Diabetes: Counting Carbs if You Don't Use Insulin
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Carbohydrate counting is a skill that can help you plan your diet to manage type 2 diabetes and control your blood sugar. This technique helps you determine the amount of sugar and starch (carbohydrate) in the foods you eat so you can spread carbohydrate throughout the day, preventing high blood sugar after meals. Carbohydrate counting gives you the flexibility to eat what you want and increases your sense of control and confidence in managing your diabetes.
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Carbohydrate counting is one method of meal planning for people who have diabetes. Carbohydrate counting means adding up the amount of carbohydrate in your food. Limiting carbohydrates when you eat helps prevent high blood sugar, because carbohydrate affects your blood sugar more than other nutrients. All forms of carbohydrate increase your blood sugar. Foods that contain carbohydrate include:
Foods that have sugar usually have more total carbohydrate per serving than foods that have starch. You can eat foods that have sugar when you have diabetes, but if you eat a lot of them, you are probably not eating enough of other more nutritious foods.
You can use low-calorie artificial sweeteners that don't have sugar (such as Splenda or NutraSweet). You can eat foods that have sugar alcohols (mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol), a sweetener sometimes used in "sugar-free" processed foods like candies, cookies, and soft drinks. Treat sugar alcohols as carbohydrates, but for many people they don't affect blood sugar that much. They do contain some calories but less than sugar. Be careful using sugar alcohols, especially with children, because sugar alcohols sometimes cause diarrhea.
Test Your Knowledge
Carbohydrate counting helps you know how much carbohydrate you are eating during a meal.
Which of these foods contain carbohydrate?
Wheat bread, rice, peas, and oatmeal
Cheesecake, skim milk, and pears
Carbohydrate counting helps you know how much carbohydrate you are eating. The more carbohydrate you eat at one time, the higher your blood sugar level will rise. Eating less carbohydrate at one time can help keep your blood sugar levels within your target range, preventing low or high blood sugar.
Both low and high blood sugar levels can cause emergencies. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage many body tissues and organs. If you have gestational diabetes, high blood sugar levels can increase your risk for complications that can affect your health as well as your baby's health.
You also can count carbohydrate grams if you take insulin. For more information on carbohydrate counting when you use insulin, see:
Test Your Knowledge
Counting carbohydrate helps me know how much fat and protein I am eating.
Count carbohydrate and eat a balanced diet by:
Other helpful suggestions
Here are some other suggestions that will help you count carbohydrate:
Test Your Knowledge
Calculate the carbohydrate content in the following breakfast: 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 slice toast, and 2 teaspoons margarine.
30 grams of carbohydrate
36 grams of carbohydrate
22 grams of carbohydrate
15 grams of carbohydrate
Calculate the carbohydrate content in the following lunch: 1 cup macaroni, ½ cup grated cheese, 1 cup milk, ½ cup carrots, and one apple.
50 grams of carbohydrate
40 grams of carbohydrate
80 grams of carbohydrate
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to plan regular meals and snacks and calculate the amount of carbohydrate in your diet.
Talk with your doctor, registered dietitian, or certified diabetes educator.
If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator. You may want to mark areas or make notes in the margins of the pages where you have questions.
If you need help with carbohydrate counting or meal planning, ask to speak with a registered dietitian. If you have been writing in a food record, take it with you.
If you would like more information on meal planning for people who have diabetes, the following resources are available:
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