Every parent wants to feed their kids well, but having a child with type 1 diabetes seems to magnify that feeling. Our kids can benefit tremendously from the advantage of lifelong healthy eating habits as part of a strategy for keeping blood sugars as level as possible.

Over the years I’ve written about our family’s attempts at eating more healthfully. Here are the tips that have proven the most valuable to us.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of eating a meal together as a family. I’ve heard so many experts talk about the benefits of eating dinner together. Our family has experienced this, and the enjoyment of the meal paired with good food helps teach my kids about healthy eating.
  2. Of course, if dinner is hard to swing, we’ve discovered we can gain a lot of the same benefits by eating together in the morning instead of the evening.
  3. When planning meals, I have found one particular technique that helps me to make healthy options that appeal to all the picky eaters in my family, including my son with diabetes: Introduce nutritious new foods as part of an optional “toppings” bar. Read all about it here.
  4. Our eating style is decidedly child-friendly — not too complicated or filled with expensive ingredients but really creative. When you need more inspiration, finding a cookbook that fits your style and your family is really helpful. For me, I’ve found this book to be invaluable. Listing carb counts for the various meals is a huge plus too.
  5. Snacks and treats between meals can sometimes be difficult to deal with. We have a great solution that we’ve come up with to handle excess treats, either given throughout the week or at a major candy holiday like Halloween. The kids willingly hand over all the sweets they collect, knowing we’ll dole them back out (three pieces per kid) every Friday at our family movie night. See how it works for us here.
  6. Speaking of unscheduled snacks, we used to avoid free samples at the grocery store and other tastes of food between meals since small bites can be tricky to dose for. But not anymore. We’ve actually been able to use them to expand our kids’ palates, and we’ve figured out how to help a kid with diabetes to enjoy them as well. Here’s how.
  7. Buffets don’t need to be off-limits either. They may seem daunting, but there are a few tricks that make them accessible to all.
  8. If the secret to lifelong healthy eating is exposure to new foods, here’s a tip from a nutritionist that’s really helped our reluctant eater broaden his options at mealtime. Hint: Sticker reward charts aren’t just for toddlers anymore.
  9. I’m a big believer in “tiny tweaks for better living.” Here are just a few small things we’ve done that have helped improve the nutritional value of our diet and James’ blood sugar control.
  10. Remember, changes take time. Just keep trying, and watch how your efforts at eating healthy gradually improve. A while back, I wrote about striving to make over the way my family eats little by little. It’s gratifying to look back and see that since I wrote it, I’ve made a lot of progress at feeding my family better, at better teaching my child with diabetes how to make healthy eating a way of life. I really believe that wherever we are in the healthy eating spectrum, we can improve if we sincerely want to and we take tiny steps toward that goal every day.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

Related topics:
5 Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters
In the Spotlight: Tips for the Trickiest Foods to Dose For
Sugar, Sugar (Results of Our Sweetener Taste Test)

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