and peas are "starchier" and contain more calories than some of the other vegetables. In the instance of corn, a half-cup serving or an ear about 5-6 inches long contains about 15-20 grams of carbohydrate and 80 calories and would count as one carbohydrate choice in your meal plan.

There are two important points to keep in mind when eating these starchier vegetable; namely, the total amount of carbohydrates allowed in your meal plan at each meal and the size of portion you consume. If you can manage these two things, you can include corn and other starchy vegetables in your diet and still meet your blood sugar or weight goals.

If you are counting carbs (or calories), it is important to know how many your meal plan allows for at each meal. Unfortunately, it is easy to go over your allotment, especially when something as tasty as fresh sweet corn comes along. Carbohydrate choices include the starchy vegetables, as well as bread, cereals, other grain products, fruit/juice and milk/yogurt. The important thing to do is manage the number of choices you include in your meal so that you don't go over the amount in your meal plan. For example, I was planning to fix fajitas for supper the night that my dad stopped by with the fresh sweet corn. For someone who was counting carbs, he/she might opt to eat the fresh sweet corn and forgo the fajita shells so that he/she didn't eat too many carbohydrates at one time.

The other nice thing about this "early" corn was the size of the ears. They were smaller than most ears of sweet corn that I've usually seen and that brings up another important point. One ear of corn does not necessarily equal one serving or one portion. Again, the serving size for corn is about half a cup or a 5-6 inch ear of corn. Most ears of corn, at least around here, are bigger than this, and so one ear of corn could easily be two servings or two carb/starch choices. Just take this into account when you are planning the rest of your meal.

With a little planning and forethought, most foods can fit into most meal plans. We are lucky to live in this part of the country where the fresh produce is so readily available and so tasty. Enjoy the tastes of summer!

Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. You can also find nutrition tips on the blog she writes at



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