For Kids: Food Facts When You Have Type 1 Diabetes

You may think that people with type 1 diabetes can’t eat their favorite foods, but that’s not true. In fact, you can still eat most of the same foods your friends eat. You just have to balance what you eat with insulin. That may seem like too much to think about right now. But don’t worry. Your healthcare team will help you and your family plan meals and snacks that will help keep your blood sugar in your target range. You’ll feel best when your blood sugar is in range.Lunch showing grams of carbohydrates. 15 grams per slice of bread, 0 grams in lettuce, mayonnaise, and tomatoes, 13 grams in carton of milk, 30 grams in bag of pretzels, and 15 grams to 20 grams in apple.

What’s for lunch?

The energy in food comes from carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates raise blood sugar faster than other foods. This is why you must keep track of the number of carbohydrates that you eat. Carbohydrates are found in fruit and in starchy foods like potatoes. They are also found in dairy foods like milk. Let’s look at the different parts of a lunch to see how each one affects your body:

  • Bread is a starchy food, so it will raise your blood sugar. Bread also gives you energy. It’s OK to have some bread, just don’t eat too much.

  • Lettuce, tomato, and other vegetables have some carbohydrates, but not a lot. They won’t raise your blood sugar much. And they have vitamins and fiber, which help keep you healthy. In other words, eat lots of vegetables!

  • Mustard is mostly for flavor.

  • Mayo is mostly fat. Fat doesn’t usually do much to blood sugar. (But that doesn’t mean you can go and eat a lot of fat! Too much fat can cause other health problems.)

  • Turkey and other meats are mostly protein and some fat. Protein helps build muscle. It won’t raise your blood sugar too much.

  • A bag of pretzels has carbohydrates, lots of salt, and not many vitamins. You can eat these once in a while if you like.

  • Milk has it all: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. It also has calcium, which is good for your teeth and bones.

  • Apples and other fruits are sweet. That’s because they have natural sugar. This sugar raises your blood sugar. But like vegetables, fruits have lots of fiber and vitamins. So they are still good for you. Just make sure you don’t eat too much fruit.

Remember: You’ll need to use insulin to balance what and how much (portions) you eat. Your healthcare team will teach you and your parents how to do this.

Ready, set, go!

Before you leave home, make sure your blood testing, insulin injection, and low blood sugar supplies are ready to go. Your bag should be packed with:

  • Glucose tablets

  • Fast-acting sugar snacks like a juice box, fruit snacks, or candy, 

  • A “diabetes kit.” This kit should have:

    • Meter

    • Lancets or “pokers” (to prick your finger with when testing)

    • Small notebook (to write down your blood sugar test results)

    • Insulin

    • Syringe or insulin pen (and extra needles, just in case)

    • Alcohol wipes

    • Ketone testing strips (your healthcare team will explain how to use these)

    • Emergency phone numbers

    • Instructions for someone who might need to help you

Also, always wear your medical ID bracelet or necklace in case of an emergency. 


Still have questions about diabetes? Check out these websites:

  • American Diabetes Association

  • Children with Diabetes

  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation