Life is full of challenges for all teens, but having to follow a healthy diabetes diet plan can sometimes seem like one stress too many for teens with diabetes.
Here are our 5 favourite tips to help teens make the diabetes diet a natural and easy part of everyday life.
1. Stop looking at it as a ‘special diet’. In most regards, the diabetes diet closely follows the recommendations in the Canada Food Guide. This is a guide designed to help everyone, not just those with diabetes, stay at their healthiest and feel on top of life. It’s a great way to end up with a healthy overall glow, smart weight, enviable skin and hair, and a zest for living. Now that’s not a bad goal to aim for, right?
Get in the habit of loading up your plate with veggies and whole grains, and cut back on fatty, processed foods and empty carbs. When they see how good your plate looks – not to mention how amazing you look - chances are your friends will want to join you on your ‘diet’!
2. Portion control is one area where the diabetes diet can be a little more demanding than the Canada Food Guide. Make it easy on yourself by learning to use the Plate Method. This is a virtually fool-proof way of dividing up your plate, ensuring you end up with the right proportions of foods every meal.
It works like this:
- Half fill a regular plate with non-starchy vegetables. These include most veggies except white potatoes, peas, corn and winter squash.
- Fill the next quarter of your plate with grain foods or starch foods, such as whole grains cereals and breads, rice and pasta, or starchy veggies.
- Fill the final quarter of your plate with proteins like low-fat meats, poultry or fish or low-fat meat alternatives.
Don’t stack or heap up the portions!
Your meal will be complete with the addition of a low-fat milk serving or a light yoghurt plus a fruit.
For helpful information on meal planning, see our expert nutritionist’s blog article Healthier Alternatives for Diabetes Meal Planning.
3. Plan ahead to make life easier. If you know you are going to be eating out with friends at a restaurant chain, go online ahead of time to check out the menu. Most chain restaurants include a nutritional count on their websites, so you can easily decide on the most appropriate choice. Choosing ahead of time makes life much simpler when you come to order with your friends.
You may be interested to read our expert nutritionist’s blog article Eating out can work!
4. Got a sweet tooth? Talk to the dietitian on your diabetes team about ways to include occasional small servings of sugary foods in your diet. For most people with diabetes there are no ‘forbidden’ foods…just some foods that you may need to save for smaller portions on special occasions. See our expert blogger’s article on this site What type of sugar is best for blood sugar?
5. Brown bagging it for school lunches? Ask your parent to make an extra portion of healthy suppers like whole grain pastas, or brown rice, noodle or veggie dishes. Take to school ‘as is’ for lunch next day, or mix with some salad leaves and fresh tomato slices to make a tasty salad. Add a carton of low-fat milk and you’ll be wonderfully powered up to get through the school day.
Remember that as a student with diabetes, you should be allowed to eat and drink whenever necessary during the day. This should be covered in your Diabetes Care Plan, which will be lodged with the school admin. For more information, see our article Back-to-school tips for people with diabetes. You may also like to check out Diabetes Canada publication 'Standards of Care for Students with Type 1 Diabetes in School'.
Check with the dietitian on your diabetes team for specific recommendations for your personal diabetes meal plan. They will likely also have additional tips to help you master the diabetes diet through the teen years.
Quick tip –You will find some fantastic overall healthy eating tips in our video on this site: Healthy eating for people with diabetes.