Following a proper diet can be hard for everyone, including adults and kids. When you child has to follow a special juvenile diabetes diet, the challenges can be even greater.
Relax, take it one step at a time and your child can be fit, healthy and safe. And, if done right, everyone will be happy as well!
The prevailing wisdom is that a normal healthy diet for children with diabetes doesn’t have to be overly different than everyone else is following in the family. The general guidelines are:
- Minimize Fat: Keep trans and saturated fat to the bare minimum. Even your milk and cheese should be low or even fat free.
- Minimize Salt: Salt leads to complications such as circulation problems.
- Minimize Sugar: This goes especially for added sugar, particularly high fructose corn syrup, the scourge of many modern foods.
- Lean Protein: Lean meat, fish and poultry are key. Little things like watching which BBQ sauce you use and taking the skin off of the chicken goes a long way towards healthy eating.
Carbohydrate counting is also the recommended way of controlling how much your child should eat. As they get older, they should be able to do this for themselves, but you will have to monitor it as well. Your doctor will have numerous resources to help with portion control and learning which foods have how many carbohydrates, etc.
If the above basics are learned, then some of the following situations will become easier to deal with. I find that it is easier to look at when we eat, because some situations are easier to deal with than others.
Think of yourself. You probably have an easier time controlling your eating at home, than when you eat out. Or, maybe you do better by yourself than when eating with friends. Maybe it is the opposite. Either way, your child will probably have the same type of situational problems when making the proper eating choices.
Eating at Home
Okay, this is the easy one. Let’s look at this first. The best way to make good choices for eating at home is in advance, when your child is not already hungry.
Menu Planning saves time, money (you only buy what you need) and headaches down the road. The challenge is blocking out the time to do the planning.
Menu planning is not just for meals, it is also for snacks. Personally, I find it almost impossible to ignore junk food if it is in the house. If it is not there, I never give it a second thought. If you plan your snacks and meals in advance and only buy what you need, eating at home becomes infinitely easier.
Eating at School
Okay, this one is a little bit harder. All you fellow control freaks know what I am talking about. I mean, how can you control, I mean keep an eye on or protect, your child if you are miles away from them and who knows what other child deviant is tempting them with a box of Twinkies?
First, the easy path is bringing a lunch and any snacks to school. Make sure it something they actually like and will eat. There will be less temptation to swap food with other kids. After all, we are not opposed to our child liking what they eat, right?
Education also plays a big part here. If the child is young, having conversations with them, their teacher, school nurse, etc., is important to make sure things run smoothly. As your child gets older, they will, unfortunately, have to be trusted to make some of their own decisions. (I am obviously kidding about the “unfortunately” description, just having some fun). Talking with them about being responsible with their choices is very important.
Second, if you go the school lunch route, there should be nutritional information provided. Your child will also have to exercise some of their knowledge about portion control and food nutrition content to make sure they are following their proper diet requirements.
Lastly, on this subject, you have the right (I would also argue obligation) to have 504 Plan in place with the school. This plan is an emergency plan for your child if problems arise. Make sure you review the plan each year to make sure it reflects changes in your child’s health and maturity.
Unstructured Time Away From Home
Normally, I am all about spontaneity and unstructured time for children with their friends. As kids get older, much of this time will be on their own. Trips to the Mall food court, McDonald’s, sleep over’s, study sessions at friends houses. The list goes on.
These situations present unique challenges. Other kids do not have to, nor do they follow the same eating rules as your child has to. Peer pressure can be a huge factor in your child wanting to blend in with their friends.
Ensuring that these situations are fun and healthy starts at home. Over time, all of those conversations you have had with your child about healthy eating will help them make the best choices when they are away. Including them in meal planning, shopping and meal preparation, will invest them in the process. The added bonus is that you will be able to spend more quality time with your child.
Looking for more great information about establishing a health juvenile diabetes diet? Check out this great National Institute of Health site.
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed June 2012.