5 Tips to Pack Your Diabetic Child's School Lunch

5 Tips to Pack Your Diabetic Child's School Lunch

One challenge for many parents of diabetic children is that those children can be very picky eaters, but what they eat plays a critical role in managing their Type 1 diabetes. Building fun into each meal makes it more likely that your diabetic child will eat what you offer. Thoughtful and playful planning lets you create a tasty meal that your child will eat even at school, where you can't monitor meals. Follow these tips to make some great lunches for your child. These tips can also apply to diabetic adults.

1. Know your carbs

The carbohydrates your child eats directly influence the amount of insulin he or she needs to take. That means the healthy school lunches you prepare should provide the right amount of carbohydrates to balance the insulin your child takes during the day. This will make sure that your child has the energy to get all the way to the final school bell.

2. Plan your strategy

Depending on how your family lives, meal planning for your diabetic child can follow one of two strategies:

  • Consistent carbs and insulin. This plan ensures that every meal, including the school lunch, contains a set amount of carbs and that every dose of insulin is consistent with those carbs. This strategy makes it easier to measure and maintain carb and insulin levels, but might not offer the flexibility your family enjoys.
  • Flexible carbohydrate amounts with varying insulin levels. This plan allows children to have more input into their food choices, but also requires closer monitoring of their glucose levels through the course of the day.

3. Count carbs by portion size, not just serving size

Larger portions can also mean more carbs. Most food labels contain information per serving size, which may or may not reflect the portion size your child prefers. Be sure to count the carbs according to the size of the portion you're actually packing.

4. Watch for nutrition

Include carbs, fats and proteins in every lunch. With or without diabetes, many children don't get enough fiber, Vitamins C and E or calcium. Each day, children should get one to three cups of vegetables, one to two cups of fruit and two to three servings of dairy. An easy way to follow this recommendation is to include one-half to one full cup of vegetables, fruit and dairy in every lunch.

5. Make it fun

Today's clever food containers make it easier than ever to structure fun into your child's lunch. Tuck these strategies into their lunch box to gain giggles:

  • Place alternating cubes of ham and turkey breast into a checkerboard pattern. Add five mini carrots and five black olives to invite a quick game of Tic-Tac-Toe.
  • Roll cold cuts around low-fat string cheese sticks and slice into rounds. Add a packet of their favorite condiment for dipping.
  • Spread a Graham cracker with peanut butter. Place sliced grapes for the eyes, a triangle of melon for the nose and a string of string cheese as a smiling mouth. You can also arrange baby carrots in geometrical shapes like triangles or squares for extra fun.