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Diabetes in Children: Counting Carbs

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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.

Why is carbohydrate (carb) counting important for a child who has diabetes?

Carbohydrate counting can help you and your child manage diabetes and control blood sugar. Carb counting can allow your child to eat a variety of foods, just like other kids. It can also help your child feel more in control and more confident in managing diabetes.

Counting carbohydrates (carbs) when your child has diabetes: Overview

Managing the amount of carbohydrate (carbs) your child eats is an important part of planning healthy meals. Carbohydrate counting means you plan meals and snacks for your child based on the amount of carbohydrate in each food.

How do you count carbohydrates?

How do you use carbohydrate counting?

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

Start counting

Other helpful suggestions

What are the ways to count carbohydrates?

Your doctor, registered dietitian, or certified diabetes educator may suggest that you use one of two ways to count carbohydrates in your diet. Use the method that is easiest for you.

For both, 15 grams of carbohydrate equals one serving. You can either:

Count grams of carbohydrates.

For example, if you want to eat 45 grams of carbohydrates, you would choose three servings of carbohydrate food (3 servings x 15 grams per serving = 45 grams). You could choose one serving of three 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).

Count servings of carbohydrates.

Instead of counting grams of carbohydrates, you would count 3 carbohydrate servings.

Helping your child who has diabetes eat well

Here are some things you can do to help your child who has diabetes enjoy meals and stay healthy.

How can you encourage good nutrition in your child who has diabetes?

When your child eats out

Credits for Diabetes in Children: Counting Carbs

Current as of: March 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Colleen O'Connor PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian

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