Nutritional Needs

Children & Adolescents

Your child’s dietary requirements are no different from a child without diabetes. Focus on balanced and healthy eating. A great start is using the U.S. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate guide for eating and adjusting it based on your child’s preferences.

Since family members without type 1 diabetes should be eating the same healthy well-rounded diet as the child with diabetes, it often helps to have the same food rules for the entire household. If the cookies aren’t healthy for the child with diabetes, then the cookies are not healthy for the sibling without diabetes.

It is helpful to eat consistent meals and schedule insulin injections at the same time every day. This aspect of type 1 diabetes management is challenging at certain ages. Teens are busier with social and after-school activities, and they are also transitioning to managing their diabetes without the help of their parents or caregivers. Toddlers tend to be grazers and getting them to sit down for scheduled meals/snacks can be challenging.

Insulin needs change as a child grows and develops, which can make it tricky.


Young Adults

Often there is a transition in dietary habits when a young person moves away from home for the first time. The options for eating in college are often less healthy and unscheduled. For people with type 1 diabetes this can be a challenge, and this is a good time to see a registered dietitian to review how to approach the new food environment.

Nutritional needs vary depending on your level of physical activity. If you are training for a marathon, you will need a different nutritional program than if you are playing basketball with your friends on the weekends. It’s helpful to work with a dietitian to learn how to eat before, during, and after activity.

If you are in a serious relationship, consider bringing your significant other to a meeting with your dietitian. Food is an integral part of daily life, and it can help to have everyone understand its role in diabetes management. This doesn’t mean that a spouse or partner should police your eating habits. Learning how to eat well together is the goal.


As we age, our basic metabolic rate falls and the number of calories we need to eat declines. People often say,“I don’t understand why I’m gaining weight—I’m eating the same amount of food I always ate.” And that is the answer: you can’t eat the same amount of food you always ate and stay lean; you must gradually cut back your intake over time. This is true whether or not you have diabetes.

Diabetes may bring extra challenges such as gastroparesis, or heart or kidney disease. Even if you have no significant complications, visiting a dietitian for a refresher from time to time will be helpful, especially if your weight has changed.