You may be wondering how to manage treats and desserts served at birthdays, school parties, religious/cultural or special events your family celebrates.
A good place to start is by planning ahead: know what is being served and when it will be eaten. If your child is a patient at Alberta Children’s Hospital, your dietitian can help you plan for special occasions.
Wondering about the carb content?Holiday Treat Carb Count Cheat Sheet
Myth: Kids with type 1 diabetes can’t eat sugar.
Fact: Kids with type 1 diabetes have the same needs for healthy eating as those without diabetes, which may include some treats and sugary foods, in balance with healthy food choices – you just need to match carb/sugar intake with insulin.
Your decisions regarding what treats your child with type 1 diabetes may eat (how much and how often) can be based on the same family rules and values you would have for your child without diabetes.
How to calculate the carb content of mixed recipes:Introduction to Counting Carbohydrates
However, if you choose to restrict your child’s sugar intake, you could make food less of a focus for holiday celebrations. For example, an Easter basket could include a small amount of chocolate, plus non-food items like hair barrettes, hockey cards, and small toys, or “free” foods such as sugarless gum and diet pop.
Sugar-free chocolates and candies are becoming more and more readily available.
- We have found a good selection at places like diabetes specialty stores in Calgary, and at Walmart everywhere. Walmart, for example, carries a variety of chocolates and candies in “no sugar added” format which contain sugar alcohols, making them lower carb, including: Russell Stover® (Peanut Butter Crunch, Chocolate-covered Coconut, Pecan Delight, Mint Patties); Werther’s® (Caramel Coffee, Caramel Mint), Hershey’s® (Caramel-Filled Chocolaty Candy), Reese’s® (mini Peanut Butter Cups®); Twizzler’s® (red licorice); Campino® (fruit and yogurt hard candies); and Life Savers® (WintOGreen® candies).
- To calculate how much carb is available in a product containing sugar alcohol, simply take the total amount of sugar alcohol and divide by 2 then subtract this from the total carb to find how much carb will actually be used by your body.
- If a product also contains polydextrose, you need to subtract all of this from the total carb because like fibre, your body cannot absorb any of this.
**Warning**: Products containing sorbitol can cause stomach upset and diarrhea, especially if eaten in large quantities. It is recommended by the Canadian Diabetes Association not to exceed more than 10 grams of sugar alcohols per day.
Basic Guidelines for Eating Out
Eating out can refer to eating at restaurants or any time you are away from home for meals and snacks (for example: family gatherings; lunch at a friend’s house).
Myth: Now that your child has diabetes, your days of eating out as a family are over.
Fact: Again, kids with type 1 diabetes have the same needs for healthy eating as those without diabetes, which may include some restaurant meals (fast food or otherwise), in balance with healthy food choices. If you ate out as a family before diabetes, you can continue to do so with diabetes — you just need to match carb content with insulin, a task that may require a bit more preparation for food prepared away from home.
These basic guidelines will allow your child to enjoy eating out:
- Know the meal plan well (if your child uses a meal plan).
- Plan ahead when possible. Know what is being served and when it will be eaten.
- Consult with your child’s dietician to help you plan for special occasions.
- Be familiar with portion sizes visually. This comes with practice by weighing and measuring at home.
- If you’re not yet adept at visual estimation of portion sizes, or not comfortable with the imprecision of estimation, you can bring collapsible measuring cups and a portable scale with you.
- Develop some useful Rules of Thumb that you can pull out when needed.
- Use available food values for fast food and chain restaurants. Many have carb values available in-house or on their websites – you can Google the restaurant name and “nutrition info” and then print off the nutrition guide to carry with you when you go out to eat. Or simply access the nutritional info from your mobile device while you’re at the restaurant.
The above information was significantly modified with permission from The Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic information handouts.
The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.
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