Mealtime Tips for Carb-Counting Families

When one member of your family lives with diabetes, the whole family lives with diabetes. As we all know, there is no aspect of life with type 1 diabetes that isn't affected by the condition, but mealtime can be a whole 'nother ballgame.

T1D brings with it all kinds of loaded questions, feelings, and considerations when it comes to food choices for a family, including but not limited to: balancing meals for a family of different palates and nutrient needs, narrow windows of time for the family to sit down together to eat between activities, not to mention unwarranted guilt/stigma around certain meals.

Attacking mealtime anxieties that come with T1D is best done as a family unit. I'm grateful for my loved ones who do their best to work with me around food and meals. I hope these tips will help yours to do the same!



  • Serve meals out of measuring cups to more accurately track carbs/macronutrients


There are a couple ways to utilize the simple wonder of measuring cups. If you're serving the meal from the kitchen, use the measuring cup to dole out the portion onto the plate. Even the plainest of foods look fancy when plated with style! Leaving the appropriate size of  measuring cup on the table with a meal being served family-style is a helpful reminder to put the cup to good use.


  • Refrain from making negative or passive-aggressive comments regarding food choice or portions


Sometimes we see people we love making choices we don't agree with, but in most situations, we recognize we can't say or do much to change their actions without damaging our relationship with them, or their relationship with food. With younger children, parents and caregivers have the ability to select or guide choices or portions. As kids grow into teenagers and adults, the way we talk about food begins to manifest into lifelong habits, so we want to make sure we encourage good ones while leaving bad ones in the dust. Modeling the choices we want for our family members is the best way to make them not feel alone in their T1D journey that includes healthy choices for a lifetime. 


  • Keep meal elements separate to offer choice for family members who have different dietary needs


Let's say you have a growing teen athlete and a carb conscious individual at the table--but it doesn't mean you need a short order cook to meet everyone's needs. Keep each element of your meal separate and allow for different portions and selections to be made as appropriate by each person as they serve themselves. Food allergies can also be a great reason to implement this practice. For some, pasta is a main dish, while to another, it is a delicious side dish to turkey meatballs (and to others, if it isn't gluten-free, it won't be an option to have it as part of their meal at all). Keeping everything separate makes it easy to scoop up a measuring cup full of what you need without lumping in anything that you are looking to avoid, but doesn't prohibit anyone from being able to eat to fuel their individual needs.


  • Find delicious meals that fit into your family's philosophy for overall well-being AND diabetes management plan


Nothing feels more isolating at the table than eating something extra-healthy and plain while everybody else is indulging in a rich meal that doesn't fit into your vision for living well with T1D. There have never been so many easily accessible resources for free recipes in every dietary niche as there are now. Sit down with your family and talk about what kind of ingredients and seasonings sound appetizing and then put together a plan to make meals that serve everybody's tastebuds and goals simultaneously. Whether you're into plant-based, paleo, or pizza for every meal, there's always a way to make it work for the whole crew (hello, cauliflower crust!). 


  • Make an effort to sit down to your meals as a family


Between school, sports schedules, work, and everything else that puts a demand on our time, the window of opportunity for family meals seems narrow as it is. Diabetes adds another element of meal timing, particularly for families still figuring out insulin ratios and timing on injections. Finding a way to keep everyone together for as many meals as possible preserves family time and resumes a sense of normalcy after a new diagnosis. Not to mention, there can never be too many reasons to grab all of the people you love and gather them around the table to give thanks and to enjoy a delicious, healthy meal.