The goal of any dietary plan is to maintain levels of glucose in the blood. Therefore, foods rich in simple sugars – candy, cookies, sugary snacks and non-diet sodas – must be limited.
A healthful, varied diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables is the best way of ensuring overall health for your child.
In general, healthful eating for people who have diabetes is the same as for those who don’t. For children with type 1 diabetes, the diet must contain sufficient nutrients and calories for healthful growth.
As a rule, a child’s diet should follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid.
This nutritional guideline creates six food groups and recommends the number of daily servings for each:
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- six to 11 servings of bread, cereals, rice and pasta;
- three to five daily servings of vegetables;
- two to four servings of fruits;
- two to three servings of dairy products;
- two to three servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts;
- and very moderate use of fats, oils and sweets.
For the most part, a child with diabetes can eat just about any food as long as he does so in moderation and balance.
At the same time, some thought has to be given to the amount of complex carbohydrates – breads, cereals, rice, pastas – in the diet because they have the same effect on blood glucose as does a simple carbohydrate, such as sugar.
When it comes to controlling diabetes, when a child eats is as important as what he eats. Eating usually has to be synchronized with insulin use.
In general, a diabetic child should eat three meals at regular times, often supplemented by three regularly scheduled snacks – midmorning, mid-afternoon and bedtime.
Working with your child’s doctor and perhaps a dietitian can help you measure the amounts of carbohydrates (foods that the body converts into sugars) your child needs at meals and snacks.
In the end, if you are thoughtful about your child’s diet, by the time she becomes a teenager, eating right will have become second nature to her.
Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International