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Nutrition is the Key to Diabetes Health

Spring C. Bean, RD


Nov 5th, 2014


Everybody needs a healthy diet. People with diabetes are no different. A healthy diet means eating less refined sugar and more whole grain carbohydrate flour. It also means less fat, especially saturated fats and lots of fruits and veggies.
When you have type 1 diabetes mellitus, it means that your body doesn’t make any insulin so you have to take insulin by injection. Diabetes educators, doctors and parents can help youth with diabetes know how much insulin they need to use when they eat carbohydrates.

Each person with diabetes should see a registered dietitian for an individualized meal plan. If you have diabetes and haven’t been in to see one yet or it’s been a long time, here are some general guidelines to get you started.

Eat regular meals, of equal size, spaced equally through the day. Equal size is determined by calories and, depending on your individual needs, carbohydrates too. For example:

  • A toddler may need 5 equal meals a day of 200-300 calories each and 30 grams of carbs each.
  • An elementary school age child needs to eat 4-5 times a day. Usually breakfast, lunch and dinner are about 400 calories and 45 grams of carbohydrates, with 2 snacks of 200 calories and 15-30 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Teenagers range dramatically in their nutritional needs. It’s really important to have an individualized plan for a teen with diabetes.  Active teen boys may need 3 meals a day of 600 calories each with 75 grams of carbohydrates and 2 snacks a day of 200-300 calories each with 30-45 grams of carbohydrates. A teen girl with average activity may need only 3 meals a day of 400 calories each  with 45 grams of carbohydrates and only 1 snack of 200 calories with 30 grams of carbohydrates.

Diabetes Super Foods

Other things to consider for healthy eating are:

  • Increase the number of fruits and vegetables you eat each day – 5-9 servings;
  • Eat low fat dairy products – 3 a day;
  • Eat more fiber – 25-35 grams per day;
  • Include lean protein with each meal;
  • Drink lots of water and no sugary drinks;
  • Limit refined sugars;
  • Limit refined flour;
  • Limit saturated fat;
  • Limit total fat; and
  • Limit processed foods and fast foods.

 And of course I need to mention exercise. Eating and exercise go hand in hand. Be sure to get lots of exercise! For young kids, their active play is their exercise. Make time for a quick trip to the park with your child or race up and down your street playing red light/green light. For school age kids, a teamsport like soccer is a great way to meet friends and get exercise. For teens, continuing their childhood sport or trying a new school team activity is a great way to stay active. Teen years are also a good time to try active hobbies that can be continued into adulthood. Biking, volleyball, swimming, karate or skating are just a few of the wonderful ways to be active throughout life.

Eating well and being active leads to good health and happiness. So make a promise to yourself now to take care of yourself and be healthy!  You’ll reap years of benefits from even smalls changes.

 Spring C Bean L.D., R.D.

Idaho Diabetes Youth Programs (dba Camp Hodia) Dietitian

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