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Golisano Children's Hospital / Pediatric Nutrition / Diabetes Survival Skills

Diabetes Survival Skills

Planning meals and gauging your child's overall nutrition may seem like a challenge. Following are a few "Survival Skills":

  • Basic Proper Nutrition. You do not need to purchase a separate cupboard of "diabetic" foods. Use the foods you already have in your home.
  • Food Guide Pyramid. It is important to concentrate more on making sure your child gets a good variety of food than on the particular amounts. Your child will let you know if he or she is hungry. You will be told when portion sizes are an issue.
  • Balance and Variety. Encourage your child to eat a variety of foods. Remember to choose from each of the food groups for a balanced meal plan. The food groups are carbohydrates (starches/breads, fruits, milk), vegetables, meats, and fats:
    • Sweets. If they fit into your meal plan, sweets are okay once in a while. They do not contain the nutrition of other healthy foods, but as long as you work the cake, cookie, or ice cream into the meal plan, it's fine for special occasions.
    • Beverages. Only water or sugar-free beverages are permitted between meal and snack times. Milk and juice will be figured into meal and snack times.
    • Influencing blood sugar. Foods that influence blood sugar are the simple and complex carbohydrates. Foods that do not influence blood sugar include un-breaded meats, fats, and small amounts of vegetables.
  • Timing. Three meals and three snacks should be consumed at the same time every day. Your child should never skip meals or snacks. The bedtime snack is especially important to give your child the energy needed through the nighttime. Weekend schedules should not vary more than one hour from your weekly schedule.
  • Hypoglycemia Signs and Symptoms. Your child may be hypoglycemic if he or she exhibits any of the following symptoms: shaking, fast heartbeat, sweating, anxious, dizziness, hunger, impaired vision, confusion or inability to concentrate, weakness, fatigue, headache, irritable, tingling of the hands, lips, or tongue.
  • Treating Blood Sugar Lows. When your child's blood sugar level drops below 80, it should be treated. Blood sugar is likely to drop during or following exercise, near mealtimes, or at times when insulin is "peaking." Treat low blood sugar without delay. The best things to eat are foods that are broken down into sugar quickly, such as 1/2 cup of orange juice. If it will be more than an hour until the next meal or snack, go ahead and consume another complex (not simple) carbohydrate, like 6 saltine crackers or 1/2 of a plain bagel, plus 1 oz. of protein (1 slice of cheese).
    • Never treat a blood sugar low with chocolate candy bars. Chocolate contains fat which slows digestion so that the glucose does not enter the blood stream as quickly.
  • Illness. Insulin must always be taken. Food must always balance with insulin for good blood sugar control and health. It is necessary during times of illness to allow foods containing sugar like regular 7-up or regular Jell-O to make sure enough carbohydrate us consumed to balance with insulin.
  • Exercise. If physical activity is scheduled close to a meal or snack time, you need not worry. If your child participates in organized sports, or plays more strenuous activities with friends, you should test your child's blood sugar before the event. The blood sugar test results will determine if your child needs to eat before the activity, if they can go ahead and play without eating, or if they should wait to play.
  • Changes. Always consult with a medical professional if you would like to make changes to your child's medical regime. Food and insulin must always balance. If your child is hungry and consumes greater than three foods per day or is too full, consult your outpatient registered dietitian, outpatient nurse practitioner or physician.