Carbohydrate counting is a food plan that adjusts your child’s insulin dose based on the amount of carbohydrates your child plans to eat. With the carbohydrate counting meal plan, your child’s insulin dosage and amount of carbohydrates are not always the same every day. This plan is more flexible than some other meal plans. It is usually started after you have learned how your child’s body responds to food choices and insulin.
Carbohydrates, also called carbs, are a source of energy for the body. There are three basic types of carbs: starches, sugars, and dietary fiber.
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 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 he eats. This helps keep your child’s blood glucose at a healthy level and helps prevent many health problems.
The main goal of this meal plan is to balance insulin with the carbs your child eats during the day. If your child is taking long and short -acting insulins, you will be adjusting only the short-acting insulin doses.
First, your healthcare provider needs to figure out how much insulin your child needs to take for the amount of carbs your child plans to eat. There are 2 ways to figure this out:
An example of an I/C ratio is 1 unit of insulin for every 10 grams of carbs. If your child’s I/C ratio is 1/10 and he plans to eat 60 grams of carbohydrate, then your child needs 6 units of insulin.
You will adjust the units of short-acting insulin for every meal to match the number of carb choices your child eats. For example, if you need 1 unit of insulin for every carb choice, then for 3 carb choices, you need 3 units of insulin.
Your child’s insulin dose also depends on exercise, blood glucose levels, illness, and stress. In general, your child should take insulin at a time that allows the insulin to start working as his blood glucose starts to get higher. Sugar is absorbed into the blood about 10 minutes after your child eats. The peak in blood glucose from food usually happens about 60 minutes after he eats.
Your healthcare provider and dietitian will help you create a schedule for your child’s meals and insulin doses. They can also give you guidelines for adjusting your child’s insulin dose.
Food groups that have carbohydrates include:
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 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.
For books that help you with carb choices, exchange food groups, and other information to help manage diabetes, contact: