For diabetic children, particularly those who are insulin-dependent, the foods that they eat can have serious health implications later in life. While all children should follow healthy diets filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains, choosing the right foods for a diabetic child is even more important. Before putting together a diet for your diabetic child, consult your doctor or licensed nutritionist or dietitian who can help in healthy meal planning.
Most children need snacks in between meals to help keep their energy levels up. There are plenty of healthy snacks that your diabetic child can enjoy that will not wreak havoc with their blood sugar levels. A “free food” is one that diabetics can enjoy up to three times per day and that contain less than 20 calories and 5 g of carbohydrates, and a few snacks fall into that category, such as dill or gherkin pickles. Some other good snack foods that contain less than 5 g of carbohydrates and that your child might enjoy include three celery sticks, one sugar-free popsicle, one cup of light popcorn, one piece of string cheese or 1/4 cup of fresh blueberries.
Many children flock to the same foods over and over again, including macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, chicken nuggets or tenders and spaghetti and meatballs. In addition to the carbohydrate content of these foods, you need to be aware of the fat content since diabetics are prone to heart disease and stroke. When making macaroni and cheese, use whole-wheat macaroni, 1 percent or skim milk and low-fat cheese. Use panko crumbs and egg whites to make crispy oven-fried chicken nuggets or tenders, and make your meatballs from ground turkey instead of ground beef. Choose 85 to 95 percent lean ground beef when making burgers, and serve them on a whole-wheat bun. In general, try to incorporate more whole grains and less fats into kid-favorite foods.
Diabetic children should get 10 to 20 percent of their daily calories from lean protein, 25 to 30 percent from healthy fats and 50 to 60 percent from carbohydrates, preferably complex carbohydrates. When choosing lean proteins, think extra-lean ground beef, ground chicken or turkey, skinless chicken, low-fat cheese or beans. Choose an assortment of bright orange and green vegetables, such as carrots and broccoli, fresh fruit and whole grains, like brown rice or whole-wheat bread, whenever possible. Use sweet potatoes instead of white whenever possible, and oven-fried instead of deep-fried for all foods. For breakfast, serve your child oatmeal with fresh fruit, a whole-wheat bagel with low-fat cream cheese or a parfait made from Greek yogurt, fresh berries and granola.
When eating at traditional sit-down restaurants, choose the same types of foods you would serve at home. If you find it difficult to avoid fast-food restaurants completely, learn to make the right choices from the menu. Choose a hamburger and opt out of part or all of the bun, a small container of chicken pieces, apple slices and fruit and yogurt parfaits. Be wary of dipping sauces and other condiments, as many of them contain copious amounts of sugar and fat. Order water or 1 percent low-fat plain milk, and skip the sugar-laden juices and sodas.