Kids’ special: Carbohydrates? Sweet as

Reviewed by our expert panel
Kids' special: Carbohydrates? Sweet as

It’s a mouthful to say but the car-bo-hy-drate family of food plays an important part in feeding your body and brain.

Carbohydrates are an important nutrient for energy and for brain function. The carbohydrate family is similar to your family. Carbohydrates come in different shapes, sizes and have their special jobs.

For example, parents can work at jobs that may last more than eight hours each day, while you are more suited to doing little jobs that take a shorter time to complete – such as doing the dishes at home.

Grains, vegetables and fruit (Parents)

Whole grains such as brown rice, bran and oats, plus whole vegetables and fruits give you carbohydrates plus they have lots of vitamins and minerals you need as well. These carbohydrates make up the bulk of your food – they give you plenty of energy and make you feel full. They also contain fibre, a special carbohydrate.

Sugars (Kids)

Sugars also belong to the carbohydrate family and their job is to make food sweet. Sugar can be ‘refined’ – such as white table sugar or brown sugar – but sweet foods such as honey, golden syrup and maple syrup are sugar as well – they are just in a different form. The “parent” carbohydrates come with other nutrients to fill you up, but sugars are just sugar. So two teaspoons of sugar has more energy (or more kilojoules / calories) than a quarter cup of mashed potato. So you only need small amounts.

Don’t forget natural sugars

Milk and fruit have their own special sugars to make them taste sweet, and even vegetables have different amounts of their own sugars – think about how sweet tomatoes can be.

Foods with lots of sugar in them, such as sweets and cookies, have lots of energy but don’t fill you up like breads, grains or vegetables do. This can mean you may want to eat even more food. Be careful you don’t choose foods with ‘empty energy’ when you are hungry.

What is empty energy? See Kids’ special: Processed foods

The potato is a vegetable which gives us lots of carbohydrate. These potato topped pies with other carbohydrates (vegetables) as well as protein (beef) will give us lots of great nutrients.

Beef and vegetable cottage pies

Baked potato topping

Give your brain a workout and answer these questions True or False. (See below for answers)

  1. Sugar is higher in energy (kilojoules / calories) than the same amount of vegetable.
  2. Honey is a type of sugar.
  3. Eating vegetables helps make us feel full.
  4. Porridge is a carbohydrate.
  5. Sugar has lots of vitamins and minerals.

Check out the other cool stuff in our Kids’ specials!

Kids’ special: Protein power
Kids’ special: Fibre is full on!
Kids’ special: Dairy delicious
Kids’ special: Processed food
Kids’ special: Water
Kids’ special: Snack attack
Kids’ special: Fat


ANSWERS: 1 = T, 2 = T, 3 = T, 4 = T, 5 = F

What is a nutrient? Something which fuels your body to keep it going and to help your body grow.

First published: Aug 2011

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