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HIDDEN CARBS: Find ‘Em, Count ‘Em!

HIDDEN CARBS: Find ‘Em, Count ‘Em!

 If you don’t know about hidden carbs and want to make the most of your low-carb lifestyle, you really MUST learn how to find and avoid common hidden carbs in the foods you thought were “free” . (Not much in this life is *really* free – is it?) I compiled this list originally way back in the year 2000 and still find it useful.

Sometimes a label states 0 carbs per serving when there are actually quite a few carbs in a “real” size serving of the food! As a dedicated low carb eater, make it your business to KNOW whether a label is correct as written, or not. You won’t believe how often the answer is NOT.

For example:

Heavy Whipping Cream per the Manufacturer’s Label:

Serving = 1 Tablespoon

60 calories

6 grams of fat

0 grams of protein

0 gram of carbohydrate

Now, Fat is 9 calories per gram, protein is 4 calories per gram and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram. Therefore your numbers would look like this:

6 x 9 = 54 calories

0 x 4 = 0 calories

0 x 4 = 0 calories

Total: 54 calories

As you can see, there are 6 calories unaccounted for. It’s unknown what they are from, but it’s a good chance those extra calories are from hidden carbs. Therefore the carb count could be up to 1.5 instead of 0. It can really add up when you eat 1 cup of this stuff in a recipe! Actual carb count for 1 cup heavy whipping cream at 38% butterfat is 6.6 carbs, or .41 per Tb. Because it is less than .5 carbs per serving, the manufacturers are allowed to round it down to 0 when it is obviously NOT 0.

So, for ANYTHING that says it has 0 carbs, check the calories and add up the fat and protein. If there are calories left over and there is sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose or any other ose (except for sucralose or cellulose gum) in the ingredients, it is in all likelihood a hidden carb. It is safest to assume that it is a carb, anyway, if you are resistant to loss and must be scrupulous about your every carb, as I must be.

 *** THE SUGAR ALCOHOL EXCEPTION – Sugar alcohols are not counted like other carbohydrates. The individual manufacturer’s are permitted under current FDA rulings to determine nutritional information for these sweeteners. Most do NOT have 4 calories per gram, some have only 2. Most low carb diet plans permit you to subtract these carbs from your daily count and manufacturers used to routinely omit them from the labels (that is changing now, thanks to the new label guidelines). A word of warning: In my experience, sugar alcohol carbs seem to cause people the most problems with stalls and gaining – I suggest you use these products with caution during active weight loss and omit them entirely during induction. They are a great occasional treat, and used in moderation, can make maintenance a real pleasure. But they play havoc with the formula above and they can play havoc with weight loss as well!

Some Common Hidden Carbs:

Eggs: 0.6 grams per egg

Spices: for example, onion and garlic powders = 2 carbs PER TEASPOON, according to Lifeform. Label states one serving = .5 tsp, for 0 carbs. According to the USDA, garlic powder has 2.036 carbs per tsp less .277 gms. fiber and onion powder has 1.694 carbs per tsp. less .12 gms. fiber. (Lifeform rounds things off, too, and so counts both of these at 2 carbs.)

Artificial sweeteners: Packets say zero, but they are actually 0.9 grams (almost 1 *each*). This applies to Splenda too, which has 24 carbs per cup of the granular. For a truly net-carb-free sweetener, try my secret weapon,Fiberfit.

Mayonnaise: go for the one that lists sugar as far down the list of ingredients as possible. Better yet, make your own – it’s surprisingly easy.

Flavorings/Extracts: your guess is as good as mine as far as these go since they report them all as zero, but many of them are mostly alcohol, so beware if you use a lot and are stalled.

Coffee: 0.8 grams per 6 ounce cup. Note that an average coffee mug HOLDS 9-12 oz. and I personally thrive with caffeine.

Crystal Light, SF Kool-Aid and SF Tang (dry mixes): 5 calories per 8 ounces equals 1.25 grams of carbohydrates (the label says zero!). 2 quarts = 10 grams! *Pre-mixed Crystal Light is made with acefulsame-K and sucralose, and as far as I know, there are no hidden carbs in it. However, the citric acid may be of concern for other reasons (see above).


Have Questions on an ingredient? Check my INGREDIENT GUIDE. If you have still not tried FIBERFIT .... why on Earth not? You will love it - No matter WHAT diet you are on.

Pssst! If you're enjoying the fruits of my labors from the last 18! years, plus the total absence of intrusive ads on this site, please feel free to buy me a Miller Lite. Or a muscle car. Your choice, totally.


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Size 24 to 14 in eleven months

Karen Rysavy, age 15This is me at age 15… saying “No, I will NOT pose outdoors in this ridiculous outfit, I am WAY TOO FAT!” I didn’t speak to my future sister-in-law for weeks after she snapped that picture. (Thanks, Laura. I am glad to have it – now!) 

Karen Rysavy, Before Low-CarbBut in this next picture, taken in Vegas back in January 2000, less than one month before my 35th birthday… yep, now I am fat. “Morbidly obese”, to be precise.

Since I had always considered 70 years to be an average life span, this particular upcoming birthday had caused me to reflect on lots of things.

Like the fact that my life was more than likely at least half over already, since I knew that my cholesterol had been seriously elevated for several years., and that heart disease runs in my family. 

Attempts to treat my dangerously high cholesterol in the past (triglycerides over 400) with statin medications (Lipitor, now a swear word in my house) had resulted in triglyceride levels of almost 900. I was informed that they couldn’t even measure cholesterol accurately at levels that high, so it was just their best guess. though. And then my previously sane doctor suggested adding another statin  medication, Lopid  (since the first one had worked so well??) Huh??? 

I quit going to that doctor – and I quit taking the medications. I cut calories down to no more than 1000-1200 per day, and exercised regularly, and I shed 25 pounds in five months. Best results ever. But my cholesterol was STILL high,  after all that (though slightly improved) and it was just about then that I realized that my quality of life really SUCKED! I began to have an occasional beer or cake/cookie, and BAM! Not only did I gain back all the pounds I lost, I packed on an additional 20 pounds on top of the originals. (Again. This was just the latest repeat of an all-too-familiar pattern. Sound familiar to you, by any chance?)

Four times losing weight and gaining back MORE is what had landed me in the “morbidly obese” category in the first place. So I determined not to EVER do that to myself again. I mean, Geeeez, my ass barely fit in the seat of the Mind Eraser roller coaster at Six Flags (Elitch’s) as it was!!! I couldn’t afford another “diet”. Not ever. So I gave up on trying to lose weight and lower my cholesterol. But I wasn’t happy about it.

And then I realized that I was about to turn 35. Wait a minute. I am not done living! I am not ready to start the downhill slide into old age and infirmity. I can still out-ski my skinny friends! I still cut quite a swath blazing down the highway in black leather on my big bad motorcycle! I don’t look that bad …. Do I?

I really started looking. And I soon realized that Yes, I looked that bad. And all this soul searching did was depress me. Because the basic facts hadn’t changed. I didn’t think I could live on 1200 calories a day for the rest of my life. Not without ending up divorced and friendless. And what good would that do? 

One day soon after that low point my husband came home and changed my life. Just because he doesn’t like to read ~ and he had decided he wanted to lose some weight. He had run into a friend who had lost 45 pounds on the Atkins diet. “But that’s not supposed to be safe” I protested. “How do you know?” he asked. I thought about it and realized that I really didn’t know enough about it to have an opinion. So I agreed to purchase and read the book on his behalf. After all, I loved to read, and if he was going on a diet, I, as the cook, would have to be briefed.

By the time I finished the first chapter, I was in tears. Dr. Atkins was describing ME. What’s more, he swore there was an easy, healthy way to regain the old me. I finished the book, and I read it again. A few days later, three days before my 35th birthday, I started a low carb diet combining principles from Atkins and Protein Power. 

Eight weeks into this diet I had my cholesterol tested. It was within “norms” already! This is not a diet. This is a life change that this yeast bread baker and worshiper has found incredibly easy to commit to. Once you give up refined carbohydrates, and find a hidden well of energy you NEVER knew existed (even as a child) once you witness your own always-lackluster and weak hair and nails begin to grow out luxuriously strong and healthy, once you begin exercising not out of any sense of obligation or guilt but out of sheer enthusiasm for how good you feel, why, you find that sugar and flour do not tempt you. Not that I will never eat any again. Don’t misunderstand me. It is just that I will never blindly eat either one again. I am now aware of the deadly chain reaction they cause inside my incredibly efficient body. And I am losing weight that I will NEVER gain back. And as God is my witness, I WILL NEVER BE HUNGRY AGAIN. I have never once been hungry since I went lowcarb. Not once. This is nothing like every other time I tried to do the right thing for myself and my body. This is different. It is unthinkable to me to ever go back to the way I was. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I WILL reach a “normal” weight. It may take a while, but it will happen. It is a side effect of my new way of life, you see. An unavoidable, very pleasant side effect!

Postscript re: cholesterol: I want to be completely honest with you. I have been retesting my lipids regularly and I did go through some variations. But after years of low carb eating, I can confidently say that my ratios are better than ever and the ONLY number that is even borderline is my LDL, which is a little higher than the “ideal”. As I said, however, my RATIOS are very good, and many doctors consider those to be much more important the “just the numbers”.

If you need to lose weight, lower cholesterol, control diabetes, high blood pressure, or acid reflux, quit smoking, rid yourself of migraines, heartburn, or allergies, ease the pain of arthritis or gout, or you just want to feel generally better, then I strongly urge you to investigate the low carb way of eating for yourself!

Read Dr. Atkin’s New Diet Revolution. Read Atkins For Life, IN WHICH **I** AM QUOTED, Read Protein Power. Life Without Bread. Neanderthin, The Schwarzbein Principle, The Hamptons Diet …. or pick another plan – there are plenty out there!

Just look at the difference in me after low fat dieting – compared to while low carb dieting:

Low-fat versus Low-Carb

Mitch Rysavy, before/after

 Yes, you read it right. I weigh the SAME in both pictures. I swear. Oh, and by the way – my husband is doing very well on this way of eating, too. He lost his 60 pounds in a matter of months, and he still weighs less than when he graduated from high school. He has been able to discontinue one of his blood pressure medications entirely. His average blood pressure is much better than it used to be, even with less medication. He has not suffered from gout or heartburn since he went low carb. And just look at him! I mean, I know how he lost the weight, I was the one cooking and advising ~ but how did he end up looking ten years younger, to boot?

Psssssssst – Don’t Forget To Consult a doctor regularly along the way, and to do your research first!

Comments on the video:   I was never interested in the famous part of the phrase “rich and famous”, and like many overweight or even once-overweight people, I tend to avoid cameras like the plague. Nevertheless, I just couldn’t tolerate some of the blatant misinformation that has been blasted over the airwaves recently about low carb eating. In early January 2004 I bit the proverbial bullet and issued a press release which garnered me a fairly big part in a week-long series on low carb diets that aired on KWGN, WB2 Denver, during February Sweeps Week, starting 2/15/04.   Note that I did not exactly lose 100 pounds like they say in the video above, and I am not sure how they got that fact wrong. Nor did I ever quite weigh 300 pounds. I did get close though, at 271 pounds, and I did lose 100 pounds of fat while gaining 35 pounds of beautiful metabolism-boo…sting lean muscle mass. I know this because I did body fat measurements on myself through the weight-loss process. Close enough for me! The most important part of the story was not the number of pounds, anyway, but the dramatic health improvements I made. We taped for a couple hours, and you never know what they will actually use, from the many things you say. I was no nervous that I come across as strident, I am afraid. Overall, I am quite pleased with this segment anyway, but they somehow managed to totally omit the very relevant fact that I lost more than SIX HUNDRED cholesterol points in a matter of months!   As it turned out, the reporter enjoyed his Fajita Salad with Lecture so much, they invited me to come cook live on their morning show…. where I worked it right in! They re-played the success story segment from the night before while we chatted for a minute, then they cut to us, live. I could feel my face stiffen up when the red light went on, and you can see me swallow hard then rather visibly square up my shoulders and try to force myself to smile. Once I started talking, however, I think I did pretty well.. I even talked right over the interviewer, Natalie Tynsdale, once, which wasn’t so good, but darn-it-all, I just was not done talking about my lab tests yet, and I was determined to get that part of my story in! Be sure to check out the look on my face when she asks me if I am using a non-fat oil! (Non-fat oil? In what universe?) I just sort of ignored that part of the question and talked instead about grapeseed oil being ‘ beneficial” (as in the ratio of its omega fats) and having a high smoke-point.   After my segment ended, they caught Natalie on camera several times still eating my salad! The staff there devoured every bite I prepared, between them, even the one I didn’t really finish cooking on-air, and afterwards Natalie sent someone backstage to get the loaf of Vol. II Rustic Pumpernickel bread and Garlic Schmear I had out while I was cooking, and they then talked some more on air about how good everything was. As I was packing up to leave, Natalie made a point of running over to say good-bye and tell me “Thanks! I am making that salad for dinner TONIGHT” which really made my day. So I gave her my very last bottle of “magic sauce” and a printed copy of the recipes, on the spot.