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Nutrition Tips for Diabetes in Children: Care Instructions


When your child has diabetes, it's very important to keep your child's blood sugar in their target range. This means that you need to pay attention to how often and how much your child eats certain foods. Your child can still eat what your family eats. This includes occasional sweets and other favourites.

Your child should try to eat a variety of foods and to spread carbohydrate throughout the day. Carbohydrate raises blood sugar higher and more quickly than any other nutrient does. Carbohydrate is found in sugar, breads and cereals, fruit, starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn, and milk and yogurt.

You may want to plan your child's meals and snacks with a dietitian or diabetes educator. They can help you choose the best foods for your child. There are lots of things you can do to help your child enjoy meals and stay healthy.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Learn which foods have carbohydrate and how much carbohydrate your child can eat. A dietitian or diabetes educator can help you and your child learn to keep track of how much carbohydrate your child eats.
  • Spread your child's carbohydrate throughout the day. Make sure they eat some carbohydrate at all meals, but not too much at any one time.
  • If your child needs mealtime insulin, you might be taught to adjust the amount of insulin needed to cover the amount of carbohydrate your child eats.
  • Follow recommendations from your child's dietitian or diabetes educator. Put vegetables and fruits on half the plate. Add a protein food on one-quarter of the plate, and put a whole grain food on the final quarter of the plate. Make water your drink of choice.
  • Here are some examples of carbohydrate servings:
    • Grains (whole grain foods) and starchy foods: These have about 15 grams of carbohydrates in a serving. Choose whole grain foods such as whole grain bread or crackers, oatmeal, and brown rice more often than refined grains. A serving is 1 slice bread (30 g, or 1 oz), 1/4 large bagel, 155 ml (2/3 cup) crispy rice cereal, 175 ml (3/4 cup) cooked oatmeal, 80 ml (1/3 cup) cooked rice, 125 ml (1/2 cup) cooked pasta, 125 ml cooked beans, lentils, or peas, 125 ml cooked corn, or 125 ml mashed potatoes.
    • Vegetables: Non-starchy vegetables that are low in carbohydrates. Choose a variety of colours. Low carbohydrate vegetables include: 250 ml (1 cup) raw leafy vegetables, or 250 ml other vegetables (cooked or chopped raw).
    • Fruits: These have about 15 grams of carbohydrates in a serving. Choose a variety of colours. A serving is 1 small apple or medium orange, 1/2 large banana, 125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped, cooked, or canned fruit, 125 ml apple, grapefruit, orange, or cranberry juice, or 30 ml (2 tablespoons) raisins.
    • Protein foods (milk and alternatives): These have about 15 grams of carbohydrates in a serving. A serving is 250 ml (1 cup) of milk, 175 ml (3/4 cup) of no-sugar-added yogurt, or 250 ml of plain, fortified soy beverage.
    • Protein foods (meat and alternatives): These have very little or no carbohydrates in a serving. A serving is 75 grams of meat, poultry, or fish, 60 ml (1/4 cup) of cottage cheese, 1 egg, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
  • Talk to your dietitian or diabetes educator about ways to add favourite foods into your child's meal plan. Your child can eat most foods now and then, as long as you include the amount of carbohydrate they have in your child's daily carbohydrate allowance.
  • Protein, fat, and fibre do not raise blood sugar as much as carbohydrate does. If your child eats a lot of these nutrients in a meal, his or her blood sugar will rise more slowly than it would otherwise.
  • Limit saturated fats, such as those from meat and dairy products, in your child's diet. This is a healthy choice, because people who have diabetes are at higher-than-average risk of heart disease. So choose lean cuts of meat and non-fat or low-fat dairy products. Use olive or canola oil instead of butter or shortening when cooking.
  • Ask your doctor about what type of daily activity is safe for your child. Exercise is important and can help manage blood sugar.

When your child eats out

  • It's a good idea for you and your child to learn to estimate the serving sizes of foods that have carbohydrate. If you measure food at home, it will be easier to estimate the amount in a serving of restaurant food.
  • If the meal you order for your child has too much carbohydrate (such as potatoes, corn, or baked beans), ask to have a low-carbohydrate food instead. Ask for a salad or green vegetables.
  • If your child uses insulin, check your child's blood sugar before and after eating out. This can help you and your child plan how much to eat in the future.

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