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Diabetes: Constant Carbohydrate Meal Plan

With the constant carbohydrate meal plan, your child eats 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 exercises about the same amount every day.

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 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, apples, and berries. Fiber can help control blood sugar 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. You can find nutrition facts on the food label, in nutrition books or apps for your smartphone or computer, or on the internet. Fifteen grams of carbs equals 1 carb choice. A gram is a way to measure how much something weighs.

Carbs affect your child’s blood sugar 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. This helps keep your child’s blood sugar 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 your child should eat based on how many calories your child needs each day. Too many carbs at one time can make your child’s blood sugar go too high, and too few carbs can make his blood sugar go too low. Too many calories can cause your child to gain weight.

The amount of food your child eats at a meal or snack may change depending on how much he exercises. He may need more food before he exercises. Your child may also need to eat more or less based on his insulin dose and blood sugar level. This plan is easy to follow if your child eats and exercises about the same amount every day.

Which foods have carbohydrates?

Food groups that have carbohydrates include:

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

Your child should eat only small amounts of sugary foods for a healthy diet. 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 sugar 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 carbs.

For books that help you with carb choices, exchange food groups, and other information to help manage diabetes, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-20
Last reviewed: 2014-06-20
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.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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