When your child has type 1 diabetes, blood sugar levels and good dietary selections are two things that you’ll need to monitor closely. Even though there are no foods that children with diabetes can’t eat, some foods are better at helping control blood sugar levels than others.
Plus, a healthy, well-balanced, and nutrient-dense diet is good not just for diabetes, but for children in general.
And while it’s vital to concentrate on healthy options, it’s equally important to make sure that children can still enjoy their favorite meals within a diabetes-friendly framework because having diabetes doesn’t mean food has to be boring or tasteless.
The key is to swap foods that serve as “secret ingredients” and still have the same delectable flavors while also being wholesome and nutritious and equally appealing to young diabetic appetites.
This article will explore diabetic food swaps that can facilitate blood sugar management while making meals nutritious and appealing.
You can use Gluroo to log meals and experiment with swapped ingredients. Gluroo makes it simple to log a meal by typing, for example, “30g mashed cauliflower”. Then, you can easily compare the glucose trace from this meal to another, where your child ate “30g mashed potatoes”, and see the benefits immediately! You can download Gluroo for free today on Android and iOS.
19 Food Swaps That Are Diabetes-Friendly
By making small changes, you can make delicious, diabetic-friendly versions of popular delicacies that are also healthier and appealing to children. These meal swaps give kids, those who find it difficult to adhere to restrictions, the chance to still enjoy the flavors they love while controlling their blood sugar levels.
Let’s get into it, starting with breakfast foods.
Choosing breakfast requires careful consideration because it sets the stage for the rest of the day’s blood sugar levels. Here are some specific, nutritious food swaps to give children a good start to the day.
- Swap White Bread with Whole Grain Bread
Using whole grain bread for sandwiches and toast enhances fiber consumption and lowers blood sugar levels. Whole grain bread offers sustained energy release and a lower glycaemic index.
- Swap Morning Cereal with Oats
Oatmeal is a nutritious alternative to breakfast cereal for a child with diabetes. Whole grain foods like oats contain complex carbohydrates and fiber that assist blood sugar level control and are good for your child’s health in general. Instead of quick or flavored types, choose steel-cut or traditional rolled oats. Conventional “American” breakfast cereals are one of the most difficult (and least nutritious) foods to dose for.
- Swap Waffles or Pancakes with Protein Pancakes.
Blood sugar rises might result from traditional pancakes or waffles made with refined flour. Make protein pancakes with whole grain flour, eggs, and protein powder. Due to the higher levels of protein and fiber in these pancakes, there is a slower release of glucose into the blood.
- Swap Sugary Spreads with Nut Butter.
Natural nut butters like almond or cashew butter can be used in place of sweet spreads like jams or chocolate spreads. Nut butter contains protein, fiber, and good fats that help decrease the absorption of carbohydrates. Don’t let the name fool you – “Nutella” has very little “nut” and a lot of sugar.
- Swap Fruit Juice with Fresh Fruit.
Fruit juices often lack the healthy fiber found in entire fruits, making them potent sources of sugar. Encourage children to eat entire fruits like berries, apples, and oranges. Whole fruits give a delayed release of natural sugars along with vital vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Swap The Starchy Veggie with Leafy Green Veggies
Substitute starchy vegetables like potatoes, for non-starchy ones like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, or zucchini. Non-starchy veggies are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and have a lower glycaemic index. Mashed cauliflower is an excellent low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes.
- Swap High-Fat Meats with Lean Sources
Instead of fatty or processed meats, choose lean protein sources such as skinless chicken breast, turkey, fish, or tofu. Lean proteins are higher in nutrients and lower in saturated fats. It’s healthier to roast, bake, or grill.
- Swap White Rice with Brown Rice
Replace white rice with wild or brown rice. Due to their lower glycaemic index and increased fiber content, brown and wild rice help to control blood sugar levels and support digestive health. The low-carb alternative to rice is cauliflower rice, also a good option.
- Swap Pasta or Noodles with Whole-Wheat or Vegetable-Based Options
Instead of choosing conventional pasta made from refined flour, choose whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta is a superior choice for blood sugar control since it has a lower glycaemic index and more fiber.
Consider low carbohydrates substitutes like spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. These noodles made from vegetables offer more fiber and less carbohydrates. And when they’re covered in pasta sauce, it’s actually quite hard to tell the difference!
Recipe to Try
Cauliflower Veg Rice
- Cauliflower, cut into florets – 1 cup
- Sesame oil – 2 tbsp
- Peas – 1/4 cup
- Sliced carrot – 1/4 cup
- Light soy sauce – 1 tbsp
- Garlic powder – 1/2 tsp
- Black pepper – 1/4 tsp
- Eggs, lightly beaten – 2 pieces
- Bell peppers – 1/4 cup
- In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower until it resembles rice and is in small bits.
- Warm some oil in a big skillet over medium heat before adding the bell pepper, cauliflower, peas, and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes. Mix in the pepper, garlic powder, and soy sauce.
- Spray cooking spray in a small skillet, add the eggs, and scramble until they are frothy and light. The cauliflower and eggs should be thoroughly mixed.
- Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the cauliflower is soft.
- Serve and enjoy.
- Swap Normal Chips with Baked Vegetable Chips
Make baked vegetable chips in place of typical potato chips. You may create your own by slicing kale, beets, or sweet potatoes into thin slices and roasting them in the oven until crispy. Compared to conventional potato chips, these chips are lower in carbs, higher in fiber, and have less added sugar.
- Swap Nuts with Roasted Chickpeas.
Chickpeas are a good source of fiber, protein, and minerals. This substitution has a pleasant crunch, less added sugar and a lower glycaemic index.
- Swap Sugary Granola Bars with Trail Mix
Replace sugary granola bars or candy bars with homemade trail mix. Unsalted nuts, seeds, and a tiny quantity of dried fruit can be included in the mix. Dried fruit gives a touch of natural sweetness, while nuts and seeds provide fiber, protein, and healthy fats. With this substitution, you have a tasty snack with less added sugar.
- Swap Normal Cookies with Cheese and Whole Grain Crackers
Cheese and whole grain crackers can be used in place of sweet cookies or pastries. Select healthy grain crackers with less added sugar and low-fat cheese alternatives. While whole grain crackers supply fiber and complex carbohydrates, cheese offers protein and calcium. This substitution is healthier and more wholesome.
- Swap Flavoured Yogurt with Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt should be used instead of flavored yogurt. Greek yogurt has more protein and less added sugar than flavored yogurt. It aids in blood sugar stabilization.
Recipe to Try
Homemade Trail Mix
- Lightly salted almonds – 1/4 cup
- Lightly salted pecans – 1/4 cup
- Unsalted pistachios, in shell, roasted – 1/2 cup
- Raw pumpkin seeds – 1/4 cup
- Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips – 1 tbsp
- In a bowl, combine all the ingredients.
- If preferred, portion into servings of 1/4 cup.
- Keep in a cool, dry area.
- Swap Regular Muffin with Oat Muffins.
Mini oatmeal muffins can replace typical high-sugar muffins. Fruits should be added to a base of whole grain oats. Higher fiber content in oatmeal muffins facilitates digestion and controls blood sugar levels.
- Swap Ordinary Milk with Unsweetened Almond Milk.
Unsweetened almond milk can replace conventional cow’s milk. Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk is lower in carbs and has a lower glycaemic index. It gives pastries a creamy texture and a delicate nutty flavor without adding a lot of sugar.
- Swap Milkshakes with Fruit Smoothies
Smoothies made with low-sugar fruits, unsweetened almond milk, or Greek yogurt make a healthy and energizing dessert choice with fewer added sugars.
- Swap Ice Cream with Frozen Yogurt Popsicles
Frozen yogurt popsicles made at home can replace sugary ice cream. Use unsweetened almond milk, low-fat Greek yogurt, and fresh fruit puree for natural sweetness.
- Swap High Sugar Chocolate with Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate should be used as a substitute for sweet chocolate treats. To satisfy your sweet appetite while consuming less sugar, choose sugar-free or dark chocolate with a greater cocoa content. This swap has less added sugar and is suitable for diabetics.
Recipe to Try
Blackberry Yogurt Popsicle
- Fresh blackberries – 2 cup
- Plain Greek yogurt – 1 cup
- Artificial sweetener (stevia) – 1 tsp
- Wash and dry the blackberries.
- Smoothly combine the blackberries in a food processor or blender.
- Using a fine-mesh sieve to pass the crushed blackberries through to remove the seeds.
- Combine Greek yogurt, stevia, and the strained blackberry puree in a bowl. Stir well until everything is well-combined.
- Adjust the sweetness as needed.
- Fill popsicle molds with the blackberry yogurt mixture, leaving some room at the top for expansion. Popsicle sticks should be placed in each mold.
- Place the molds in the freezer and wait until they’re totally firm, at least 4-6 hours.
Tips & Tricks for Mealtime
With a few helpful pointers, incorporating food swaps into daily life for kids with diabetes can be easier and more enjoyable:
- Think of Unique Ways to Swap
By creatively displaying the food swaps, you can make them more enticing to the eye. Use colorful fruits and vegetables, arrange them in eye-catching patterns or shapes, and finish the dish with entertaining garnishes.
- Engage Kids in Food Preparation
Include your child in the decision-making process when establishing meal plans to encourage them to make better choices. Talk about their tastes, favorite foods, and look at healthier options together.
- Create New Recipes
Encourage your youngster to investigate and test out different dishes that use the food swaps. Your child can learn about various ingredients and cooking methods through this enjoyable and instructive activity.
- Make Gradual Adjustments
Give your child time to acclimatize by introducing dietary substitutions gradually. Replace one thing at a time to begin, then progressively increase the number of swaps as time goes on.
Diabetic food swaps give kids with type 1 diabetes a practical and efficient approach to managing their condition while still allowing them to eat the foods they love. Food swaps provide opportunities to involve kids in meal preparation, try out new recipes, and make mealtimes enjoyable and interesting.
Children can gain a better awareness of their dietary choices and take charge of their health by being included in the process.
And since you’re introducing a lot of new foods into your child’s diet, logging all their meals in an app like Gluroo becomes even more important. By doing so, if you want to repeat one of these new foods in the future, you can use Gluroo to check your child’s historic data and see how they handled that food in the past, without having to rely on your memory of all these different foods and your child’s reactions to them.
The way Gluroo gets this data is by integrating with your child’s CGM. It also integrates with insulin pumps, lets you log exercise and insulin doses, and so much more!
You can download Gluroo today for free. It’s available for Android and iOS.