Best Carbohydrate Counting Tips for School Lunches!
- Sending your Type 1 child to school is always tough but especially when you are faced with carb-counting school lunches. It’s a whole other ball game.
- So many Type 1 families opt for packed lunches as it seems to be the easiest and most accurate option but I want to share a few really valuable tips with you that might give you the confidence to brave the school lunches.
- Our daughter was diagnosed just before starting school and is now in year 2 so we have a a few years of experience with this now and she has stayed hot dinners from week 1. It was daunting in the beginning and I didn’t want to be a burden to the staff getting them to weigh everything out, even though it is their duty of care to do whatever is necessary to provide for my child’s needs.
- I wanted to come up with a way of making it as easy as possible for every body and to still give my daughter choice of what she eats. I’ve been amazed at how accommodating the kitchen staff have been and how willing they are to help.
FREE GIFT! Stick around til the end of the post and I have a cool little Lunch Card freebie for you!
How we Braved School Dinners
- To give you an idea of how I got the hang of carb-counting school dinners, here is step by step what I did.
- Most schools work off a 3 week rolling menu that parents get given in advance and is also available online.
- I appreciate not everyone can do this but I went into school daily to look at the food being serve. When our daughter started in reception, I was already going into school the first few weeks anyway to help supervise her lunchtime injection so after that I popped into the lunch hall for 5 mins to watch them serving the food, so I saw most of the 3 week menu being served up.
- I also chatted with the lunch time supervisors and staff serving up to make them aware that my daughter needs to have what I’ve requested and that if she leaves a significant amount of the carb portion it will need substituting with something else.
- Its also worth pointing out early on that they don’t need to eat every last pea on the plate, it’s only the carb parts of the meal that are important!
- I introduced myself to the head cook who was SO helpful. We talked through the whole menu and she let me look at packaging for anything prepacked that had carbohydrate values on, like yogurts, ice-cream, fish etc.
- She also gave me the direct phone number for the kitchen so if I had any queries or if I wanted to order something different from usual like a sandwich or a wrap I could call that morning and she would make it ready for lunch time.
- Even if you can’t go in on a lunch time, talking to the cook has been probably the most helpful thing!
- Its very repetitive. Ours has a carvery every Thursday, fish and chip Friday and various foods like jackets, sandwiches and pasta are offered every day.
- For the starchy carbohydrate portion they are generally given a heaped serving spoon full (roughly 15g of carb) if its a side like potatoes and two spoon fulls for things like rice or pasta (roughly 20-25g of carb) as the main meal.
- Portion sizes may increase as they get further into the school but for now I know what they give is in line with quantities my daughter would eat at home.
- On the table everyday is fresh bread cut into small pieces (10g carb), can easily be used as a substitution.
- In reception and Year 1 they did not serve milk on the tables just water but now they serve both.
- The main puddings listed on the menu were normally tray bakes and they divide them into portions of similar sizes each day (20-25g).
- There are also normally a choice of other sweet treats like buns and biscuits but they don’t go overboard with icing if any so generally most of the buns and biscuits seem to be around 15g.
- Although there is a large variety on the menu, my daughter very quickly decided what she did and didn’t like.
- Often the kitchen staff are given a printed out recipe book for that terms menu and for each meal the nutritional contents are provided and sometimes the carb per portion are calculated. Its worth asking to see if they have one you can have a look at as it can be really helpful for some of the meals. I took photos of some of the key pages!
Top 5 Tips to Carb Counting School Dinners
Here are my best tips for helping you with the logistics of school dinners.
Tip 1: Communication with your Child
- Go through the menu in advance to decide what they will provisionally have each day.
- Frequently ask for feedback from your child and take note of any meals they did not like and will not have again.
- Also explain which bit of the meal they need to eat and which bits it doesn’t matter so much about and give them an idea of what they can substitute it for if necessary. Its amazing how young our children understand the foods they need.
Tip 2: Communication with the Cook
- Meet in person if possible.
- Go through menu with them.
- Ask about portion sizes, how many spoon fulls of rice or pasta etc.
- Look at any prepackaged foods like fish, ice cream, mousse etc to get exact carb contents.
- Find out if bread and milk are readily available every day.
- Ask if they have a direct landline to the kitchen that you can call them on. Every now and then my daughter fancies something different and I ring up and ask for a wrap or sandwich they make it up and put it to one side with her name on, to save her getting there and there being none left.
- Request that they let you know if any menu changes i.e. special menus like Christmas dinner.
- Let the cook know and record what your child will normally choose for that day so if they have a hypo before lunch and are late going though, their food can be put to one side.
Tip 3: Communication with Lunch Time Supervisors.
- This can be done via your teacher/TA or whoever takes care of your child in school.
- They need to be made aware that you child needs to eat the main carbohydrate portion and dessert and if not they need it substituting.
- Generally if my daughter doesn’t eat at least half the rice, potato or pasta, she has a piece of bread to substitute. If she picks a carb high pudding that she dislikes, she can swap it for something else.
- Occasionally I will get a phone call to query what she needs as a substitute which is totally fine.
Tip 4: Analyse Bg Readings
- Record blood glucose reading in the afternoon (either play time or after school).
- Take note if bloods were too high or low as may indicate carbs were too much or too little and then you have a record for next time that meal comes round and you can adjust accordingly.
Tip 5: Relax
- If you have done these steps you can be confident that you have done all you can.
- Let your child enjoy their school dinners.
- We have had very few problems with school lunches and I have to say it was one of my biggest worries when my daughter started school
- Take a look below at how to record the carbs in an easy way for the school staff to follow!
Communicating to the School what your Child is to Eat.
- So you’ve decided what your child is going to eat and how many carbs roughly you think it is. The next thing you may ask is HOW DO I RECORD IT easily so their bolus can be given and food choice communicated to the lunch time staff.
- There are different ways depending on what works best for you.
- Some people leave all the carb-counting to the school, let their child choose at lunch time, the lunch staff weigh out accordingly. I personally have not not done this and don’t think its entirely necessary if you do the above steps.
- The issue with it is normally the child has their insulin administered in the medical room before hand so needs to have decided by then what they are having in order to put the correct carbs in.
- I’d like to share with you what I have done right from the start and 2.5 years in we have had very few problems with this way of doing things.
- I have created these little lunch cards.
- I write on the menu choice and carb content for each item, total it up but then give a total I want them to ENTER into the bolus advisor, as this is sometimes different than the total, i.e. if my daughter is doing PE straight after lunch I reduce the carbs bolused for by 5-10g.
- This card goes with her, a new one each day inside her medical bag. The teacher takes it out, bg tests and boluses the correct amount of insulin.
- We are now on a pump and therefore most lunch times she has a multiwave so I jot on the back of the card how much I want giving upfront and how much delayed.
- My daughter then takes her card and lunch buddy to the canteen. Hands the card to the person serving who gives her what ever is written on the card.
- It is so simple I hope you will love it too.
If you think this would help you then please sign up below for your free copy.
- PRINT it out on brightly coloured card to make it fun!!
- Simply CUT simply out the cards and fill them in each day with your menu choice and carb values!
- If on pump you can jot on the back which type of bolus to give and over how long!
- Any other notes i.e. doesn’t need to eat the skin of the jacket potato etc.
Hope this has helped give you some lunch time tips and confidence to allow your child to stay school dinners without too much stress or worry. Let me know in the comments below how you get on with your lunch cards!