Diabetic Diet for Children

Children with diabetes need to be on a special diet that helps maintain the blood sugar levels. This is necessary to give them the energy to function well throughout the day. There are different diets that are used for children with different degrees of diabetes. Overall it is important to consult a doctor to get advice on diet and proper treatment.


Diabetes in children requires following a diet to control blood sugar. There are several diets designed for this purpose; the simplest is the Food Pyramid Guide. This diet is believed to be effective for many children with diabetes. Two other methods for controlling blood sugar is the Diabetic Exchange List designed by the American Dietetic Association and carb counting. Type 1 diabetes is when the body stops making insulin that the body needs to convert food into energy. It occurs in children and young adults primarily. It is believed to be caused by immune disorders, viruses and exposure to harmful chemical and drugs. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form. Most children that get this type are overweight. So weight control and diet are important for children with diabetes.


When following a diet, it is important to read food labels carefully. You will want to know the number of calories, carbohydrates, fat content, sodium, sugar and cholesterol foods contain. Any food using trans fatty oils should be avoided as much as possible. Food is often weighed and measured after cooking to get calories. Food is measured in grams. A gram is about 1/8 of an ounce. Use accurate measuring tools like a food scale, measuring cups and spoons. When children take insulin injections or oral medications, the timing of meal should be consistent to keep blood sugar levels stable. Even when they do not need any medication, meals at regular times are important to maintain good health. Smaller meals more frequently are better than large meals to maintain blood sugar. Carbohydrates make the most impact on the diabetic diet; anyone on this diet should avoid products that list more than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Carbohydrates should be about 40 percent of the calorie intake. Protein has no effect on blood sugar and should be about 30 percent. Fiber is an important part of a diet as well as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.


Below are listed three methods of diet for children with diabetes. For more detailed information on these diets, visit the Children's Diabetes Foundation listed under additional resources. The Diabetic Exchange list has six groups of foods grouped. It is a diet designed for children with diabetes. The food groups are broken down into calories, carbs, protein and fat content. The groups are starch and breads, meat, vegetables, fruit, milk and fat. The purpose is to maintain a balance of carbs, protein and fat throughout the day that is healthy for children with diabetes. In developing a menu for your child, you must figure the daily calories required and the amount of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Carb counting is another diet method for children with diabetes. It means monitoring the amount of carbohydrates needed in your diet daily. Blood sugar levels are taken before and after meals from a three- to seven-day period. This determines daily insulin requirements needed for carbohydrate intake. The calculations are often different for children and adults. The Food Pyramid lists guidelines for healthy eating. The food groups are bread, cereals, rice and pasta, vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry and fish, milk, yogurt and cheese, and fat and sweets. Following these guidelines for eating provide a good balance for diabetic children.


Diabetic diets should include plenty of variety for meals and snacks. Snacks can be fruit, rice cakes, crackers and peanut butter, yogurt, vegetable and low-cal dip. Children spend time at school, so packing or making sure they eat a good lunch and snacks are important for children with diabetes. Providing a morning snack for your child and one after school is important. Many children can get a prepared lunch at school and most are healthier than they used to be. Find out the menu so you can decide what meal your child should have and tell teachers and school personnel about his diabetes. They can supervise what your child eats during lunchtime. A packed lunch some days may be a good alternative to the cafeteria selections. Use different kinds of bread to make sandwiches; whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel and pita pockets add variety to the menu. You can add a variety of fruits and vegetable to the packaged lunch and hot soup or stews. Try to make their lunch as varied and tasty as possible.


If your child has diabetes or you suspect he does, get a good physical exam and diagnosis from a qualified doctor. Often doctors will work with nutritionists to design a good diet for your child. It's important to get treatment for the diabetes and not try to treat it yourself. Some children need injections of insulin, so you will have to learn to do it or teach your child to do it himself. Your physician will help you learn to administer the correct dose in the right way. Some diabetes are controlled by oral medications, which you need a doctor to prescribe.

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