Your diabetes team will adjust your child’s insulin plan according to factors such as age, stage of growth, development and eating patterns.
Snacking between meals is important for young children. This can reduce the risk of hypos occurring. Keeping carbohydrate-based finger foods well stocked is a good idea such as crackers, rusks, fruit fingers, and fruit.
If meal times become a battle and hypos occur as a result of poor carbohydrate intake, adjusting the insulin plan may help. A dietitian and diabetes educator can be very helpful with any queries regarding food and insulin issues.
Food fads, fussy eating, variable likes and dislikes and tantrums are common in toddlers – with or without diabetes. For the parent of a child with diabetes, these food behaviours are often an additional source of stress. In particular fears about hypos are common.
Although many parents worry that their child is not eating enough, the rate of growth usually slows around this age, so a reduction in food intake is common. A grazing style eating pattern with regular carbohydrate choices is encouraged.
Children of this age are very aware of parental stress, so where possible try to remain calm about your child’s mealtime behaviours.
It’s important to keep food choices simple and offer the choice between one or two foods.
Keep encouraging healthy food choices and resist the temptation to offer treats if your child refuses to eat.
You may find that changing from a bottle to a cup also helps encourage appetite at meal times.
Avoid bribes, force-feeding or following your child around the house trying to coax them to eat. Sometimes a simple plate of finger food without fuss is enough to encourage your child to eat.
Offering meals and snacks ahead of time or giving insulin after meals may also help reduce stress and avoid some of the problems that may arise with food.
There’s more to meals than food
For obvious reasons, carbohydrate foods often become the focus for parents and children with diabetes. Remember, for overall good nutrition and appropriate growth and development, other foods are equally as important. So don’t forget about increasing their variety of vegetables, lean meats and other protein foods.
It may be tempting to resort to any carbohydrate food such as sweets or juice to prevent hypos but this is not a nutritious habit to get into. Try to encourage a variety of food choices instead.
The importance of a flexible insulin regimen
If you are having difficulties with amounts and timing of your child’s food intake, discuss possible variations to the insulin plan with your child’s diabetes doctor or educator. If your child is refusing to eat and their blood glucose levels are not low, it may be okay to wait a short time before offering the meal again.
It may also be possible to make adjustments to the timing or dose of insulin to prevent hypos, or, consider an insulin pump. Talk to your diabetes team about possible changes to your child’s management plan.