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January 24, 2001

Meal Planning, Food and Diet, Social Issues: Community Resources

Question from Pensacola, Florida, USA:

My five year old year old son was diagnosed with type�1 diabetes a month ago. I am looking for support groups, or chapters in our area. I would very much like to be able to talk with other families with a child with diabetes. I have a tough time finding "free" foods for my son. He is always hungry, but is limited to a 1500 calorie diet. Can you please help me?


Your son should stop being hungry pretty soon — if not already. The hunger shortly after diagnosis is a way for his body to catch up on nutrition he was losing before the diagnosis was made. If his meal plan is balanced, he should be ready to eat at his next meal or snack without excess hunger. If he is still hungry and blood glucose levels are in the 100-180 mg/dl [5.6-10 mmol/L] range most of the time, then he may need more food. Talk to your diabetes team and ask them to make a food adjustment.

As far as support goes, the parent chat rooms here — and also at Wizdom at the American Diabetes Association site — or similar ones at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation site are all available. They can tell you where the nearest ADA or JDF chapters are to your home — and give you some contact numbers/names. You may also want to get Insulin-Dependent Diabetes in Children, Adolescents and Adults, an excellent teaching manual, by Dr Ragnar Hanas.

Additional comments from Dr. Larry Deeb:
Your local American Diabetes Association and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation chapters should be able to provide you with a list of support groups in your area.


[Editor’s comment: Your son’s body was starving prior to diagnosis, and he probably lost some weight. It is not unusual for children with diabetes to need a lot more calories in the period immediately following diagnosis than they would normally require. These days, most dietitians experienced in working with children with diabetes will not restrict calories at this juncture. Rather, these children are allowed to let their appetites be the guide for what they need to eat, and then insulin is adjusted accordingly. Research has shown that this avoids a number of psychosocial complications.

In a month or so, your son’s appetite will decrease as his body replaces what it lost in the period prior to diagnosis. In the meantime, however, I think you should set up an appointment with your son’s dietitian to develop a satisfying meal plan.

In addition to contacting the local ADA and JDRF chapters, I have a couple of suggestions:
There is another wonderful book, called Sweet Kids: How to Balance Diabetes Control & Good Nutrition with Family Peace by Betty Brackenridge and Richard Rubin, that I think would benefit you greatly now and in the future.
Log on to our Chat Rooms. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s a great way to meet other parents, going through or having gone through what you are trying to cope with.
I know that it probably seems impossible right now, but things will get better. The key is to learn as much you and to remember that your son is not a diabetic, but a child who happens to have diabetes.