Wellness Matters

My Child Has Been Diagnosed with Diabetes - What Can I Do?

November 24, 2014

More than 15,000 children have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and more than 5,089 with type 2 diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association.

Registered Dietitian Laura Reavis with Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center shares tips on how to care for your child to reduce long-term complications.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes happens when the pancreas stops making insulin, which is a hormone that helps the body’s cells use sugar (glucose) for energy. Without insulin, sugar stays in the blood instead of being used for energy.

Type 2 diabetes happens when the body can’t use insulin the right way or when the pancreas can’t make enough insulin.

The difference in the two types is that in type 1, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin and over time the body isn’t able to produce insulin at all. With type 2, the body still makes some insulin, but it can’t be used the right way.

So how do I help my child?

The main focus of treating both types of diabetes in children is normalizing their blood sugar levels to reduce the risk of long-term complications. Along with medication, proper diet and lifestyle modifications, diabetes can be managed.

For both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it is important to maintain a well-balanced diet, incorporate complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread or sweet potatoes, lean protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.

There are several differences in their nutritional and lifestyle recommendations:

For children with type 1 diabetes, limit their consumption of concentrated sugars, such as sodas, sweet tea, candy and cake. However, ensure proper growth and development with an adequate amount of calories and balanced nutrition throughout the day.

Type 1 diabetics are also prone to low blood sugar levels. Therefore, it’s important for caregivers to keep juice, sodas, or candy on hand to help regulate their blood sugar levels rapidly.

For children with type 2 diabetes, obesity is more prevalent. Therefore, diet and lifestyle modifications are not only focused on regulating blood sugar levels, but also focused on preventing weight gain and promoting weight loss.

Limit their consumption of concentrated sugars, as well as high-fat foods, such as fried or fast food and monitor meal portion sizes.

Type 2 diabetics are prone to have higher blood sugar levels. Therefore, it’s important for caregivers to ensure the child has a balanced diet paired with at least an hour of exercise daily, which promotes lower blood sugar levels.


If you need additional information or want help in developing an individualized disease management plan for your child, contact the Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center in Greensboro or Alamance Regional Medical Center for Medical Nutrition Therapy.  

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