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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

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