Children's Health and Wellness

Diet and Diabetes

Diabetes management and meal-planning for children

It is important to learn about proper meal-planning when your child has diabetes. The type and amount of food your child eats affect his or her blood sugar levels. If your child eats too much, his or her blood sugar may go up too high. Also, if your child skips meals, his or her 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 his or her blood sugar can go too high. A dietitian can help you decide how much carbohydrate 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 do not have many vitamins or minerals, so they should be eaten in small amounts.

Are proteins and fats important?

Protein and fat do not 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 is 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 difficult for your child to maintain a healthy weight. 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 unhealthier. 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 carbohydrate, protein, and fat. These foods can affect your child's blood sugar similar to 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.

Online Source: Diabetes Meal Plans and a Healthy Diet, American Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/diabetes-meal-plans-and-a-healthy-diet.html
Online Source: Fats, American Diabetes Associationhttp://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/fats-and-diabetes.html
Online Source: Diabetes in Children, American Academy of Pediatricshttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chronic/Pages/Diabetes.aspx
Online Source: Diabetes Treatment, American Academy of Pediatrics https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chronic/Pages/Diabetes-Treatment.aspx
Online Source: What I Need to Know About Eating and Diabetes, National Institute of Health-National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseaseshttps://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/diabetes-diet-eating
Online Editor: Geller, Arlene
Online Medical Reviewer: Adler, Liora C., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2016
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