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June 18, 2008

Meal Planning, Food and Diet

Question from Mesa, Arizona, USA:

My 13-year-old niece has type 1 diabetes. She is sooooo skinny and seems to go to the hospital periodically with complications from diabetes. She eats sugar fairly often, not to raise her blood sugars, just because she likes candy. We have talked with her mom about limiting the amount of sugar and junk food she eats, but her mom says that it doesn't matter what she eats. So, my question are: Is it important to limit the amount of sugar and junk food a child with diabetes has? Why or why not? What are the side effects?


I would stress to your niece that it is important for everyone, including kids and adults with diabetes, to eat a healthy and well balanced diet. Limiting the amount of sweets and junk food should be included in everyone’s meal planning. That doesn’t mean that an occasional sweet can’t be worked into her meal planning, but it does include some diligence. If she has not recently met with a registered dietitian who specializes in diabetes meal planning, it might be worthwhile to refresh the meal planning component of diabetes, especially in light of her recent hospitalizations. This person can advise her of a proper calorie level and carbohydrate distribution to allow for proper growth and development.

Additional comments from Dr. David Schwartz:

Please see several other similar questions to this on this website. Depending upon the specific insulin plan and meal plan, the patient with diabetes has many more options, and even things such as candy and deserts can be eaten. Somehow, this seems to get translated as the patient can “eat anything they want;” that does not mean the patient can eat ‘whatever they want / whenever they want.’ It means, that if they properly dose insulin, then the food choice is permissible. I agree with Mr. Schurig: the family needs to review the meal plan with an R.D. and review if the insulin plan is appropriately matched.