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Diet and Diabetes

Diet and Diabetes

Diabetes management and meal planning for children

It's important to learn about proper meal planning when your child has diabetes. The type and amount of food your child eats affects their blood sugar levels. If your child eats too much, their blood sugar may go up too high. Also, if your child skips meals or is more active than usual, their blood sugar may go too low. Good blood sugar control needs a balance of food, exercise, and medicine. Healthy meals include foods that contain carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for children. Carbohydrates in foods affect the body's blood sugar the most. The body turns carbohydrates into blood sugar. If your child eats too many foods with carbohydrates, then their blood sugar can go too high. A dietitian can help you decide how much carbohydrates your child needs each day. About half the calories your child eats should come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrate foods should be included with each meal and snack. Sources of carbohydrates include the following:

  • Breads, crackers, and cereals

  • Pasta, rice, and grains

  • Vegetables

  • Milk and milk products

  • Fruit and fruit juice

  • Sugar, honey, jelly, and syrup

Your child can eat limited sweets and sugars if they are counted as part of the daily carbohydrate intake. Sweets and sugar don't have many vitamins or minerals, so they should be eaten in small amounts.

Are proteins and fats important?

Protein and fat don't affect the body's blood sugar level as much as carbohydrates. However, the amount of protein and fat in your child's diet may need to be counted as it's important for your child to eat the appropriate amount of protein and fat. Too much fat can increase your child's risk for heart disease and may make it hard for your child to maintain a healthy weight. Current American Diabetes Association guidelines recommend that children with type 1 diabetes have a fasting lipid profile blood test every 3 to 5 years starting when they are 10 years of age. Your child's dietitian can help you decide how much protein and fat your child needs. Additionally, some fats are good for you, and some are not as healthy. A dietitian can help you determine which fats are better for your child and which ones to avoid.

Sources of protein include:

  • Beef, pork, and lamb

  • Fish and seafood

  • Chicken and turkey

  • Cheese

  • Eggs

  • Peanut butter

  • Nuts and seeds

Sources of fat include:

  • Salad dressing

  • Olives

  • Avocado

  • Butter and margarine

  • Oils and shortening

  • Mayonnaise

  • Sour cream and cream cheese

  • Bacon and other cured meats 

  • Beef, pork, and poultry without the skin removed

  • Ice cream, cheese, and other high-fat dairy products

  • Sauces

There are also foods that have carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These foods can affect your child's blood sugar like other foods with carbohydrates:

  • Pizza

  • Casseroles

  • Stew and soups

  • Milk and yogurt

A dietitian can help you develop the meal plan that works best for your child. Be sure to share what you have learned about your child's nutrition needs with school staff as well, especially those who supervise meals and exercise.

Reviewed Date: 08-01-2021

Diet and Diabetes

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.