Kids and diabetes: Find balance by combining exercise, healthy foods

2014-09-10 12:05:44 by Janet Haas, RN, CDE, as posted on the blog.

dd For activities lasting more than an hour, check blood sugar levels in the middle of the session.

A happy balance in life makes for happy people. And balance can be especially important for children with diabetes, who need to combine the right amounts of exercise and nutrition to maintain good health. So . . . what are the “right” amounts?


Children with diabetes should get a good session of heart-pumping exercise every day. Benefits include:


  • Weight management

  • Lower blood sugar levels

  • Enhanced energy and endurance

  • Optimal heart health


To ensure your child’s safety while exercising:



  • Check blood sugar levels before, during and after physical activity

  • Communicate with teachers, coaches and classmates

  • Have your child wear diabetes identification

  • Be sure your child eats snacks, as needed, and drinks plenty of fluids


For activities lasting more than an hour, check blood sugar levels in the middle of the session. Your child should exercise cautiously if blood sugar levels are above 300mg/dl and no ketones are present. Stop all activity if fasting blood sugar is above 250mg/dl and ketones are present. If your child has exercised excessively during the day, check their levels before bed and during the middle of the night.


If your child’s blood sugar levels are less than 100mg/dl, he should eat a high-carbohydrate snack before exercising. What is the right amount? Good snack choices to boost blood sugar levels pre-exercise include:



  • 1 cup light yogurt

  • 6 pretzel rods

  • ½ cup juice

  • 4 glucose tabs


One of the most common errors people make when serving meals and snacks to their child is to overdo serving sizes. Even if a food is a healthy choice, large portion sizes have excess calories and can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Correct serving sizes vary by age. Here are appropriate serving sizes for breads and grains:



 1-3 years       4-6 years         7 years-adultBread             1/2 slice         1 slice           1 sliceDry cereal        1/4-1/3 cup    1/3–1/2 cup      1/2-3/4 cupRice and pasta  1/4-1/3 cup      1/3 cup           1/2-3/4 cup

So, instead of randomly heaping spaghetti on a plate, think about portion size. For a more complete list of good serving sizes for a variety of foods, visit and search for “Serving Size Savvy.”

You can also download this nutrition bingo sheet to encourage your child’s healthy eating habits.

Janet Haas is a registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and diabetes program coordinator for Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology.


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