Diabetes, Feeding Your Child

ExitCare ImageWhen a child is diagnosed with diabetes, there is always a concern about food. Food is important because it provides the nutrition needed for growth and development. Foods also play a role in controlling and maintaining blood sugar (glucose) and preventing low blood glucose (hypoglycemia).

FEEDING YOUR INFANT

An infant with diabetes eats on a normal schedule. Breast milk or formula are both appropriate, and insulin is given based on blood glucose levels. After infancy, it is likely that a registered dietitian will help you set up a daily or weekly meal plan.

MEAL PLANNING

Approaches to meal planning vary. A registered dietitian can recommend the right meal plan for your child based on his or her age, size, activity, likes and dislikes, and religious or ethnic beliefs. The dietitian may focus on food groups, exchanges, or carbohydrates. Whatever method you follow, healthy eating habits are the key.

Meals that are good for your child are good for the whole family. A healthy diet should include foods from all food groups. This includes meats, fruits, vegetables, starches, and occasional sweets. Eat 3 meals each day. Most children may also have 2–3 snacks each day.

TIPS TO ENCOURAGE GOOD NUTRITION

  • Promote water as the beverage of choice.

  • Increase fiber intake. Encourage your child to eat whole grains in cereals, bread, beans, and popcorn.

  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake. Keep cut up vegetables available in the refrigerator. "Sneak" extra vegetables into stews, chili, and stir-fry dishes.

  • Occasional treats such as desserts for birthday parties or special occasions are fine. Your dietician can help you fit them into your child's meal plan.

HELP WHEN EATING OUT OR AT SCHOOL

  • Beware of "supersizing" a food order for your child.

  • Avoid going to buffets. They make it difficult to know the content and portion size of the food.

  • Stick to foods you recognize and ones you know how to count.

  • Avoid giving your child high-fat foods in excess.

  • Try to stick to normal mealtimes. Always carry a snack for your child, in case of a delay.

  • Work with your child's school to share and receive the information you need to help your child make good choices in the cafeteria and at school events.

  • Special occasions and holiday cakes or treats can be worked into your child's meal plan.

HEALTHY SNACK OPTIONS

This is not a complete list, but it will give you ideas of what you might offer your child in place of less healthy options. Work with your child's registered dietitian for more suggestions:

  • Raisins.

  • Peanut butter crackers.

  • Animal crackers.

  • Apple slices.

  • Celery with peanut butter.

  • Carrot sticks.

  • Cut up vegetables and hummus.

  • Cheese sticks.

  • Yogurt with no sugar added.

  • Pretzels and milk.

  • Beef jerky and crackers.

  • Whole grain crackers and cheese.

BLOOD GLUCOSE GOALS

Blood glucose goals for your child will vary depending on his or her age and the treatment goals set by your child's health care provider. There are 3 factors that affect blood glucose control: food, exercise or physical activity, and insulin. Your child may need extra food or less insulin with increased activity. Your child's health care provider will help you and your child with these adjustments.

If your child is a picky eater and is on insulin, you may find you need to delay the mealtime insulin until you see how much he or she eats. This will give your child a more accurate dose and prevent later episodes of hypoglycemia.