While diet is a very important part of managing your child's Type 1 diabetes, you don't need to provide special foods. In fact, the recommended diet for children with Type 1 diabetes is the same healthy diet recommended to all children. The only difference is you need to count carbs to help manage blood sugars.
General Diet Guidelines
The diet for children with Type 1 diabetes should be balanced and include a variety of foods from all of the food groups. Your child should eat regularly to help control blood sugars and meet nutrient needs. A healthy meal plan for children with Type 1 diabetes should include three meals and three snacks. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about meal and snack times so they coordinate with insulin dosing and activity.
Carbohydrates for Blood Sugar Control
Carbohydrates are the nutrients in food that affect blood sugar. Grains, fruits, milk and sweets contain carbs. To help with blood sugar management, your child should eat a specified amount of carbs at each meal or snack. General recommendations range from 45 to 60 grams at each meal and 15 grams at each snack, but your doctor or dietitian can help you determine your child's specific carb needs. Food labels and carb counting books can help you count the grams of carbs in the food your child eats.
Protein and Fat for Energy and Growth
The good news is that fat and protein does not affect blood sugar. Protein supports growth and development, while fat supplies energy. Protein foods, such as meat and cheese, should be included at two or more meals and snacks. You child should consume fats like oils and nut butters in moderate amounts. To help limit fat intake, include low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
Snacks That Don't Affect Blood Sugar
Some children are never hungry, while others are always asking for food. If your child with Type 1 diabetes is hungry but it's not quite meal or snack time, it's always a good idea to have a list of snack foods at the ready that do not affect blood sugars. Options include celery and peanut butter, cucumbers with low-fat salad dressing, a handful of nuts, low-fat string cheese, or turkey and lettuce rolls.
Putting It All Together
A sample menu can help you with your meal planning. A breakfast for your child might include a whole-wheat English muffin topped with peanut butter, 1 cup of nonfat milk and a small banana. For a midmorning snack, offer 6 ounces of low-fat yogurt. A healthy lunch might include a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread with a small apple, carrot sticks and four whole-grain crackers. For the afternoon snack, 3 cups of air-popped popcorn. A carb-controlled dinner for your child might include 1 1/2 cups of macaroni and cheese, 1 cup of nonfat milk and a tossed salad with low-fat salad dressing. To finish out the day, feed your child a handful of almonds mixed with 2 tablespoons of raisins.
- KidsHealth: Treating Type 1 Diabetes
- Dartmouth-Hitchcock Children's Hospital at Dartmouth: Nutrition and Meal Planning: Pediatric Type 1 Diabetes
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat
- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture: The Exchange List System for Diabetic Meal Planning