My 17 year-old nephew was just diagnosed as a Type I diabetic. We're having a hard time getting him to take ownership for calculating his own carb counts and planning his own menus. Do you have any suggestions?

Following a diabetic diet and counting carbohydrates can be a tricky and time consuming feat…especially when you are 17. I would first try to get your nephew to understand why monitoring blood sugar levels/counting carbohydrates is important. Glucose levels that are chronically elevated in someone with diabetes can have very scary and potentially life threatening side effects. Wounds that may lead to limb amputation, loss of eyesight, loss of kidney function leading to a life on hemodialysis are all problems that can arise if someone with diabetes does not follow a healthy diet. He needs to also understand that he can still lead a “normal” life in regards to food, but he will have to be more aware of serving sizes, foods with added sugar, foods high in calories etc. I recommend that you find a local dietitian and see if your nephew would be interested in setting up an appointment with that professional. Registered dietitians (RD) can work with him to create a realistic and easy to follow meal plan. She can explain why monitoring carbohydrates is so important and she can give him easy to understand resources to better assist him when making meal choices. The best way to find a local RD around you is to go to the American Dietetic Association’s website ( and click on the “find a registered dietitian” link. Remind him that all foods can fit healthfully into his diet and there is nothing that he will have to “avoid”. But for sake of his health and his future, at times he will need to make healthy substitutions when it comes to foods typically enjoyed by teenagers (soda, candy, chocolate bars, etc). In addition, I would recommend that you and your family do some research into understanding a diet for diabetes. If you are able to speak with him about what you know and maybe prepare a diabetic-friendly meal in his honor, he may feel more support and hopefully take an interest in his diet and overall health.

Login to Favorite