Coping with diabetes in children can be very stressful, as it can turn out to be a life changing event for the whole family. Children who are diagnosed with diabetes usually need a special care. The management of their condition should include planning for a strict meal plan to keep them healthy and to reduce the risks of diabetes complications.
Diabetes is caused by the pancreas’ inability to produce enough insulin to control the blood sugar in the body. Diabetes is a metabolic disease that is characterized by high amounts of blood sugar that may cause severe internal organ failure if it is not treated and managed properly. There are two types of diabetes. Type1 diabetes is predominantly occurring among children, while the type2 diabetes is common in adults.
In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is unable to produce insulin that is very important in controlling the body’s blood sugar level. Children who have Type 1 diabetes are subject to insulin injection several times during the day in order to use the blood sugar as a source of energy more efficiently.
Symptoms of diabetes in children
Children who have diabetes may show signs of the illness and parents should take note of the warning signs that commonly occur with the condition. If your child manifests the following symptoms, take your child to a doctor for proper diagnosis.
- Cuts or sores are slow to heal
- Frequent urination
- Dry mouth (especially the lips)
- Fatigue or less energy during the day or their play time
- Weight loss
- Frequent eating even after eating a full meal
- Difficulty in breathing (heavy breathing)
- Blurred vision
Diabetes diet for children
Diabetes diet for children is planned with the help of your child’s doctor and a nutritionist. Upon diagnosing the child with diabetes, the parents are usually given an orientation about the nature of the disease, its symptoms, treatment and diet plan. Making your own diabetic meal plan should involve the dietary goals of giving your child three meals a day with one to three snack times. This aims to provide the body with enough carbohydrate supply at the same hour of the day to cope with the high demand in the supply of glucose in the body after an insulin injection to maintain glucose balance.
A diabetic meal plan for your child is important in order to help satisfy her appetite, balance the blood sugar level in the body, to promote normal body development.
Types of meal for children with diabetes
Carbohydrate intake is essential in diabetes. It is capable of raising the blood sugar level among diabetics which helps prevent the symptoms of hypoglycemia that is very common in diabetes. There are different food sources that are rich in carbohydrates. This includes foods with starch content like pasta, potatoes, rice, grains, cookies, breads and crackers. Fruits and vegetables like squash, tomato and carrots are healthy choices for carb intake. Serving dairy products like milk, ice cream and yoghurt are also good meal plan for a diabetic.
The sugar content in candies and chocolates are also high, but you must give these foods in small amount because they can be unhealthy for your child. Foods with complex carbohydrates usually take longer for the body to use up the carbs for energy. Starch based foods are sources of complex carbohydrates.
Foods that are high in protein content can also help supply the body with enough carbohydrates. While protein does not have a direct influence in the blood glucose, it can be useful in sustaining the body’s need for carbohydrates during prolonged starvation. Protein can be broken down into sugar and can help repair your child’s tissues and supply the body with essential vitamins and minerals. Good food sources of protein are legumes, meat, shellfish, eggs, milk, fish, cottage cheese, peanuts, nuts and tofu.
Fats, like protein, do not directly affect the blood glucose in the body, but can be a source of sugar when needed. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are better options, but it is still best to limit the amount of fat intake in your child’s diet. Polyunsaturated fats, however, are helpful in maintaining a lower blood cholesterol in the body. They are present in vegetable oils. Monounsaturated fats are likewise helpful in maintaining a low blood cholesterol level and are present in olive oil, canola oil and soft margarines.
Fast facts about diabetes and diabetes diet
- Once an insulin is injected, it cannot be removed from the system. This requires a regular supply of carbohydrates in the body to balance the blood sugar level. Otherwise, the child will experience episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
- The main goal of diabetes diet is not to eliminate carbohydrate and starve the child, but to properly supply enough carbohydrates and to keep the child from getting hungry.
- Diabetes in children doesn’t mean the end of their active life. In fact, if diabetes is properly controlled, the child will live a normal life and perform the same activities as the other children without a diabetes.
- A child should not be deprived of the foods she wants to eat, provided they are taken in moderation and in the right amount as suggested by your child’s doctor and nutritionist.
- A child who has diabetes is required to eat 3 meals a day and 1-3 snacks including nigh time.