5 nutrition tips for kids with type 2 diabetes

Today’s guest blogger is Megan Robinson, MS, RD, CDE, LDN, a clinical dietitian and certified diabetes educator at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who cares for children with diabetes, Turner syndrome, and endocrine disorders.

Eating healthy is important for all kids, but for kids with type 2 diabetes, eating healthy can help keep blood sugars and weight in control. We often hear this message to eat healthy, but what does this mean? There are so many mixed messages about what to eat. Should I eat low carb, high fat, avoid sugar?  Many of these messages are extreme, unrealistic, and unsafe to follow. Here are five key healthy eating tips for kids with type 2 diabetes, and kids of all ages.

1. Control Portions. Eating the right amount or portion of food is important to control blood sugars and weight.  But what is the right portion for kids? Kids are not little adults and should not be eating adult size portions.  Depending on their age and activity level, every kid needs a different amount of food for growth and energy. A reliable and free resource to help choose the right portion from each food group is Choosemyplate.org. Check out Plate Method and My Daily Meal Plan sections, and their interactive tools, such as portion distortion and Smart Tracker. These sites individualize meal plans and show how portions have increased over the years. 

2. Avoid Sugar Containing Beverages. Drinking beverages with added sugars, such as soda, ice tea, lemonade, sports drinks, and juice are considered empty calories. Just one 20-ounce regular soda has more than 10 teaspoons of sugar which has been shown to increase the risk of developing heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Drinking water and low fat milk is always best, but replacing sugary beverages with diet is a better choice than drinking the regular versions.   

3. Eat Breakfast. How many times have you heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?  Well, it’s true.  Not only does eating a healthy breakfast give you energy and improved school performance, it also helps to keep blood sugars within range and reduce insulin resistance. When you skip breakfast, you eat larger portions later in the day to make up for the calories you didn’t eat earlier. Spreading out the amount of food throughout the day, rather than just eating one or two large meals, can help maintain better blood sugar control and weight. Try eating a breakfast high in whole grains, lean protein and healthy fat. There are many great breakfast combinations – make sure you don’t skip them!

4. Increase Fruits & Vegetables. Did you know that you need to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day? What counts as a serving? Fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and low in calories. Don’t avoid fruit just because it has carbohydrates and raises blood sugars. If you are carb counting, just incorporate the carbohydrate gram amount into your goal for that meal or snack. Try eating whole fruit than drinking fruit juice to provide more dietary fiber, vitamin and minerals, and to avoid blood sugar spikes.

5.Smart Snacking. Not all snacking is bad. Eating nutrient-rich snacks between meals helps to prevent hunger and blood sugar fluctuations. Unfortunately today, kids are getting more calories from grazing on snacks throughout the day leading to weight gain and high blood sugars. Processed snacks such as chips, crackers, and cookies are types of snacks kids are eating instead of fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and other whole foods. This Smart Snacking handout provides a list of snacks that are high in dietary fiber, low in unhealthy fat and limit carbs to prevent high blood sugars.


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