Nutritional advice for diabetic children

Nutrition for diabetes Diabetes management for children going to school

A new school year has begun and for many children this will be the first time they are away from their parents for most of the day. It’s just as hard for mums and dads too and if your child is diabetic no doubt you’ll have more concerns than most. Making sure your child has packed their books, pencils, erasers and sports kit is one thing, ensuring they have the right nutrition to manage their diabetes is quite another. The key to diabetes management for children going into education is communication between the parent, child and school.

Diabetes is on the increase in the UK due to a number of factors including excess weight and inactivity. The condition is characterised by high blood sugar levels (known as glucose) which is caused by a lack of insulin secretion or creation (sometimes a combination of both). There are two types of diabetes; type 1 begins in early childhood or early adulthood when the body is unable to produce any insulin. Type 1 diabetes is the least common of the two. Type 2 diabetes typically starts over the age of 40 and develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type accounting for 85-95% of the 2.3 million diabetics in the UK. Over a half a million people are believed to have diabetes but are unaware they have the condition. Increasingly, more and more children are developing type 2 diabetes, some as young as seven years old.

While there is no cure for diabetes, a healthy balanced diet with a tight control on sugar content can remove the symptoms. So, while your child is away at school, make sure they’re getting the right food at the right time. More importantly, make sure your child and the school know all about the condition and what to expect.

Manage diabetes with nutrition to prevent symptoms from striking

People with diabetes have too much glucose in their blood which over time can lead to damage to vessels and nerves and cause heart disease, loss of sight and kidney disease. Diabetic children, and adults, need to regularly check their blood glucose and prevent that level dropping through eating on a regular basis. If the blood sugar level is too high, prescribed insulin can help bring it down to a safe level.

This constant management can be scary for a child who also is contending with school. They’ll need to know how to react when they feel light-headed and know when they need to snack. Issues like this should be discussed with the school in advance and a plan in place that caters for their medical needs. To prevent the symptoms of diabetes striking, the right medication and an active lifestyle for a child is vital, as are healthy foods before, during and after school.

Diabetic nutrition advice

A diabetic child’s dietary requirements are similar to those of other children to enable them to grow fit and strong. However, a few guidelines should be followed to meet some special requirements for diabetes.

Balanced meals are needed at regular intervals through the day. For snacking, make sure healthy snacks are available such as fruit or raw vegetables and limit those sweets and soft drinks. Children should be encouraged to drink water when they’re thirsty rather than fizzy drinks. Whole grain foods with plenty of fibre are best so choose whole-wheat bread and brown rice over white. Saturated fat and cholesterol should also be limited so give your child low-fat milk, low-fat cheese and low-fat yoghurts. Trans fats from hydrogenated oils should be eliminated so avoid giving your child certain peanut butters, microwave popcorn, pastries and fast foods such as fries and fried chicken.

It is important that parents, children and schools learn how to treat the symptoms of hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Physical activity and a balanced diet can prevent the onset of both. Visit a trained nutrionist for further dietary advice for diabetic children.

Article submitted by
Daniel Alexander, GoToSee Journalist

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