My daughter has type 1 diabetes. How can I help her to eat better?

It is great that you can become involved in helping improve your daughter’s diet. It is especially important that she monitor her diet, as one with type 1 diabetes has to really work to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. A diet that is too high in simple carbohydrates may result in consistently high glucose levels, which may put her at risk for kidney failure, heart failure, and possibly an amputation. A diet that is too low in proper nutrients may lead her to have very low blood sugar levels which can be accompanied with shakiness, weakness, perspiration, confusion, convulsions and temporary loss of consciousness.

I always recommend meeting with a registered dietitian (RD) first. Many certified diabetes educators are RD’s and they can help you both to create a meal plan for your daughter. RD’s can also give you helpful hints and tips on meal preparation, portion sizes, snacking and grocery shopping. Now I would take a look at your daughter’s diet and try to find areas for improvement. If she is a regular soda drinker, begin weaning this away and have her switch to low sugar juice (Healthy Balance or Cranberry Naturals) or crystal light or even better, water! If you find that your daughter does not choose healthy snacks, I would recommend sitting down with her and planning out the grocery list for the week. Try to come up with healthier lunch/snack alternatives (hummus with veggies, air popped popcorn, string cheese, peanut butter on whole grain crackers, low sugar Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and vegetables etc). Make sure either she or you are packing her lunch each day and you may wish to include a few healthy snacks as well to prevent low blood sugar. Now discuss dinner meal planning. Figure out meals for each night for the week to come and be sure to include a variety of foods. Combine lean protein and complex carbohydrates at meals. For example, baked chicken with brown rice and steamed veggies is a great balanced meal. Whole wheat spaghetti made with lean turkey and a sauce that includes lots of vegetables is also very healthy. Finally, monitor her portion sizes. Become familiar with what a single serving is of various foods and monitor how big her portion sizes are and how often she may go back for seconds. A serving of lean meat is equal to 3 oz. or the size of a deck of cards. A computer mouse is the size of a baked potato, a cup of fresh vegetables should be around the size of a baseball and dried fruit should be around the size of a golf ball.

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