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The Best Diet for Kids with T1d: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers

*Disclaimer: All content and information in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only.

This article was medically reviewed by Amanda Ciprich, MS, RD. Last updated on 3.12.24

Parents and caregivers of children living with type 1 diabetes often are faced with a unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to navigating what to feed their child. While it is understood that excessive sugar intake isn’t the root cause of type 1 diabetes, parents and caregivers often find themselves navigating through a maze of conflicting information on what is the best diet for their child.

From fad diets to strict meal plans, parents and caregivers are open to experimenting with various strategies to effectively manage their child’s blood sugar levels. However, finding the right balance between blood sugar management and overall health can be overwhelming and daunting. This blog post will offer clarity and guidance by exploring the best diet practices for children with type 1 diabetes to support their child’s diabetes management and overall well being. 

Key components of a balanced diet for children with diabetes

A diabetes-friendly diet for children with type 1 diabetes involves being mindful of food selections that impact blood sugar levels while providing essential nutrients for growth and development. Nutrition recommendations for children with type 1 diabetes are based on healthy eating principles that are suitable for all children and their families that includes:

Emphasis on balanced nutrition

Children with type 1 diabetes require a consistent source of energy to support their growth. Prioritizing a diverse range of nutrient-rich foods, including lean proteins, healthy fats, and fiber-rich carbohydrates, can support growth and development while aiding in blood sugar management. 

Incorporating carbohydrates alongside protein, healthy fats, and fiber can effectively mitigate the rapid digestion and absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, contributing to improved blood sugar management. Additionally, balanced nutrition ensures that children receive vital vitamins, minerals, and calories from various food groups to foster their overall well-being.

Being mindful of blood sugar levels

Being attentive to blood sugar levels is critical in establishing a diabetes-friendly diet for children. This entails regular glucose monitoring and adjusting insulin doses as necessary to maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. 

Considering overall long-term health

While managing blood sugar levels is prioritized in children with type 1 diabetes, it’s essential to consider broader health factors that influence their overall well-being, too. Alongside blood sugar management, factors such as cardiovascular health, mental well-being and overall lifestyle habits should be taken into account to ensure comprehensive care.  

Having consistent meal times

Establishing regular meal times throughout the day to maintain stable blood sugar levels and support optimal insulin utilization. Consistency in meal timing helps regulate blood sugar levels and ensures that insulin doses are appropriately timed to match carbohydrate intake, promoting better glycemic management.

Encouraging adequate hydration

Adequate fluid intake is essential for overall health, digestion, and blood sugar regulation in children with diabetes. Encouraging children to stay hydrated helps maintain proper bodily functions and supports blood sugar management. By prioritizing hydration alongside balanced nutrition and blood sugar monitoring, parents and caregivers can contribute to their child's overall health and well-being.

Special considerations and challenges

Parents and caregivers of children with type 1 diabetes may face special considerations and unique challenges including:

Treating low blood sugar episodes

While it's important to be mindful of overall sugar intake as part of a balanced diet, the priority during low blood sugar episodes is to raise blood sugar levels quickly and effectively to avoid potential harm. It is crucial to treat low blood sugar promptly with fast-acting sugar, such as Transcend Glucose Gels or Shots  because untreated low blood sugars can have serious consequences if left untreated. The amount of sugar consumed to treat hypoglycemia is typically relatively small and is outweighed by the immediate need to restore blood sugar levels to a safe range.

Adjusting for growth and development 

As children with type 1 diabetes grow and develop, their insulin needs and dietary requirements may fluctuate. Adjustments to diabetes management and diet during growth spurts and developmental stages are necessary to ensure optimal blood sugar management and caloric intake to maintain growth and development..

Physical activity levels

Balancing physical activity with adequate food intake and insulin dosing presents a challenge in managing type 1 diabetes in children. Ensuring sufficient energy for activities, growth, and development while preventing hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia requires careful planning alongside the diabetes care team.

Picky eating behaviors

Picky eating behaviors can complicate meal planning for children with type 1 diabetes. It may be difficult to predict food consumption accurately, leading to challenges in estimating insulin dosage. Some parents opt to administer insulin after meals to avoid hypoglycemia if too little food is eaten, although this approach may impact glycemic management. Working with a dietitian can help develop strategies for managing picky eating while maintaining blood sugar management.


Collaboration with healthcare professionals such as diabetes educators or registered dietitians can provide parents of children with type 1 diabetes ongoing education and resources to help navigate the challenges of managing type 1 diabetes effectively while ensuring the child's nutritional needs are met.

About Amanda Ciprich, MS, RD

Amanda Ciprich, a registered dietitian with a specialization in type 1 diabetes, was diagnosed with T1D herself at the age of 18. With her expertise and personal experience, she has authored two books, including "The Caregiver's Guide to Diabetes: Practical Advice for Caring for Your Loved One." As the founder of T1D Nutritionist, a virtual insurance-based private practice, Amanda provides counseling and guidance to individuals with T1D and their families, supporting them in effectively managing diabetes.

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