Fun meals and snacks to help you nourish your child with diabetes and put your whole family on the path to healthier eating.
As a registered dietitian working with young children and teenagers with type 1 diabetes, I know many parents and children have questions about how their lives and diet will change after diagnosis. The truth is, when it comes to diet, not much has to change. The same ideas apply as would for any child, eating a variety of healthy foods to promote growth and development.
There are two mains types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects the body’s ability to produce insulin, which in turn controls blood glucose (sugar) levels. People with type 1 diabetes need to give themselves insulin either by injection or with an insulin pump.
Children with this type of diabetes (an estimated 45,000 in Canada) do not need to follow a certain diet. They are taught to count carbohydrates and match their insulin dosing to what they eat. When working with these families, I aim to promote a healthy lifestyle that includes balanced eating, mainly following Canada’s Food Guide, in addition to maintaining an element of fun with food.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is influenced by lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise and is on the rise among children. Managing this chronic disease usually involves making changes towards a more active lifestyle and balanced eating on a meal plan, where one would also count carbohydrates (these days, counting carbs is much easier with apps such as Dietitians of Canada’s EaTracker.ca).
Here are some fun meal and snack ideas to help you nourish your child with diabetes and put your whole family on the path to healthier eating, as sometimes we all need a bit of inspiration.
- Try a cinnamon bun smoothie: Add one banana, 1 cup milk, ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt, ¼ cup old fashioned oats, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, ¼ tsp cinnamon and blend until smooth.
- Grab no-bake energy balls instead of granola bars: kids can help and they freeze well.
- Swap peanut butter toast for peanut butter apples: Core and slice an apple and spread with peanut butter. Add a sprinkle of granola and a couple of chocolate chips to jazz it up!
Try bento box-style lunches. Pinterest is packed with bento box ideas, or find an app or website that sends ideas weekly via email, such as SuperHealthyKids.com.
Great bento lunches can include:
- fresh vegetables and fruit cut into fun shapes
- sliced up tortilla wraps with meat, cream cheese and cucumbers or lettuce inside
- pita chips or wedges of whole wheat naan bread with hummus
- mini pancakes made with pumpkin, banana or applesauce with vanilla yogurt for dip
- boiled eggs or muffin tin quiches
- pasta or quinoa salads
- Create a spiralized vegetable pasta dish using half whole wheat spaghetti and half of a spiralized vegetable, such as zucchini. Top with your favourite pasta sauce.
- Make a taco pizza. Use naan or flatbread toasted and top with a thin layer of sour cream and cream cheese combined, seasoned ground meat, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and grated cheese.
- Try this quick Asian bowtie pasta dish, perfect for dinner on a busy day and in a bento box the next day.
Asian Bowtie Pasta
Adapted from SuperHealthyKids.com. One serving has 36 grams of carbohydrates.
- 1 red bell pepper, red
- 8 ounces farfalle/bowtie pasta
- 2 stalks green onions
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 3 cups rotisserie chicken
- 2 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce, low sodium
- 2 tbsp. sesame oil
- 2 1/2 tbsp. honey
- 1 1/2 tbsp. vinegar, rice wine
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 3 tbsp. sesame seeds
Boil and cook pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside when done.
While pasta is cooking julienne bell peppers, dice green onions, chop cilantro, and chop rotisserie chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Return the pasta pot back to the stove and add the olive oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, and rice wine vinegar. Heat over low until the honey has melted. Remove from the heat and add the pasta, toss. Add the bell peppers, chicken, green onions, cilantro, pepper and sesame seeds and serve.