Font Size
A
A
A

Gestational Diabetes: Counting Carbs


What is an Actionset?

Carbohydrate counting helps you to control your blood sugar when you have gestational diabetes.

Key points

  • Carbohydrate counting helps you determine the amount of sugar and starch (carbohydrate) in the foods you eat. This is important, because carbohydrate affects your blood sugar more than fats or proteins do.
  • Carbohydrate counting involves learning how to spread out the amount of carbohydrate you eat throughout the day to help prevent high blood sugar after eating.
  • You should test your blood sugar after meals to see what effect different carbohydrate foods have on your blood sugar level.

More information about the different types of diabetes can be found in these topics:

Return to topic:

Carbohydrate counting helps you to control your blood sugar when you have gestational diabetes. Carbohydrate counting involves adding up the amount of carbohydrate in the foods you eat each day and spreading carbohydrate out throughout the day.

Carbohydrate includes fruits; starchy vegetables (such as potatoes and corn); milk and yogurt; starches (breads, cereals, rice, and pasta); and sugar (such as candy and desserts). All forms of carbohydrate increase your blood sugar.

  • Sugary foods such as cakes and cookies often have more total carbohydrate in a serving, or standard portion, than starchy foods such as bread.
  • You can eat foods that contain sugar when you have gestational diabetes. But eating too many sugary foods probably means you are not eating enough healthy foods.

Test Your Knowledge

Carbohydrate counting helps me know how much carbohydrate I am eating during a meal.

True
False

Which of the following foods contain carbohydrate?

Wheat bread, rice, peas, and oatmeal
Cheesecake, fat-free milk, and pears

Counting carbohydrate helps you know how much carbohydrate you are eating during a meal. The more carbohydrate you eat at one time, the higher your blood sugar level rises. Carbohydrate counting helps if:

  • You don't take insulin. Counting carbohydrate helps you know how much carbohydrate you need to eat during each meal to prevent high blood sugar.
  • You take insulin before meals, and your doctor wants to adjust the amount you take according to the amount of carbohydrate in the meal. (For example, a pregnant woman might take 1 unit of fast-acting insulin for every 10 grams of carbohydrate she plans to eat.)

Eating a certain amount of carbohydrate and spreading it throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar levels within a target range and prevent a blood sugar emergency. High blood sugar can increase the risk of problems with your health or your baby's health.

Test Your Knowledge

Counting carbohydrate helps me regulate the amount of carbohydrate I eat to prevent harm to my baby from high blood sugar.

True
False

Here are some ways to help you count carbohydrate and spread carbohydrate throughout the day.

Eat regularly

Eat at least three meals a day to spread your intake of food, especially carbohydrate, throughout the day.

It is a great idea to get out your cookbooks and plan several main meals at the same time. You can double some recipes and freeze the leftovers to use for other meals. Try making a list of menus to post on your refrigerator using the menu ideas formClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?).

Count carbohydrate

The following suggestions can help you count carbohydrate and control your blood sugar:

  • Talk with a registered dietitian to help plan the amount of carbohydrate to include in each meal and snack.
  • Get a book that lists the carbohydrate content in different foods.
  • Eat standard portions of carbohydrate foods. Each serving size or standard portion contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate. It might be helpful to weigh your food when you are first learning what makes up a standard portion.
  • Count either grams or servings of carbohydrate. If you are having high blood sugar levels after breakfast, you may want to decrease the amount of carbohydrate in that meal.
  • Eat standard portions of foods that contain protein. Talk with a registered dietitian about how much protein you need.
  • Talk with a registered dietitian about how much fat you need.

Other suggestions

  • Read food labels for the carbohydrate content, and check the serving size on the package.
  • Check your blood sugar level before and 1 hour after eating the first bite of each meal to see how the food affects it.
  • Record what you eat and your blood sugar results in a food record. At each regular visit with your diabetes specialist, or whenever you think your meal plan needs adjusting, you can review the food recordClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?).
  • Get more help. The American Diabetes Association offers booklets to help people learn how to count carbohydrate, measure and weigh food, and read food labels.

Test Your Knowledge

Calculate the carbohydrate content in the following breakfast: 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, 1 slice of toast, and 2 teaspoons of margarine.

30 grams of carbohydrate
35 grams of carbohydrate
22 grams of carbohydrate

Calculate the carbohydrate content in the following lunch: 1 cup of macaroni, ½ cup of grated cheese, ½ cup of carrots, and one fresh apple.

70 grams of carbohydrate
40 grams of carbohydrate
65 grams of carbohydrate

Now that you have read this information, you are ready to calculate the amount of carbohydrate you are eating.

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 doctor. If you need help with carbohydrate counting or menu planning, talk with a registered dietitian. If you have been keeping a diet record, take it with you when you visit your doctor or dietitian.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last RevisedNovember 3, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.






Medical Dictionary