Parents and children alike worry that with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes their diet will forever change. In reality, kids can continue to eat a regular diet with an emphasis on healthy food choices and variety. Along with these healthy choices, a regular diet can also include desserts and other treats in moderation. The only foods that we ask kids with diabetes to avoid are liquid carbohydrates, such as fruit juice and regular soda.
A healthy diet includes:
Vegetables. Encourage your kid to eat vegetables with every meal. They also make for great snacks. Try to eat as many colors from the rainbow as you can. Always have a variety and different colors to make sure your child is getting a mix of nutrients. You can never eat too many vegetables—except potatoes and french fries, which count as a starch.
Fruits. Keep a variety of fruits in your home. Fruits are a delicious and nutritious snack option. Like vegetables, kids should eat fruits of all colors. Choose whole fruits and avoid juice unless your child has a low blood sugar.
Healthy proteins. Pick lean proteins such as poultry, fish and eggs. Encourage your kids to increase their intake of plant-based proteins – beans, nuts, seeds and tofu. Avoid processed meats like sandwich meats, hot dogs, and bacon, and try to limit intake of red meat to only a couple of times per month.
Whole grains. Try to pick whole grains more often than refined grains like white bread and rice. Some great whole grain options include quinoa, farro, buckwheat, whole grain bread, brown rice and chickpea pasta.
Healthy oils. Healthy fats are an important part of a well-rounded diet. Use plant-based oils such as olive oil, avocado oil and sunflower oil when cooking and for salad dressings.
Water. Water is the best way to stay hydrated. Get your children in the habit of drinking water early in life. Kids should drink water with every meal and snack.
Vanessa Wissing, RD, CDE, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Robert I. Grossman, MD, and Elisabeth J. Cohen, MD, Pediatric Diabetes Center at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital of New York at NYU Langone. She provides education and guidance to help children and their families better manage diabetes and overall health.