Teaches counting carbs to help you and your child plan meals to manage diabetes and control blood sugar. Explains why carb counting is important. Includes links to more info on counting carbs if you use insulin and on type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes in Children: Counting Carbs
counting is a skill that can help you and your child plan his or her meals to
diabetes and control blood sugar. Carbohydrate
counting also can allow your child to eat a variety of foods, just like other
kids, and to increase his or her sense of control and confidence in managing
When you and your child know how much carbohydrate is in
food, you can spread it throughout the day and control portion sizes. This
helps to keep your child's blood sugar in his or her target range after meals.
High blood sugar can make your child feel tired and thirsty and, over time, can
damage many body organs and tissues.
Carbohydrate is the nutrient that makes blood
sugar rise the most. Foods that contain carbohydrate include:
Fruits and starchy vegetables (such as potatoes and corn).
Starchy foods (such as breads, cereals, rice, and pasta).
Sugary foods (such as candy and cakes).
Using this method to provide consistent
carbohydrate at each meal helps a child keep blood sugar at his or her
You need to consult a registered dietitian or certified diabetes
educator to help you and your child understand and use carbohydrate
How do you count carbohydrates?
Here are some ways
to help you and your child count the carbohydrate content of his or her food
and spread the amount throughout the day. Your child will have the best chance
of success if you and other members of the family also eat a variety of healthy foods.
Establish a meal plan
Talk with a registered dietitian or
certified diabetes educator to help you plan the amount of carbohydrate to
include in your child's meals and snacks. You can use a
carbohydrate counting form(What is a PDF document?).
Learn what makes a standard portion of
carbohydrate foods. Each
serving size or standard portion contains about 15 grams of
carbohydrate. It might be helpful to measure your food portions when you are first learning what makes up a standard portion.
Learn how to count either grams or servings of carbohydrate.
Counting grams: For example, if you want to eat 45 grams of carbohydrate, you would choose three servings (3 servings x 15 grams per serving = 45 grams). So for breakfast, you could choose three servings of different foods (such as oatmeal, milk, and half of a banana) or three servings of the same food (such as a larger serving of oatmeal).
Counting servings: In this system, 15 grams equals 1 carbohydrate serving. Instead of counting 45 grams of carbohydrate at breakfast, you would count 3 carbohydrate servings.
Learn the standard portions of
foods that contain protein. Protein foods, such as
meat and cheese, are an important part of a balanced diet.
saturated fat. Talk with a registered dietitian about how much fat to include
in your child's meals.
Use the meal plan to select food for your
child's meals and snacks. Remember, high-sugar foods or sweets should be eaten
only sometimes and in smaller servings than starches, fruits, and
Serve standard portions. It might be helpful to measure your food when you are first learning what makes up a standard portion.
Check your child's blood sugar level often. If you check it
before and 1 to 2 hours after a meal, you will be able to see how the food your
child eats affects his or her blood sugar.
Record what your child
eats and his or her blood sugar results in a food record. At each regular visit
with a certified diabetes educator or a registered dietitian, or whenever you
think the meal plan needs a change, you can review your
food record(What is a PDF document?).
Other helpful suggestions
Read food labels for carbohydrate and calorie
content. Notice the serving size on the package.
Get more help. The American Diabetes Association
offers booklets that can help you learn how to count carbohydrates, measure and
weigh food, and read food labels.
Primary Medical Reviewer
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Stephen LaFranchi, MD - Pediatrics, Pediatric Endocrinology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.