Carbohydrates, found in foods such as bread, fruit, and candy, make your blood
sugar rise. So if you have diabetes, you might think you shouldn't eat carbohydrates
(carbs) at all. But carbohydrates are one of the three main components of food (the
others are proteins and fats).
All kids, including those with diabetes, can and should eat carbs as part of a healthy
Kids with diabetes will need to pay closer attention to what they eat, though.
Why? Because the more carbs you eat, the more insulin your body will need. Why? Because
your body turns carbs into the sugar glucose
(say: GLOO-kose), which is used for energy by your cells. And glucose can't get into
your cells without insulin
Following a meal plan can help kids balance carbs with medications and exercise
so that they maintain a healthy blood sugar level. Like exercising and taking medications,
it's just another step many kids with diabetes take to stay healthy.
Why You Need a Plan
It's a little easier for people to control their diabetes if they eat about the
same amount of carbs at about the same times each day. That's where a meal plan comes
in. Your parents and diabetes health care team can help you create a meal plan that
maps out what you will eat.
You might say, "I don't even know what a carbohydrate is!" Don't worry. The adults
in your life can help you figure it out and can spell it out in your meal plan. But
just to give you a taste of carbohydrate knowledge: Carbs are not found in just one
kind of food. Carbs are found in many foods, such as soda, candy, breads, crackers,
fruits, vegetables, and milk. Some carb-containing foods, like whole-grain bread,
are healthier than others, such as candy. These healthy carbs should be included in
your meal plan.
Let's talk a little more about what happens to carbs after you eat them. You know
the body turns carbs into glucose. Then the glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream,
which makes the sugar level in the blood go up. As the sugar level rises, the pancreas
(say: PAN-kree-us) releases the hormone insulin into the blood. Insulin is needed
to move glucose from the blood into the cells, where it can be used as a source of
But for kids with diabetes, the pancreas does not make enough insulin (type
1 diabetes) or the body can't respond normally to the insulin that is made (type 2 diabetes). This makes blood sugar
levels go up. And when blood sugar is too high, a person won't feel well and his or
her body won't work as it should.
How Many Carbs Should I Eat?
In your meal plan, there's no "right" amount of carbs to eat every day. Your meal
plan will take into account your age, size, how much you exercise, the medicines you
take, and other medical problems you might have. You'll be happy to hear that the
meal plan will definitely include plenty of the foods you love to eat. Your meal plan
might also suggest when you should eat.
If you're not sure how many carbohydrates a food contains, check the food
label or ask your parent. You should also remember to check the labels of diet
foods. Sometimes these foods contain extra sugar.
You might be tempted to "cheat" on your meal plan by eating sugary snacks. It's
OK to have soda and cookies once in a while, but eating too many sugary foods could
be a bad idea. If you overdo it, don't hide it — talk to your mom or dad. Your
parent or your doctor can help you get your blood sugar levels back on track.
Better yet, stick to your meal plan. If some foods you like aren't currently in
your meal plan, ask your parent or health care team how to include them. By taking
a smart approach to balancing carbs with insulin and exercise, you can love your food
and stay healthy, too./p>