11 expert tips on how to help kids and teens deal with diabetes
We often talk about dealing with diabetes in adults. But managing diabetes in kids, whether it is type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, is an arduous task. During childhood, many physical changes take place along with mental and emotional development. There are many factors such as peer pressure, social events and an active life that may interfere with the teen’s ability to translate the awareness of their condition into good self-care.
Ms Charu Bhardwaj metabolic balance® coach & nutritionist, Aktivortho says it is critical to monitor blood glucose. Many children do not like checking their blood sugar level and avoid doing it because –
It is uncomfortable and time-consuming and losing even a single minute of play or party time means a lot for a child.
Every time they go for a check-up, it is a kind of reminder that they have diabetes and are different from their friends.
They are answerable for every blood sugar reading,= whether less or more than the usual range as parents often tend to seek clarification for everything.
It also induces guilt as they may know that they are doing something wrong, but are not able to do anything about it. So they may feel it is better not to check the blood glucose level.
They sometimes get disheartened by the results, especially if it doesn’t reveal their efforts to manage their glucose levels. It’s normal for children or adolescents to feel sad, angry and fed up with diabetes at times. Read more about managing diabetes in children – 10 common queries answered.
How to deal with it?
Every child is different and hence, their capacity to deal with the demands of diabetes differs. But every child needs their parents’ help and support to control the blood sugar level and keep a tab on the readings. Here are some tips from our expert Ms Charu Bhardwaj to ease your child’s move to diabetes self-management.
1. Keep the child involved: Ensure that the child is engaged in the diabetes management routine right from the beginning, which can help them in choosing the site of injection site or using a blood glucose meter. This involvement boosts independence and confidence in kids. However, parents should keep an eye on the child’s diabetes care as diabetes management is a heavy burden to carry alone.
2. Praise the child freely: There is no harm in giving them an inflated ego if they show an improvement in blood glucose control. Moreover, a positive reinforcement will only result in boosting the child’s confidence and help them to manage their condition in a better way and achieve the desired outcome.
3. Make healthy food choices: To keep the blood glucose and weight in a healthy range, focus on when to eat, what you eat and how much to eat. Also, read about how to deal with juvenile diabetes with a balanced diet.
When to eat: Ensure that the meals are spread throughout the day with three healthy meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also, try to eat at the same time every day.
What you eat: You do not need a specific diet plan, but eating in moderation and making healthy food choices is the key. Stay away from foods that are high in fats and have a high glycemic index. Here how diabetics should get nutrition from different food groups:
Carbohydrates: As carbohydrates from the basic source of energy, Metabolic Balance®, a German nutrition program suggests the intake of low glycemic load cereals for regulating the insulin levels of the body. Include whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat bread, rye and barley along with healthy fruits and vegetables in their diet without fail.
Proteins: It is important for overall growth and development of the body. Foods rich in proteins that are healthy for diabetics include beans, peas, lentils, milk, yoghurt, cheese, soy products, fish, chicken, lean meat and eggs. Charu Bhardwaj suggests having a good quality and quantity of protein at each meal to slow down the sugar release and keep you full for a long time. It also recommends having different types of protein at each meal so as to complete the intake of the essential amino acids during the day.
Healthy fats: Unlike popular belief, using oils such as canola oil, olive oil, or mustard oil is a healthy choice for diabetes. This is because, it decrease the glycemic load of the food and thus, slower conversion to sugar, reducing the need for insulin from external sources (medication/ injections). Hence, eat foods with healthy fats such as nuts, olives, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon and tuna.
How much to eat: Try filling your plate with a balanced portion of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vegetables/salad and cereal. Eat smaller portion at every meal as they help you to maintain a healthy weight. If you are hungry after a meal, having a piece of a fresh fruit or a salad with low-fat dressing is not a bad idea.
4. Follow the proper eating order: All individuals, especially diabetics should try to start their meal with protein. Having a few bites of protein (dal, egg, yoghurt, chicken, etc.) first help in slowing down the conversion of carbohydrate to sugar and also helps in keeping your stomach full. Here are some more tips to manage type 1 diabetes in children.
5. Stay hydrated: We all need to stay hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water per day. Even drinking milk, tea, coffee or herbal teas, all contribute to the overall fluid intake. But keep in mind that tea and coffee are diuretics, which removes excess water from the system quickly.
6. Avoid processed foods: As these are loaded with salt and unhealthy oil, it is wise to stay away from processed foods. Also, avoid bread and pasta made from refined wheat. Also, lower your intake of eating sweets as they will add up the overall carbohydrate intake, which can affect your blood glucose level. Hence, avoid loading up foods rich in carbohydrates in the same meal to control diabetes.
7. Eat sweets wisely: One should have sweets with or after a meal, rather than eating separately as it can cause your blood sugar level to spike when had separately. However, if taken along with other healthy foods as part of the meal, it won’t cause a sharp rise in the blood glucose. blood sugar won’t rise as sharply.
8. Cut down on soft drinks, soda and juices: If you miss your carbonation kick, try sparkling water with a twist of lemon or a splash of fruit or fruit juice. But limit adding sweeteners to tea and coffee for an effective result.
9. Perform regular physical activity: Indulge in 30-60 minutes of exercise every day at a stretch or you can break it up into 20 minutes, three times a day. And most important, spending time watching TV and on a computer should be less than two hours every day.
10. The quality of food matters : Eat right servings of food and be active. This can help with your blood glucose control and prevent weight gain. The quality of food is very important for controlling the quantity. Taking wrong quality and quantity food can cause your blood sugar to dip.
11. Take medicines on time: Whether you are on pills or insulin, it is important to take your medications on time and as instructed by your doctor to control your blood glucose level.
It is best to educate children or teens on insulin carbohydrate counting, and it is a well-established therapeutic measure for type 1 diabetes management. This gives a lot of flexibility on adjusting the meal time insulin according to the carbohydrate contents of the food which helps in stabilising the glycemic control.