Diet and Diabetes

Diabetes management and meal planning for children

It's important to learn about correct 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. If your child skips meals or is more active than normal, 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 (carbs) are an important source of energy for children. Carbs in foods affect the body's blood sugar the most. The body turns carbs into blood sugar. If your child eats too many foods with carbs, then their blood sugar can go too high. A dietitian can help you decide how many carbs your child needs each day. About half the calories your child eats should come from carbs. Carbohydrate foods should be part of each meal and snack. Sources of carbs include:

  • 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 carb 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 carbs. But the amount of protein and fat in your child's diet may need to be counted. That's because it is important for your child to eat the right amount of protein and fat. Too much fat can increase your child's risk for heart disease. And it may make it hard for your child to stay at a healthy weight. Your child's dietitian can help you decide how much protein and fat your child needs. Also, some fats are good for you. But some are not as healthy. A dietitian can help you figure out which fats are better for your child. And they can help you find which ones to stay away from.

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 carbs, protein, and fat. These foods can affect your child's blood sugar like other foods with carbs:

  • Pizza

  • Casseroles

  • Stew and soups

  • Milk and yogurt

A dietitian can help you create the meal plan that works best for your child. Share what you have learned about your child's nutrition needs with school staff. Be sure to include staff who supervise meals and exercise.

Online Medical Reviewer: Michael Dansinger MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2023
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