Managing your child’s diabetes with good nutrition 

  • Why is good nutrition essential to manage both type 1 and type 2 diabetes?  

Making good food choices is essential for blood sugar management.  Focusing on how much carbohydrate is in each meal and snack, is a must for keeping blood sugars within range.  We know now that all carbohydrates raise blood sugar so the focus is on counting carbohydrates rather than looking at sugars.  A meal that has a good balance of protein, carbohydrate, fat and fiber will slow absorption from sugars into the bloodstream.    

  • What are some good tips parents and kids should keep in mind in terms of specific foods to best manage diabetes? 

Read your nutrition labels.  If there is no information on a food, look it up on the internet, use a carbohydrate reference book, or an app on your phone.  Plan ahead.  Know what foods will be available and if there are a lot of unhealthy items, plan to bring your own, or focus on cutting back the rest of the day.  Be a good role model.  Keep healthy foods in the home and eat them along with your children. 

  • How does junk food contribute to diabetes? 

Junk food (i.e. candy, chips, cookies, etc.) often contains a lot of extra calories, and eaten in excess over time can lead to obesity.  Obesity is on the rise, and with excess weight, insulin resistance can develop.  This may lead to high blood sugar levels, pre-diabetes, or type 2 diabetes

  • Are there specific foods people with diabetes should avoid all the time? 

We recommend avoiding regular pop and juice unless blood glucose levels are low.  Most foods can be included in moderation as long as you are planning ahead.

  • Any other important information worth noting regarding diabetes and nutrition? 

There is no longer a “diabetic diet”. The focus now is on choosing healthy foods and counting carbohydrates.  It is a healthy eating plan whether or not you have diabetes. 

Exercise is an important part of diabetes management as well as prevention of type 2 diabetes. 

A recent article from theInstituteofMedicinediscusses that schools should be the focus of anti-obesity efforts.   

Educators should provide an opportunity for 60 minutes of exercise, and try to make it fun.

Sarah YandallSarah Yandall is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, at the Department of Endocrinology, DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan.