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Nutrition Tips for Kids with Diabetes

Eating right is important for everyone, especially children with diabetes. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is essential and can prevent hypoglycemia and growth problems. When a child is diagnosed with diabetes, parents often have a multitude of questions and are overwhelmed with so much new information at once.

Let’s start by looking at the basic overview of the two types of diabetes.

Type 1

With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas generates little to no insulin. Insulin is important because it helps transport sugar within the body to create energy. Roughly 5 percent of people with diabetes have type 1. “Children’s of Alabama treats around 2,000 type 1 patients every year,” said Rainie Carter, pediatric dietitian at Children’s of Alabama.

Type 2

More common in adults, type 2 diabetes occurs when the body either can’t make enough insulin, or rejects insulin, causing sugar to build up in the body’s bloodstream. Around 90-95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2. Meal preparation is especially important for type
2 patients.

Meals

When preparing a meal, try using smaller plates. Research shows that eating off a smaller plate can reduce overeating. This tip is especially useful for children with type 2 diabetes. Try to fill the plate with vegetables, grains, protein and fruit.

“Children with both type 1 and 2 diabetes need good fat from unsaturated sources. Foods like avocados, nuts, peanut butter and fish provide this,” said Carter.

It is also important to be aware of carbohydrates when preparing meals or choosing snacks. Carbs breakdown in the body and turn into sugar. Simple carbs such as sugary foods and white breads are broken down quickly, creating a sugar increase within the body. This can lead to high blood sugar levels. On the other hand, complex carbs such as beans, pasta and fiber-rich foods, break down more slowly, producing less of a sugar surge. “Complex carbs won’t raise blood sugar as quickly and also keep children full longer,” Carter said.

Snacks

While meals are crucial, snacks also play a big role in your child’s diet. Choosing snacks that have around 15 grams of carbs is a healthy option for diabetic children.

“String cheese, nuts, peanut butter and flavored almonds are good free food options and help children feel full,” Carter said. “Measure portions to more accurately count carbs. There are also apps available, such as CalorieKing.” It is also recommended that children with diabetes avoid sugary drinks and limit fried foods.

Grocery Shopping

Serving sizes are especially important to notice when buying food for your child. Be aware of portion sizes, carbs and fiber. “Notice the amount of fiber, and try to buy foods with a higher content of it,” Carter suggested. Insoluble fiber promotes a healthy digestive tract, while larger amounts of soluble fiber can lower cholesterol levels and boost blood glucose control. Fiber is especially helpful in keeping children full.

For more healthy eating tips, visit https://www.childrensal.org/snacks-and-recipes

E-Cigarettes and Vaping

E-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are being marketed as a safe alternative to smoking, but health officials say they are not safe. Dr. Susan Walley is a pediatrician at Children’s of Alabama. She’s concerned about the increase in the use of e-cigarettes and vaping. “As a pediatrician there are two major issues with electronic cigarettes or vaping devices. One is that these are not safe products and the second is that they contain nicotine which is a tobacco product.” She believes many youth and adults don’t realize e-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive drug that affects the brain, nervous system and heart.


The use of e-cigarettes is on the rise. Starting in 2014, statistics show more youth use e-cigarettes than any other tobacco product. Five percent of middle school students are current users, while 16 percent of high school students consider themselves to be current users. That’s more than 3 million students.

Dr. Walley says it’s a disturbing trend, as she believes e-cigarette manufacturers are targeting children. “E-cigarette companies are using some of the same techniques that tobacco companies did decades ago by making these liquids appealing to children with candy flavors and dessert flavors,” she says. Some examples include “Skittles flavor” and “Death by Chocolate.”

Another concern, because e-cigarettes aren’t fully regulated yet by the FDA, is that the long term effects are still not fully known.

Parents who use e-cigarettes should know the liquid can be very dangerous for children. Between 2012 and 2015 the number of calls to poison control related to e-cigarettes went up by 1,492 percent. “It’s very scary,” Dr. Walley says. “These are completely preventable. There has even been a death from a child who ingested the mother’s e-cigarette liquid. The child had a seizure and couldn’t be resuscitated.”

Dr. Walley says it’s very important for parents, pediatricians and youth to be educated about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping. Because nicotine is so addictive, the best way to avoid the risks is to never start smoking or vaping. If a parent or child is a current user, they should talk to a doctor about ways to quit.

Croup

Croup can be a scary situation for a child and their parents. The symptoms usually occur at night. A child may awaken with a funny sounding cough and labored breathing. Peily Soong, M.D., a pediatrician at Pediatrics East, said croup is quite common in children. “It’s a very common illness,” Soong said. “It’s an illness that’s caused by a virus, the most common virus is one that’s called parainfluenza, but other viruses can cause it like the common cold or flu.”


The symptoms of croup are relatively unmistakable. They include a distinct cough that is described as sounding like a seal’s bark. It’s often worse at nighttime. Other symptoms that may accompany croup include cold-like symptoms such as a fever and runny nose, as well as a raspy voice.
“One thing about this illness,” Soong said, “It affects the throat area. It can cause swelling in the throat, which can cause something called stridor, a real wheezy sound that they can have while breathing. And that’s something to worry about,” Soong said.


Symptoms of Croup

  • Cough that sounds like a “seal bark”
  • Raspy voice
  • Common cold symptoms
  • Wheezy breathing sound

Parents should act quickly when their child demonstrates the symptoms of croup and particularly stridor, but oftentimes the symptoms can be handled at home. The key is helping the child to breathe in moist air. Soong offers these tips for treating croup:


Treating Croup at Home

  • Turn on hot shower, allow child to breathe in the steam
  • If it’s cold outside, take the child outside to breathe in cool air
  • If it’s warm, open freezer door and have them breathe the cold air from the freezer

In many cases, these actions can help alleviate the immediate symptoms of croup, however, it’s still a good idea to visit the pediatrician the next morning. He or she can prescribe a steroid to reduce swelling in the throat.
There are times when croup becomes an emergency situation. Get immediate care if:

  • Child has trouble breathing with no relief
  • Has stridor that is getting worse
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Shows signs of a “hot mouth”
  • Is pale or bluish around the mouth

The good news is in most cases children can recover quickly from croup with no lasting problems. With proper attention and recommended treatment, parents and child can rest easier.