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Kids with Diabetes Shouldn't Skimp on Whole Foods to Count Carbs

Youth with type 1 diabetes and their parents may skip on eating healthful foods in attempting to reduce the risks of low blood sugar

Monday, December 21, 2009

Youth with type 1 diabetes and their parents may skip on eating healthful foods in attempting to reduce the risks of low blood sugar, according to a paper published in this month’s Diabetes Care by researchers from Joslin and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Parents and their children describe healthy eating strategies in two somewhat contradictory ways, the study found. The first is to eat whole foods, while the second is to focus on the ease of estimating and controlling the carbohydrates consumed—leading some to favor processed, packaged foods.

Carb counting is the most common and flexible nutrition management approach for youth with type 1 diabetes,” says Lori Laffel, M.D., M.P.H, Chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Endocrinology at Joslin and senior author on the paper.

“However, healthful nutrition involves more than just carbohydrates." she adds. "A healthy and balanced diet also denotes attention to total calories, quality and quantity of fats, proteins and carbohydrates as well appropriate intake of vitamins and minerals.”

Youth with type 1 and everyone else benefit from eating fresh produce and whole foods, and estimating the carb content of those foods is straightforward, says Sanjeev Mehta, M.D., M.P.H., a physician in the Joslin pediatric clinic and lead author on the paper.

“There are a number of easy-to-use books and websites,” he notes. “It is also routine (and important) for families of youth with type 1 diabetes to meet with a nutritionist at diagnosis and generally at annual intervals. Also, a kitchen scale can be helpful to weigh fruits or whole foods in order to determine the carb amount.”

Page last updated: July 25, 2014