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Tips When Caring For Children Living With Diabetes

A diagnosis of type 1 or type 2 diabetes for your child means some lifestyle changes are in store. But with support from you and a diabetes care team, your child can lead a full and happy life.

Diabetes Three-Part Plan

  • Healthful eating. In general, following a balanced meal plan similar to My Pyramid is good for your child—and the whole family. A Registered Dietitian (RD) or Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) will develop a personal meal plan that includes regular meals and snacks with the right amount of food and carbohydrates to help avoid high and low blood glucose. If your child is overweight, the RD or CDE will make sure the meal plan helps achieve an appropriate weight for height. Find tips on Health & Nutrition, including MyPyramid.
  • Physical activity. As for other kids, the recommendation for a child with diabetes is at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Physical activity lowers blood glucose levels and burns calories to promote weight management. Get tips on Physical Activity for Kids.
  • Monitoring and meds. Your child's doctor or CDE will show your child and you how and when to test and record blood glucose throughout the day and, if necessary, how to adjust food and any diabetes medications such as insulin.

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Kid-Friendly Food Tips

  • For school lunch. Check the school lunch menu in advance and talk with your child about choices that best fit the meal plan, or pack a nutritious brown bag lunch.
  • At snack time. Keep nutritious snacks on hand such as fruit, cut-up veggies, nuts, low fat or fat free artificially sweetened yogurt, reduced or low fat cheese and whole grain crackers.
  • At the mall or fast food place. Review nutritious options such as small burgers without mayo or sauce, grilled chicken sandwiches, small bags of pretzels or baked chips, thin-crust pizza topped with veggies, low-fat or fat-free milk, diet soft drinks and water.
  • On sweet occasions. Generally speaking, a child with diabetes can enjoy the same sweets and desserts as other kids at birthday parties and special times like Halloween. The trick is for them to keep portions small and trade the carbohydrates in the sweets for carbs somewhere else in their meal plan. The carbohydrate content needs to be incorporated into the meal plan for that time of day, especially if taking insulin. Check with a CDE or RD for specific advice. Find Smart Sweet Tooth Tips.
  • At holiday time. When it's time for a big holiday meal, your child may need to adjust his or her insulin and eating schedule. You can lighten up traditional favorites by preparing them with less fat and sugar, which can help decrease total calories, fat and carbohydrates per serving.
  • For the star athlete. If your child participates in strenuous sports, the doctor will probably advise that blood glucose be checked beforehand and may adjust the child’s medication. Make sure the coach knows the signs of low blood sugar and that your child has blood glucose tablets, hard candy or 6-oz. cans of 100 percent juice on hand just in case.

Learn more about kids and diabetes: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

children living with diabetes
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