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Diabetes: Constant Carbohydrate Meal Plan

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KEY POINTS

  • With the constant carbohydrate meal plan, your child eats and drinks a set amount of carbohydrates at each meal and snack. Your child takes insulin or other diabetes medicines at the same times and in the same amounts each day.
  • Carbohydrates, also called carbs, are a source of energy for the body. Carbs are found in foods such as pasta, bread, cereals, rice, potatoes, beans, peas, starchy vegetables, fruits, soft drinks, and candy.
  • Your child’s healthcare provider or dietitian will tell you how many carb choices to include in your child’s meal plan based on how many calories your child needs each day. Too many carbs at one time can make your child’s blood glucose (sugar) go too high, and too few carbs can make blood glucose go too low.

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With the constant carbohydrate meal plan, your child eats and drinks a set amount of carbohydrates at each meal and snack. Your child takes insulin or other diabetes medicines at the same times and in the same amounts each day. This plan is easy to follow if your child usually eats and drinks about the same amount every day and gets the same amount of physical activity.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates, also called carbs, are a source of energy for the body. There are three basic types of carbs: starches, sugars, and dietary fiber.

  • Sugars such as glucose and fructose raise blood glucose (sugar) very quickly. Sugar is found in foods such as fruit, milk, soft drinks, baked goods, and candy.
  • Starches are found in plant-based foods such as pasta, bread, cereals, rice, potatoes, beans, and corn. Some starches are converted to energy very quickly, but others, such as whole grains, are converted more slowly.
  • Dietary fiber is the part of plants that cannot be digested. Fiber is found in whole-grain bread and pasta, beans, peas, leafy vegetables, raisins, prunes, pears, apples, and berries. Fiber can help control blood glucose by slowing how quickly your body absorbs sugar from foods.

You can tell how much carbohydrate is in a food by reading the nutrition facts on food labels. You can also find the carbohydrate content of food in nutrition books, apps for your smartphone or computer, or on the Internet. Fifteen grams of carbs equals 1 carb choice. A gram is a measure of how much something weighs.

Carbs affect your child’s blood glucose level more than protein or fat. If your child uses insulin, you need to balance how much insulin your child takes with the amount of carbs your child eats and drinks. This helps keep your child’s blood glucose at a healthy level and helps prevent many health problems.

How does the constant carbohydrate plan work?

Your healthcare provider or dietitian will tell you how many carb choices to include in your child’s meal plan based on how many calories your child needs each day. Too many carbs at one time can make your child’s blood glucose go too high, and too few carbs can make his blood glucose go too low. Too many calories can cause your child to gain weight.

The amount of carbs your child needs at each meal or snack may change depending on his or her activity level. Your child may need more carbs before physical activities. The amount of carbs your child may need will vary with his or her insulin dose and blood glucose level. This plan is easy to follow if your child eats and drinks about the same amount every day and gets the same amount of physical activity every day.

Which foods have carbohydrates?

Food groups that have carbohydrates include:

  • Starchy foods such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, and some vegetables such as corn and potatoes
  • Fruits
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Sugary foods and drinks

Focus on feeding your child healthy, high-fiber carbohydrates. Examples include vegetables, fruits, dried beans, peas, whole grains, and dairy products. Your child should eat only small amounts of sugary foods. Serving sizes depend on the food. One tablespoon of sugar equals 1 carb choice. A sweetened drink may equal 2 or more carb choices. Check the nutrition facts label on the package to see how many grams of carbohydrate are in a serving.

Meat, fats, and vegetables do not affect your child’s blood glucose in the same way as carbs. However, these foods do count toward your child’s daily calories. Choose healthy kinds of meat and fat, and plenty of nonstarchy vegetables.

  • Meats are protein. Your child should eat lean meat and not eat too much meat.
  • Your child should not eat a lot of fats such as butter, oils, salad dressing, mayonnaise, bacon, and cream cheese.
  • Your child should eat nonstarchy vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers, and celery. These vegetables do not count toward daily carb choices.

To learn more about carb choices and other information to help manage diabetes, contact:

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-04-18
Last reviewed: 2019-01-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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