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Macronutrient 101: Carbohydrate

by Shin Jie - 10th Jun 2019

Do you know what are carbohydrates, or what food items belongs in the carbohydrate food group? 


Here's a hint. It's a staple food in every household in Malaysia and you eat it every day, and for some, almost every single meal! It gives the extra oomph for you and your kids to conquer the day.


Are you able to guess what it is?

Yes, it's the rice, noodles, bread and biscuit / cookies you eat every day. Those are examples of some starchy carbohydrate sources. Besides these, there are also other food sources categorized as carbs which are starchy vegetables – corn, potatoes, yam and so on; fruits; milk and milk products; nuts and legumes; and of course the sugar-sweetened beverages as well as the kuih-muih. In general, there are 3 types of carbs, which are sugar, starch, and fiber.

If you don’t already know, carbohydrate is the main source of energy for our body. When being digested in our body it is absorbed as glucose which is used by every body cells (especially our brain) to function - carbs provide most of the energy which our body needs to function properly. Hence, it is important for your children to have sufficient intake of carbs for optimal brain function and growing muscles.


However, it is important to take note that some carbs only provide your children with calories whereas some not only provide calories but also vitamins, minerals and fiber - which are essential for your child’s growth. Examples of these are whole grain bread, pasta and cereal, brown rice, fruits, vegetables and legumes. These carbs were found to reduce risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If your child has problem going to poo poo, fiber contained in these foods is here to the rescue! Of course, it only works if your child drinks sufficient water on a daily basis.




On the other hand, sugar sweetened beverages or any foods which have added sugar such as baked goods, ice cream, soft drinks and even flavoured yoghurt are sources of carbs which are best to avoid as it does not induce satiety but will induce weight gain leading to diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

You might be thinking, “It's alright, my child is still young, there's not risk of diabetes and other diseases”. Unfortunately, Type 2 Diabetes does occur in some children. Over the years, the number of children diagnosed with diabetes, which is associated with childhood obesity, has skyrocketed. Hence, it is better to take precautionary steps to prevent any risk of diseases in future.  Enjoy your sweet treats in moderations!  



Just like any other food, even though some carbs are beneficial for your kids, it still needs to be taken in moderation. If your child is taking too much of carbs, excessive glucose will be stored as fat and inducing weight gain. If too little, their muscle will be broken down to make glucose and as a result, your child will get skinnier and skinnier. So how? Too much cannot, too little also cannot. How much should my child eat then? Malaysian RNI (2017) recommended that total carbs should contribute 50 to 65% of the total daily energy intake for general population including children. So, what does it look like in a day? And how much should my child eat? Amount of carbs to be consumed in a day is refer as serving size. The table below shows the serving sizes your child needs per day according to their age (box in red).



Examples of 1 serving of:

1. Cereals, cereal products and tubers

  • 6 pieces of cream crackers 
  • 2 slices of bread 
  • 1 cup of noodles (mee hoon, kuet teow etc.)
  • 2 small potatoes 
  • 2 scoops of cooked rice / 1 cup of cooked rice 
  • 2 cups of plain porridge 

2. Fruits 

  • 1 apple / chinese pear
  • 1 mandarin orange  
  • 1 medium banana (pisang berangan)
  • 2 small banana (pisang emas)
  • 8 small grapes 
  • 1/2 guava 
  • 4 small prines 
  • 1 dessert spoon of raisins 
  • 1 slice of papaya / pineapple / watermelon 

3. Vegetables 

  • 1/2 cup cooked dark green leafy vegetables with edible stem
  • 1/2 cup cooked fruit vegetables 
  • 1 cup raw ulam 

4. Legumes 

  • 1 cup of chickpeas / dhal 
  • 1 1/2 cup mung bean / canned baked beans 
  • 2 pieces of tofu / tempeh / taukua 
  • 1 1/2 glass of unsweetened soy bean milk 

5. Milk & dairy products 

  • 1 slice of cheese 
  • 1 glass of milk 
  • 1 cup of yogurt 


*Standard measurements used 
1 cup = 200ml 
1 glass = 250ml 
1 tbsp = 15ml 
1 dessert spoon = 10ml 
1 tsp = 5 ml 



  • Serve carbohydrates to your child according to the recommended serving size
  • Introducing whole grain foods in children’s diet beginning at 9 to 12 months old
  • Choose whole grain / whole wheat alternatives for flour, bread, biscuits and cereal products
  • Add brown rice/ unpolished rice into your white rice to increase the fibre and nutrient content :) 





  1. Ministry of Health Malaysia, National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition. Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia. 2017
  2. Ministry of Health Malaysia, National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition. Malaysia Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents. 2013
  3. Retelny VS. Children Needs Carbohydrates [Internet]. 2018 [cited 27 May 2019]. Available from:


Article originally written by Shin Jie for Vease Nutrition. 

Article edited by Jowynna Yeo, Founder & Dietitian at Vease Nutrition 

  • Dr. gHealth Article


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