Diet and Diabetes

It’s important to learn about proper meal-planning when your child has diabetes. That’s because the type and amount of food your child eats affects his blood sugar levels. One of the ways to achieve proper blood sugar control is by making sure your child is eating a balance of healthy foods that contain carbohydrates, protein and fat.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates in foods affect the body's blood sugar the most. They are also an important source of energy for children, as the body turns carbohydrates into blood sugar. About half the calories your child eats should come from carbohydrates, but a dietitian can help you decide how much carbohydrate your child needs each day.

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

Healthy carbohydrates to eat daily include high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Whole grains are less processed than refined grains and contain more vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can replace white flour and refined grains with whole grain crackers, breads and cereals, whole wheat pasta, oats and brown rice.

Sugar is also a carbohydrate. It does not affect your child's blood sugar any differently than other carbohydrates do. Your child can eat sweets and sugars in moderation if they are counted as part of the daily carbohydrate intake. Sweets and sugar do not have many vitamins or minerals, though, so they should be eaten in small amounts.

Protein and fat in your child's diet

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 both. 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.

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:

  • Butter and margarine
  • Oils and shortening
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sour cream and cream cheese
  • Salad dressing

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
  • Beans, nuts and peanut butter
  • Sweets (cakes, pies, cookies, chocolate, ice cream)
  • Snack foods (chips, snack cakes, pudding)

A dietitian can help you find the meal-plan that works best for your child.

Reviewed by: Megan Robinson, MS, RD, CDE, LDN
Date: Dec. 2013