It’s back to school time for children across the country, and that means it’s time for moms and dads to get their thinking caps on about how to prepare nutritious and filling lunches for their kids.
The task can be cumbersome for all parents, but factor in the additional requirements for little ones with diabetes, the task can be even more challenging.
According to Amanda Kirpitch, a certified diabetes educator at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University, food choices for patients with diabetes can be similar to the choices for other children.
The key is ensuring that the carbohydrate count of the food is clear, so an accurate insulin dose can be provided. We asked Kirpitch for some tips and tricks for packing a d-friendly lunch, and we’re excited to share them with you.
What Is the Key to Packing a d-Friendly Lunch for Kids?
“Providing a nutritious lunch that has a good amount of variety is important for all children and those with diabetes are no exception,” says Kirpitch. “Including a protein, some fruit, vegetables and a treat is usually a good rule of thumb for any lunch.”
She says it’s important to recognize that the child may not eat everything that’s included in the lunch.
If this is a common occurrence for your child, she says to consider if dosing for the meal after the child has finished eating is an option and add up the carbohydrates of only the foods that are consumed.
How Can High Blood Glucose be Avoided After Lunch?
“It can’t always be avoided,” Kirpitch says. “Some things that may lead to high glucose would be forgetting to take insulin,” she says, in which case, depending on the child’s age, a nurse may need to be involved in this process.
Another common reason for high glucose could be if a child shared a treat from another child’s lunch. “It’s important not to punish the child for the choice,” she advises. “Allow the child to feel comfortable enough to share that this occurred so insulin can be dosed accordingly.”
Certainly, other factors such as activity and stress can also impact glucose levels. Making sure to recognize this and adjusting the dose later in the day as needed to count for the high level is part of the management.
How to Prevent Low Blood Glucose After Lunch?
Making sure there are plenty of choices in the lunch bag so that if one item isn’t chosen, there is something else to grab with an equal amount of carbohydrates is key, according to Kirpitch.
She says having a juice box, milk or fruit on hand can help to easily make up the carb value for missed intake.
If the child is younger, a nurse or other assistant could help with this at school. It might be a good idea to discuss your child’s needs at school and see if anyone can assist your child with their lunch, especially if lows are a concern for your child.
What Are Common Things to Avoid When Packing a Lunch?
“Avoid things that will spoil easily or not hold their presentation after a morning in a lunch box,” Kirpitch advises.
She also says to avoid choosing items that the child is unlikely to eat. Also, lunch-time at school is not the best time to try out new foods. Experiment with new choices on the weekend instead.
Any Other Suggestions for Little Ones?
Kirpitch suggests allowing children to participate in making the lunch. “The more involved they are in the process the more likely they are to eat it,” she says. “Having a bunch of choices laid out and letting the child decide what to pick from different food groups can work well.”
As the child grows, they may be able to start making their own lunch, which will help in making sure it gets consumed as well.
Helping kids understand that eating their lunch will help them feel their best throughout the day is also important.
Talking with kids to understand what might be difficult for them about eating lunch and managing their diabetes may help with future lunch-prep as well, especially as they grow.
8 Approved D-Friendly Back-to-School Lunch Ideas:
1. Healthy Sandwiches
Healthy sandwiches on grain or whole wheat bread are a classic go-to. Add lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, avocado and turkey. Avoid soggy bread by packing cherry tomatoes and carrots on the side.
2. Pasta Salad
A fun vegetarian pasta salad made with macaroni pasta and pesto. Shape avocado into balls and stars using a melon scooper or cookie cutter. Lightly brush avocado with lemon and pack in an air-tight container. Try spiralizing in some zucchini noodles.
3. Vegetables and Dip
Add a mix of carrots, cucumber and celery to give your kid’s lunch a crunch. Pack a favorite dip or hummus in a separate container. A small fruit will make a perfect side.
4. Yogurt Cups
There are lots of great yogurts to choose from. Check the sugar and protein content before placing them in your cart.
Investing in a good Thermos for soups, such as minestrone, butternut squash or green pea, can be a filling and healthy choice.
6. Boiled Eggs, Chicken Nuggets and Veggies
Boiled eggs, chicken nuggets, broccoli, tomatoes and carrots with a side of kiwi. Kids love to nibble. Pack an assortment of filling finger foods.
Wraps can be a delicious change from the everyday sandwich. Make it exciting by spreading a healthy tortilla with hummus or cream cheese. Layer in some filling choices like grilled chicken on a bed of spinach. You can add crunch with shredded carrots and cucumbers.
8. Cheese and Crackers
Cheese and crackers are always a great, portable snack. Keep the cheese and meats separate and have your little one assemble them on their own.