Carb Counting for a Teenager

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - 18:20

Marguerite’s tips for meals through the day

Planning is key to making a healthy school lunch for my son Mitchell and being able to accurately count each gram of carbs. I try to aim for the same type of bread consistently so he knows the carbs just by looking at the bread roll. We always include protein, which is usually leftover meat from dinner, or I'll roast a chicken. I don't use bought ham normally but sometimes bacon. I occasionally use cheese slices or canned salmon or smoked salmon. The protein helps stabilise the BGs and is a good filler. I spread the bread with hummus or homemade pesto and I normally always include avocado and baby spinach, grated carrot and grated beetroot. Wholemeal rolls or wraps are good or I will make some wholemeal sourdough bread in the bread maker - this requires weighing and counting the carbs per 100gm.

Morning Tea

I preferably bake something at home so I know what's in it and I can reduce the sugar content and calculate the carbs of each ingredient. Another idea is wheat crackers with cheese or if he's buying something at the canteen it will be a cheese and bean quesadilla – both are a good mix of protein and slow acting carbs.

We always include protein, which is usually leftover meat from dinner

Afternoon Tea

After school - between 4pm and dinner - is a good time to top up on fruit. So a fresh apple and a berry and banana smoothie is convenient and healthy. I weigh and measure the ingredients for the smoothie so we know exactly how many carbs it contains each time. Other than that, Mitch will fill up on carrot sticks and nuts. We'll always count at least 5-10gm of carbs for both to keep the insulin topped up, because after school before dinner for my son normally means downtime so he's not burning much energy at that time.


I find that dinner for a 14 year-old boy has to be substantial, with a large portion of meat of any variety or another protein like chicken, fish or maybe a vegetarian option like legumes. Whilst we don't normally weigh the protein we always weigh what is served with it and then add at least 5 carbs for the protein.

One area to watch is remembering to add a few carbs in for vegetables and pasta sauce with tomato, which normally contains a bit of sugar

The main option for carbs is often brown rice, which helps level off the BGs for hours. I measure the rice by the cup just to be precise and the same for pasta unless it's spaghetti, then it's easier to eyeball it! One area to watch is remembering to add a few carbs in for vegetables and pasta sauce with tomato, which normally contains a bit of sugar. Once again, having the same type of carbs for dinner each night does make it easier to calculate the grams of carbs we need to count. Consistency is key for Type 1 diabetes. If you are not sure about your carb counting or what grains and breads are working or not working, a week on Continuous Glucose Monitoring can help to see what the glycaemic response to food is. Takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. I find having an omelette for dinner occasionally (basically carb free) is an opportunity to check if the basal insulin is correct.


Breakfast is a tough one because the kids are so hungry in the morning and mine seems to require a much stronger insulin to carb ratio at that time. I find anything with sugar sends the BGs high, so we tend to avoid boxed cereals. I make a granola at home using a small amount of coconut sugar as a sweetener and calculate the carbs of each ingredient, so we know what to count for one cup. The milk is measured and the Greek yoghurt, nuts and fruit. It's a bit of a military exercise in the beginning but you get used to the same quantities each morning.

a week on Continuous Glucose Monitoring can help to see what the glycaemic response to food is

I must admit I find protein-based breakfasts the best. After analysing the effects of different breakfast options using a Continuous Glucose Monitor, a protein looks like it certainly slows down the release of carbs so the BGs remain stable. This is obviously really important for when they're at school. At home we normally go for eggs on toast, omelettes, bacon and eggs, baked beans on toast or cheese on toast. If we're travelling for a sports game on a weekend, a mini breakfast frittata with potatoes in it is a good option. Breakfast on a school day prior to exams is another consideration. The stress hormones can take over during these times so I find reducing the active insulin works best, so I normally opt for a carb-free breakfast. Our favourite is bacon, mushroom, spinach and cheese omelette. A smoothie is another everyday option, but make sure you put a scoop of protein powder in it to help slow the carb release. This also makes it more filling.

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