Do you like to serve colorful and nutritious plates to your child? But, do you find it hard to convince your child to eat them? Or to eat anything really, especially when you need to hit a certain ratio of carbohydrates?
We all have some picky eaters at home. It’s a natural response for children to be picky eaters starting at 2 years old (usually)! This is a “gift” from mother nature that protects children from eating any new and unfamiliar foods that can harm them.
Fighting mother nature is hard, but children, even picky eaters, will eat eventually because they need the energy and nutrition.
Know that you are not alone in the fight of trying to provide the best possible nutrition for your child while being met with some resistance on their end.
But when your child has type 1 diabetes, a refusal to eat can be worrying.
In this article, you can find some easy tips on how to provide the best nutrition for a picky eater with type 1 diabetes.
Why is it so Important for Your Kid to Eat Properly?
Children need energy to grow up. Compared to an adult, a child needs twice as many calories to grow up and stay active. But they have smaller stomachs so they eat less in each meal, and tend to eat more times a day.
A good nutrition is essential for a kid with diabetes because it helps maintain normal blood glucose levels. Also, balanced levels of vitamins and minerals prevent weight swings and help your child stay healthy.
Now, because kids eat small portions and a lot of snacks, it can be tricky to balance insulin dosage and meal size. Regardless, maintaining the right energy and carbohydrate intake is crucial if you have a pre-meal insulin dosage prescription.
Planning meals ahead of time and not giving any snacks to your child up to 30 minutes before a meal are significant steps for maintaining a better diet for a child with diabetes. You can always include your child in the meal planning because by being involved in the process they’ll probably eat more of the served food.
What Can You Do If Your Kid Refuses to Eat?
Children always need their parent’s attention. But, most of the time, parents of picky eaters are giving more attention than needed, especially when their kids refuse to eat. This is the first thing that should change to improve a child’s nutrition.
If your child doesn’t want the served meal, try to not make a big deal out of it and offer one or two different options.
You can also try the following tips and tricks to increase meal intake:
- Go easy with new food items, and when there is new food to introduce try to get your child to prepare it with you. Get them involved!
- Introduce one new food item at each meal. Always combine new foods with some of their favorite foods.
- Never force your kid to eat or finish the full plate. This will only worsen their food habits and create bigger denial.
- You are the parent and you know your child the best. This means that you know what foods and cooking styles they like. Sometimes you can offer the same meal but with slightly different ingredients (omelet -> potato omelet).
- Make your child feel “in charge”. Children love to pick for themselves, so based on the ingredients you have at home, offer them two to three choices for the next meal and let them pick.
If the refusal to eat is a matter of attention, try spending some time with your child after meals. Playing and taking a walk are some examples of what you can do together. This way, your child will get the “extra” attention and learn how to take it positively.
Your Kid Won’t Eat But The Bolus Has Been Injected
Now, what if your child still refuses to eat but you’ve already injected the next bolus of insulin as prescribed?
Here are a couple of suggestions to make sure you provide the needed carbohydrates:
- Give your child a cup of their favorite juice. There are between 20g-26g of carbohydrates in just one glass. After taking the juice, suggest something else to eat.
- Always keep some natural sweeteners like honey, date syrup, maltose, agave syrup, maple syrup, or chocolate cream at home. Give your child 1-2 tbsp. of the sweeteners. One tablespoon of sweetener has around 13g of sugar.
- Have glucose gels and glucose tablets at hand that are easily absorbed right after eating.
These easily digestible ingredients will help you prevent an insulin shock. You may also consider talking to your doctor about changing the insulin injection from before to after a meal. By changing the injection timing, you are giving yourself a little bit more time so your child can think and decide what they want to eat.
It’s important to know that before making any change related to your child’s diabetes, you have to contact their doctor. They might recommend something else.
Diabetic-Friendly Snacks for Children
Snacks are easy, tasty, and a favorite of children. Maybe because they don’t have to officially sit at the table and eat for a long time. Snacks provide fast energy and let your child stay active for longer.
Creating a meal plan for a child takes completely different rules than it does for us adults. Their small stomachs fit smaller meals and empty faster, so snacks are a great option for them to eat throughout the day.
There are a million healthy snacks, but choosing the right one that your child would love is a pure masterpiece. It’s well known that children love plain tastes with recognizable colors.
Here are some well-accepted, lower-carb children’s snacks:
1. Ants on a Log (Celery with peanut butter and raisins)
- 3 celery sticks
- ¼ cup natural peanut butter or almond butter (no added sugar)
- ¼ cup raisins (alternative: blueberries)
- Wash the celery sticks off and slice them into ~3 inch lengths.
- Spread some of your chosen nut butter onto the celery sticks.
- Top with raisins (the “ants”) and serve!
2. Ham and Cheese Rollups
- Deli ham, thinly sliced (alternative: turkey)
- Sliced cheese (cheddar, havarti, provolone, pepper jack)
- Place the meat onto a slice of cheese.
- Roll the meat and cheese into a pinwheel and slice into bite-sized pieces. Too easy!
3. Bell Pepper Dippers With Hummus
- 1 large bell pepper (red, green, yellow)
- Slice the bell pepper into strips.
- Use the bell pepper slices in place of crackers or chips to dip into the hummus. Enjoy!
There are plenty of recipes you can try. Some other easy snacks you can try to make at home are mixed nuts (almonds, pecans, peanuts, macadamias), cheese quesadillas using low-carb tortillas, or steamed/roasted vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli) with cheese.
Picky eating behavior is something normal and very common at a young age. As a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, it can be very stressful managing this period of eating denial.
Children need a lot of nutrients to grow up and they need highly nutritious food that will deliver these nutrients. Playing with your child in the kitchen and letting them help you cook might increase the chance that they’ll accept new foods faster and easier.
In case your child refuses to eat after you injected the insulin dosage, offer some fast-absorbing carbohydrate sources like syrups, tablets, gels, or jam. If you wish, consult your child’s doctor about changing the timing of insulin to avoid having to race to get some food in.
Managing your child’s food intake can be hard. Managing that and every other aspect of diabetes can be exhausting, especially when you’re juggling different devices, apps, and maybe even paper logs.
This is where Gluroo can help.
Our collaborative diabetes management app was designed to make managing diabetes simpler.
You can integrate your child’s CGM and insulin pump with Gluroo, log food intake, exercise, medication, and collaborate with other caretakers by chat.
Gluroo is the only app you’ll ever need, and it’s available on every device. Find out more about Gluroo or download it below.