Meal Planning Strategies for Children with Diabetes

January 7th, 2013

Planning meals is an integral step in managing diabetes in children. The aim is to keep the blood sugar levels under control while helping them maintain active, healthy lives. The basic principles of a diabetes meal plan include eating regularly, avoiding excessive consumption of sweets, incorporating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the diet, and balancing the consumption of carbohydrates throughout the day.

While, on the face of it, planning a meal on these lines looks fairly simple, it can actually be quite tricky. Soon enough, the kitchen becomes a science class and food turns into a complicated variable. This doesn't necessarily have to be the case. It is quite possible to have a diabetic friendly diet without approaching a straitjacket attitude towards food.

Before we go into the specifics of the diet, let's first understand why a diabetic meal plan is essential in the first place. Consisting of 3 main meals and up to 3 snacks a day, the aim of regularizing diet for children with diabetes is to provide the body with a consistent amount of carbohydrates every day at the same time. Therefore, once the insulin is injected into the body, it receives a steady supply of glucose, which helps maintain blood glucose balance, thereby avoiding too many highs and lows.

That said, while consistency is the key to a successful diabetes diet plan for kids, it also has to be realistic and flexible. Unless you take into account your child's likes, dislikes, preferences, and lifestyle, meal times could end up becoming a contentious issue in the household.

Broadly speaking there are three types of meal plans that are prescribed for children with diabetes:

1. Constant Carbohydrate Meal Plan

2. Carbohydrate Counting Meal Plan

3. Exchange Meal Plan

In the first, the child has a fixed amount of carbohydrates in every meal or snack. These meals are followed by insulin or other diabetes medicines, which are consumed in exact doses at the same time of the day. You could use the food labels as a guide to determine how much carbohydrate your kid is having.

The second diet plan - the carbohydrate counting diet plan - is more suitable for kids who have been advised to take a shot of insulin with each meal. Parents have to monitor how many grams of carbs their child is having per meal and match the insulin dosage to that. Once again, the best way to calculate the amount of carbs being consumed is to consult the food labels.

Finally, we come to the exchange meal plan, which, instead of relying on carbs alone, includes unsaturated fats, lean proteins and fiber as well in the child's diet as well. All foods are divided into six categories - fruit, milk, fat, starch, meat, and vegetable. The child can have a fixed number of servings from each category, which is fixed on his daily calorie requirements. While this diet allows you to exchange one food for another within the category itself, substituting foods from one category to another isn't possible.

At the end of the day, a diabetic meal plan isn't only about balancing your kid's blood sugar levels. It also has to be easy to incorporate into your daily life. More importantly, it should be able to cater to your child's appetite while also indulging his likes and dislikes. If your diabetic meal plan can do that you can say your troubles have paid off.

Can a Diabetic Have an Occasional Drink?

January 17th, 2013

Not everyone finds abstaining from alcohol to be a huge sacrifice. Yet, there are times when tipping the glass feels almost obligatory, not to mention that there is a growing amount of evidence that a glass of wine may even have health benefits. If you are diabetic, the hype around alcohol consumption may be even more confusing. Do you or don't you have to eliminate alcohol completely from your diet? What is the rule of thumb for drinking with diabetes?

How alcohol is processed in the body gives some insight into the problems that may exist for those with diabetes. In much the same way that fat is processed, alcohol has similar results, providing almost as many calories. If you have diabetes, it can cause your blood sugar to rise. With that in mind, if you are trying to control you diabetes by monitoring calorie intake, one drink should equal about two fat exchanges.

Of course, if your blood sugar is already high, you should wait to indulge in a drink until you have it under control. Also, if you are overweight or are dealing with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you may want to sacrifice the drink. Check with your doctor for the best advice in that case.

A few other things to remember:

? Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to rise, but too much alcohol can have the opposite effect.

? Beer and sweet wine have more carbohydrates. They could cause blood sugar to rise.

? Alcohol is an appetite stimulant. Beware or you may find yourself also fighting the urge to consume more calories.

? Alcohol can interfere with the positive benefits of prescribed medications.

Having said all of the above, it is appropriate to add that drinking no more than two drinks a day may be tolerated by some diabetics. Make sure to eat something along with the drink. Don't drink too quickly. Sugary drinks, like mixed drinks or sweet wines should be avoided.

More importantly, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is of the utmost importance that you work with your doctor to develop a treatment and management plan for reaching your best outcomes. Diabetes should be taken seriously.