What are healthy eating habits for children with diabetes?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Early on teach child diabetics about carbohydrates. They need to be able to read and understand labels. They need to know what foods contain carbohydrates and sugars. They need to have snacks on hand that promote stable blood sugars. Proteins, fresh non starchy vegetables, and healthy fats like seeds, nuts, and nut butters all fit the bill. As a parent you need to make healthy diabetic friendly meals. If you need help, find a registered dietitian near you.
Healthy blood sugar levels can be maintained by balancing carbohydrate intake, insulin, and exercise. Children should receive individualized nutritional guidance, as weight and growth considerations need to be accounted for as well as the blood sugar levels. Generally, it is important to have consistent snacks and meals throughout the day. The Diabetes Food Pyramid separates food groups based on carbohydrates and protein content. People with diabetes should consume more whole-grain foods, beans, fresh vegetables and fruits, low-fat milk, and lean meats and minimize sweets and fats in their diets. Proper caloric intake is also important to allow children to grow and maintain a healthy weight.
In years past, diabetes treatment meant strict control over your daily diet. But that's no longer the case. Thanks to newer insulin types, you and other kids with diabetes can be flexible in your eating habits. You can eat as much or as little as you need to satisfy your hunger. For you, meal planning is more about these basic principles:
  • Eat a variety of foods. This is the best way to make sure you're getting the energy, vitamins, and minerals you need to grow, play, work, and stay healthy.
  • Allow yourself treats once in a while -- but don't overdo it. There are no "bad foods" or "good foods" in your meal plan. But just like everybody else, you need to make healthy choices.
  • Try to stick to a schedule. Have your meals and snacks at about the same time every day, and don't "graze" in between.
  • Pay attention to carbohydrates (carbs) in your meals and snacks. Food is made up of three main nutrients: fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Of these, carbs have the biggest effect on your blood glucose. For this reason, you need to match your insulin intake to your carbohydrate intake ("cover" your carbs). You can do this by carefully measuring your insulin doses and counting carbs in your meals and snacks.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.