Diabetes (Type 1) Basics and Nutrition

The nutritional needs of a child with diabetes are no different than a child without diabetes. All children need a diet that includes a variety of foods from each food group to stay healthy. A healthy diet should include a mix of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.  Carbohydrates break down into glucose, which is the body’s main source of energy. 

Insulin is needed for the body to use the glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the body is no longer able to make insulin, therefore insulin must be given. The amount of insulin must be matched with the amount of carbohydrate eaten.

A healthy diet needs to include carbohydrate foods.  Foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and milk are healthy food choices with carbohydrates.  Carbohydrate counting helps determine the amount of insulin to be given for that meal.  

  • Starches: Bread, cereal (sweetened and unsweetened), pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, peas, crackers, popcorn.
  • Fruits: Fresh, frozen, canned, juices.
  • Milk: Milk, yogurt.
  • Others: Cakes, cookies, candy chips, ice cream, jellies, jams, regular soda.

All foods, including sweets, can be worked into a health diet by counting grams of carbohydrates.   

There are many sources to help with carbohydrate counting such as food labels, restaurant guides, smartphone apps, books such as The Calorie King: Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter, and websites such as CalorieKing.

There are two main types of insulin therapies:   

Basal Bolus Multiple Injection Therapy (rapid- and long-acting insulin) and Insulin Pump Therapy (rapid-acting insulin):

  • Rapid-acting insulin is given for high blood glucose and whenever eating foods with carbohydrate
  • Blood glucose must be checked before giving insulin and before eating foods with carbohydrate

Split Mixed Insulin Injection Therapy (intermediate and rapid-acting or intermediate and short-acting insulins): 

  • Two insulin injections per day (usually at breakfast and dinner)
  • Need to complete eating within 30 minutes of the insulin dose being given 
  • Requires three meals and one to two snacks at specific times each day
  • A specific carbohydrate amount is eaten at each meal and snack
  • Check blood glucose before meals and before bedtime

Last Updated 06/2015