Nutrition & Meal Planning

One of the most important aspects of diabetes management is nutrition and diet. Here at the U-M Pediatric Diabetes Clinic, our team of nutritionists is equipped to handle any diet questions you may have. Below, you can find answers to our most common nutrition questions.

Read our tips on eating fresh fruits and veggies and check out our grilling recipes!

Enjoy trick-or-treating and other tasty fall treats without the sugar worry! Read up on our tips for staying in range this fall.

Get ready for high carb family meals with our guide to carb counting during the holidays.

Looking for some low-carb alternatives to keep your blood sugars from soaring after meals? Look no further!

 

Frequently asked questions

Do I have to eat sugar-free foods?


No, you do not have to eat “sugar-free.” Remember that even if you try to avoid simple sugars, the carbohydrates in bread, pasta, and rice can also make your blood sugar go up. Contrary to popular beliefs, there is no such thing as a "diabetes diet". You should always strive to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Your goal for eating with T1D is to match the insulin delivered to the carbohydrate intake.




What are "free foods"?


Free foods are foods that have little to no carbs. These can be handy if your child is hungry but you do not want to give them carbohydrates that would require an additional insulin dose. Typically, "free foods" include items such as a small amount of nuts, eggs, meat, cheese, pickles, olives, or some vegetables. These foods are not "free" in large quantities, so be careful with how much you consume.




What are good foods and items to have on hand?


Most families do well with a healthy, balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. It is often reassuring to children to be able to enjoy foods that were given before the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Useful items to have on hand include a food scale for weighing and measuring as well as a set of liquid and solid measuring cups. It may also be helpful to clear a shelf in the refrigerator and in the pantry to store easily accessible 'free foods'. A handy tip is to separate larger packages of food into small, individual-sized plastic bags and label them with a permanent marker to identify the portion size and the carbohydrate count. In addition, some items such as individual lunch-box sized applesauce or granola bars do not include labels with nutrition facts. In these cases, you can find the nutrition information on the outer container and directly label the individual items with a permanent marker.




What is a good sample meal plan?


A good meal plan is one that balances a variety of healthy foods. Determining the right meal plan includes many factors such as how active a person is. To determine the optimal balance for your individual needs, please contact our clinic to set up an appointment with a nutritionist.




How do I count carbs?


A sample list of foods that contain carbohydrates or 'carbs' include grains, legumes, bread, cereal, pasta, crackers, fruits, juices, milk, yogurt, sweets and snack foods. Identifying the number of carbs is often found on the package label and is calculated by determining the serving size. For foods that do not have labels, using a food scale and a reference list such as Calorie King can help to determine the portion size and the amount of carbs. The ADA offers a free guide on carb counting that can be found here.




What if I want to eat out?


Fast food and meals from restaurants generally have nutrition information available online. If you cannot find carb information for something, ask the staff of the restaurant if they will supply it for you. The restaurant may not have this information available, so you will have to approximate based on the ingredients. Calorie King is a useful tool which provides carbohydrate counts from meals at national restaurants. Be sure you read the carbohydrate information and not the calorie count when making your dosage calculations. After eating out, you may find it helpful to record the number of carbs in the meal by storing the information in a binder or in a note on your cell phone. The next time you eat that meal, determining the carb count and insulin dosage will be much easier.




Can I still eat fast food?


Yes, you can have fast food with diabetes. This should be eaten in moderation (for all adults and children, regardless of whether they have diabetes!). Fast food restaurants and large chain restaurants should have their nutrition information available online. If you cannot find carb information for something, ask the staff of the restaurant - they should be able to give it to you. Calorie King is a useful tool which provides carbohydrate counts from meals at leading national restaurants. Be sure you read the carbohydrate information and not the calorie count when making your dosage calculations! After eating out, you may find it helpful to record the number of carbs in the meal by storing the information in a binder or in a note on your cell phone. The next time you eat that meal, determining the carb count and insulin dosage will be much easier.





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