Diabetes in Children: Counting Carbs
What is an Actionset?
Carbohydrate counting is a skill that can help you and your child plan his or her meals to manage 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 diabetes.
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.
More information about diabetes in children can be found in these topics:
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Carbohydrate counting is the recommended method of meal planning for people who have diabetes. It involves adding up the amount of carbohydrate in the foods you eat. Spreading carbohydrate evenly throughout the day helps prevent high blood sugar after eating, because carbohydrate affects blood sugar more than other nutrients. Within 2 hours after a person eats any kind of carbohydrate, most of it has changed to blood sugar. Foods that contain carbohydrate include:
Foods that contain sugar usually have more total carbohydrate in a serving than foods that contain starch. Contrary to what you may have heard, your child can eat foods that contain sugar, such as cookies. But if foods that are high in sugar make up a large part of your child's meals and snacks, he or she is probably getting too much carbohydrate and is not eating enough of other, more nutritious foods.
Test Your Knowledge
Carbohydrate counting helps you know how much carbohydrate your child is eating during a meal.
Which of these foods contain carbohydrate?
Wheat bread, rice, peas, and oatmeal
Cheesecake, fat-free milk, and pears
Carbohydrate counting helps you know how much carbohydrate your child is eating during a meal or snack. Knowing this gives you a more accurate estimate of how much his or her blood sugar will rise after eating. The more carbohydrate he or she eats at one time, the higher the blood sugar level will rise. Carbohydrate counting also helps if:
Spreading your child's carbohydrates throughout the day will help keep his or her blood sugar levels within a target range, preventing low or high blood sugar. Both low and high blood sugar levels can cause emergency situations. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage many body tissues and organs.
For more information on carbohydrate counting when using insulin, see:
Test Your Knowledge
Carbohydrate counting will make it easy for you to work in something sweet for your child on holidays.
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
Other helpful suggestions
Test Your Knowledge
It is a good idea to measure out food portions when you first start carb counting.
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to plan regular meals and snacks and calculate the amount of carbohydrate in your child's diet.
Talk with your child's doctor
If you have questions about this information, take it with you and discuss it with your child's doctor. You may want to mark areas or make notes in the margins of the pages where you have questions.
If you and your child need help with carbohydrate counting or meal planning, ask to speak with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator. If you have been keeping a food diary for your child, take it with you when you visit the diabetes educator or registered dietitian.
If you would like more information on diabetes, the following resources are available:
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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