Healthy Snacks for Kids with Diabetes
Healthy snacks are important for children with diabetes, whether they are dealing with type1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Snacks provide a way for children to recharge, manage their blood glucose levels, and sustain energy until their next meal.
When deciding what snacks to give your child, try to incorporate a variety of foods. Snacks for kids should come from the bread, dairy foods, and fruits and vegetables groups. You can also ask your child's doctor or registered dietitian for healthy snack recommendations, as well as how to monitor the carbs in your child's snack.
Here are healthy snack ideas for kids from three food groups.
- air-popped popcorn
- baked chips
- graham crackers
- low and no fat rolls, such as bagels (measure: half of a 3-inch bagel = 1 carb)
- low-fat crackers
- rice cakes with fruit spread or all natural peanut butter
- trail mix
- vanilla wafers
From the dairy foods group:
- frozen, low-fat, no sugar added yogurt or ice cream
- fruit smoothies (made with non-fat yogurt, fruit, skim milk, and ice cubes)
- low-fat cheese
- low-fat cottage cheese or ricotta
- low-fat milk
- low-fat yogurt
- string cheese
From the fruits and vegetables group:
- apple wedges
- baby carrots or carrot sticks
- banana slices
- celery sticks stuffed with low-fat cream cheese or natural peanut butter
- cherry tomatoes
- cucumber slices
- melon balls
- oranges and tangerine sections
- peach or pear slices
- raisins or yogurt-covered raisins
- strawberry slices
- tomato and vegetables juices
- unsweetened fruit juices
When shopping for these foods, be sure to read the nutrition labels, and watch for phrases, such as "low fat"—that doesn't always mean low in calories. Also, sometimes sugar is added for taste, which adds to the carbohydrate count.
Note that fat and cholesterol should not be limited in children younger than 2 years old because they are necessary for growth and development. After age 2, you can start incorporating more low-fat dairy products and leaner meat servings. Your child's food needs will continue to change as they grow.
Snack Tips for Children with Diabetes
- Store snacks in certain areas of the fridge for older children.
- Let children know the proper time to snack. The proper time for snacking is not 30 minutes before a meal. Teach your children to eat their snacks mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
- For younger children, pre-pack their snacks in colorful lunch boxes to make the snack special.
- Incorporate a variety of snacks so that children don't get bored eating the same ones.
- Dress up fruits and vegetables with dips made with peanut butter, low-fat sour cream, low-fat cream cheese, etc.
- Cut the fruits and vegetables into different shapes. Also make sure that the snacks are appropriate for your child's age.
- Never give children younger than 3 years old foods they can choke on like nuts, raisins, popcorn, raw vegetables, and fruits.
- Select snacks from several areas of the food pyramid so that "forbidden foods" will not hold so much power over your child.
- To offer your child a snack, suggest comparable snacks. Ask, "Do you want ice cream or yogurt," "apples or grapes?" Don't ask "Do you want pretzels or carrot sticks?"
- Give children the appropriate serving size. Small children need little to eat, while older children need more. For example, a 4-year-old may get one-fourth cup of frozen yogurt, while a 12-year-old may get three-fourths of the same treat.
Remember that snacks aren't truly snacks if they ruin your child's ability to eat the next meal. Also, don't give up if your child doesn't like a new food the first time he or she tries it. The next time, serve it again in another way. Don't fight over food or punish your child for not eating a new food. That sets both of you up for unhappy future meals.
Healthy snacks are essential for a child with type1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, so set a good example for your child. If your child sees you snacking on healthy foods, he or she will likely eat these foods, too.