Health & Medicine

Tips for packing a lunch for those with diabetes

Recent data states that 215,000 Americans under the age of 20 have been diagnosed with diabetes. That's about 1 in 400 children and adolescents, according to the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet. Even more alarming is that diabetes among youth in Kentucky is about three times the national average.

Whether you are a parent of a child newly diagnosed with diabetes, or your family is already navigating this challenging path, conceiving and preparing a healthy and nutritious bag lunch can be a challenge. The number one tip to remember is that a diabetes-friendly meal plan is not all that different from the meal guidelines for all Americans, and there is no "one size fits all" guideline for people with diabetes. However, monitoring carbohydrate intake remains a key goal. The best carbohydrate sources are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes because they are high in fiber and nutrients and can help maintain a steady glucose level. Choose these over other sources, which may be high in added sugar, salt, and fat.

What should I pack for my child's lunch?

A nutritious and filling lunch may consist of a sandwich on whole grain bread, a homemade treat, fresh fruit, fresh veggies cut into slices or sticks, bottled water or 1 or 2 percent milk.

Include a variety of foods each day including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean protein. Sweet treats can have a place in a meal plan in small amounts. Pack water or unsweetened beverages instead of soda, sweet tea, or other sweetened drinks. Eat meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day, with consistent levels of carbohydrates in each. Overloading on one type of food or going hungry can wreak havoc on blood sugar and cause serious health complications.

My child gets upset because her lunch is "different" from that of her friends'. What can I do?

Allow children to be involved, when possible, with the food choices. Having control over what's in their lunch box may help them to be satisfied with what they are eating. Work with your child to make a chart of sandwich, fruit/veggie, and sweet treat options. You can keep this on the refrigerator and have your child pick one choice from each of the columns to customize a different lunch every day.

I need a list of quick and portable snacks that work with our meal plan.

Try these: easy-to-peel whole fruit like clementines, small apples, and pears; make-your-own trail mix; yogurt with a little dry cereal for crunch; raw vegetables with hummus; apples and nut butter; individual cheese sticks.

Who can I talk to for help?

It is easy and tempting to turn to the Internet for diabetes advice. If you do, be sure to choose websites that end in .gov, .edu, or .org. These websites will contain the most reliable and up-to-date information. Of course, work with your registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to develop a personalized meal plan.