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Balanced Nutrition



Fruits and vegetables offer many health benefits. They are full of fiber, which helps us feel full, aids in digestion, and can slow the absorption of sugar. Fruits and vegetables are also a major source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essential for our health. 

So how many servings of fruits and vegetables do you need a day? For kids, the recommended daily amount increases with age and varies slightly between boys and girls. The USDA provides information on the recommended daily minimum intake for each age range (see here for fruits; see here for vegetables). The USDA also provides handy tables that show what is considered a cup of many popular fruits and vegetables. Did you know that 32 seedless grapes is considered 1 cup of fruit?  


It can be hard to meet these recommendations, especially while managing T1D and juggling hectic schedules. Check out some tips for increasing your fruit and vegetable intake below!

World of Flavors

As we always emphasize, there is no diabetic diet, and we encourage the whole family to have balanced meals. Although the Healthy Plate method seems to fit the typical American diet the most, we can apply it to any cuisine of your choice!


The main message of the healthy eating plate is:

  1. Choose food groups with dense nutrition

  2. Eat different food groups proportionally. 

The healthy eating plate doesn't even have to be an actual plate! You can use bowls or whatever dinnerware your cuisine uses. Food doesn't have to be plated separately either. It can be a dish mixed with different food groups. Fruits can be eaten as a snack in between meals as well.

Check out some examples:

  • A Mexican breakfast can be Chilaquiles with shredded chicken or beans and crumbles of cheese (healthy protein), 2 small corn tortillas (whole grain), and onions and cilantro (non-starchy vegetables) with 1 cup of berries (fruit).

  • A Lebanese lunch can be Kousa Mahshi (1-2 squash) stuffed with lean ground beef, brown rice (lean ground beef = healthy protein, squash = vegetables, brown rice = whole grain), 3/4 cup of brown rice Mujadara (brown ricer = whole grain, lentil = healthy protein), and Fattoush salad (vegetables).

  • A Chinese dinner can be snow pea stir-fry (vegetable) with 1/2 cup of brown rice (whole grain), and a piece of steamed fish (healthy protein).

World of Flavors
Fruit and Veggie Tips

Fruit and Veggie Tips!

  • Eat a rainbow: Fruits and vegetables have different vitamins and minerals, so it is important to eat a variety of them to ensure you are receiving all of their benefits. Try choosing fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, like red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow bell peppers, green spinach, blueberries, and purple grapes, for example. If you need ideas, the ADA provides a long list of common fruits and non-starchy vegetables


  • Keep it simple: It can be fun to get creative and try new recipes, but sometimes this can be overwhelming, especially if you are in a hurry. Remember, you can always keep it simple! Try steaming fresh or frozen vegetables in the microwave in minutes for a quick and healthy side dish or addition to any meal. Just add a small amount of water to the bowl with the vegetable before placing it in the microwave. Many frozen vegetables come in ready-to-steam packages that can be cooked in the microwave with no need for preparation. Be sure to look for items without added salt, sugars, creams, or sauces. You will find this information in the ingredients list on the package.


  • Always be prepared: Adding fruits and vegetables to your snacks is a good way to increase your intake. But if you are on the go, you may not have time to prepare a snack that includes fruits and vegetables. To help with this, you could take a few minutes at the beginning of the week to prepare a few snack options in advance. For example, try cutting up carrot sticks or red bell peppers that can easily be dipped in hummus later.


  • Don't break the bank: Many fruits and vegetables are in season in the summer, like apricots, cherries, and tomatoes, and a lot of in-season produce is grown here in Michigan. Buying in-season produce is often less expensive and can be more flavorful. Also, if you use the Bridge card or SNAP, there's a program called Double Up Food Bucks which can double your spending power on fresh produce (learn more about how the program works). Frozen fruits and vegetables can also be a less expensive alternative to fresh produce. You can also use canned vegetables for a longer shelf life. When purchasing frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, be sure to look for items without added salt, sugars, creams, or sauces. 


  • Involve the whole family: Involving young kids in the cooking process could get them more excited about eating fruits and vegetables. Try bringing them along to the grocery store so they can pick out the produce they want to eat. If age appropriate, have them do some supervised meal preparation, like helping to wash the produce.

Visit these USDA resources for more tips on increasing fruit and vegetable intake: 

How to Eat more Fruit and Veggies

How to Eat more Fruits & Veggies


Fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber. Specifically, the non-starchy vegetables can help lower blood sugar spikes when pairing them with other higher-carb foods. However, fruits and vegetables have a variety of textures and sometimes a more earthy taste. Some children might take a while to learn to accept them. Here are some tips to help your child be more inclined to try them:

  1. Let them be part of the preparation. Kids can help wash, peel, plate, season, and even cut fruits and veggies using kid-safe knives.

  2. Give fruit or vegetable dishes fun names. For example, a frozen banana puree can be called "banana ice cream," and oatmeal with apple can be called "apple pie oatmeal."

  3. Serve fruits and vegetables in different ways. If your child doesn't like fruits and veggies prepared one way, it doesn't mean they won't like them another way. Try different seasonings, cooking methods (boil, steam, sauté, bake, grill), or cutting in different shapes (make cute shapes with small cookie cutters). Or, try serving uncut vegetables (such as whole broccoli, which might sound ridiculous but can be fun, like eating a tree!).

  4. Consistently include fruits and vegetables in all meals and snacks. Your child cannot learn to like something if it isn't offered. Children need repeated exposure to get used to different tastes and textures. Each food should be offered at least 15 times before determining whether your child will or will not eat it.

  5. Be a role model. Seeing you eat and enjoy your food will help your child learn how to eat it and how to enjoy it too.

  6. No need to force, nag, or bribe them to eat. Having a relaxed environment is more encouraging for your child to try new foods. Keep mealtime enjoyable as a family bonding time. Talk about your day, their day, or interesting events rather than focusing on how many bites of fruit and vegetables your child eats. Simply offer the fruit and vegetables on their plate and let them explore. Explaining "this is healthy, and you should eat it" often is not effective, and bribing them with sweets or their preferred foods reinforces the thought that healthy food doesn't taste good. Let your child explore the food first, and if they have a question, you can then explain what the fruit or vegetable does for their body. Of course, the explanation would be based on their level of comprehension at their age. For example, we can explain to 8-10 year-olds: "Carrots are orange because they have vitamin A, and vitamin A can help you see things clearer in the dark."

If you are struggling to help your child eat more fruits and vegetables, you are not alone! Research has found that about 60% of children don't eat enough fruit, and 93% don't eat enough vegetables. If you are concerned your child is not getting enough nutrients or would like to learn how to make eating fruits and vegetables easier, don't hesitate to talk with our dietitians.

Setting SMART Goals

Setting SMART Goals

The best kind of goal is the SMART goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound. Research has found that people who set SMART goals are more likely to achieve them. 

Here are some examples of SMART goals for inspiration:

  • I will fill half of my dinner plate with non-starchy vegetables at least 4 nights per week.

  • I will sit down with my parents every Sunday afternoon to plan my lunches for the week and write a grocery list.

  • I will dance in my room for 5 songs every other day 30 minutes after I come home from school.

  • I will use measuring cups and the food scale to measure the carbs in my dinner every night whenever I eat at home.

  • I will set an alarm for 6:45am on school days to remind myself to take insulin 15 minutes before eating breakfast.

Glycemic Index

Have you heard about the GI or Glycemic Index? It's a rating system for food containing carbohydrates. The lower the score, the slower the increase of blood sugar after eating. Low-glycemic foods have a rating of 55 or less, medium-level foods have a glycemic index of 56-69, and foods rated 70-100 are considered high-glycemic foods. Typically, foods with lower glycemic scores are higher in fiber, protein, and/or fat. Foods with higher scores are often more processed, quickly digested, or more sugary. However, the glycemic index can be confusing at times. Some seemingly healthy options might have a higher glycemic score than foods that are considered carb-dense. For example, ice cream has a glycemic index of 57, but watermelon has a glycemic score of 72. Does that mean we should eat ice cream for all snacks instead of watermelon? (No, although that would be a dream come true!)

Why does the GI seem misleading? There are two reasons:

  1. The glycemic index doesn't count how much we are eating. 1 cup of Ben and Jerry's chocolate ice cream has 50g of carbs, but 1 cup of watermelon cubes has only 11g of carbs.

  2. The glycemic index assumes food is eaten on an empty stomach and with nothing else. Most of us don't eat just one food at a time. Mixing different food groups can slow down the increase in blood sugar. For instance, cooked white rice has a glycemic score of 87, which is high on the glycemic index. But we can pair it with grilled chicken (GI=0) and asparagus (GI=15) to lower the overall glycemic effect.

So is the glycemic index useless then? No, the glycemic index still provides guidance when we're comparing similar food. For example, instant oatmeal's GI score is 83, but oatmeal made from old-fashioned oats (rolled oats) has a GI score of 55. That is part of the reason that most of us see a sharp increase in blood sugar after instant oatmeal, but not so much when having old-fashioned oats.
Although the glycemic index may be an imperfect system, it is a helpful tool to guide us toward healthy eating. Lower-glycemic foods are usually more nutrient-dense. We can also GI scores to make food pairings that can lower the spike of blood sugar after eating, like the chicken + rice example above.

Glycemic Index
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