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How to take the stress out of holiday eating for kids with type 1 diabetes

Here are some ideas that might make carb counting and keeping blood sugars healthy easier over the holidays for kids with type 1 diabetes.

Today's guest blogger is Megan Robinson, MS, RD, CDE, LDN, a clinical dietitian and certified diabetes educator at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who cares for children with diabetes, Turner syndrome and endocrine disorders.

The holidays are here and that means spending time with family, friends, and enjoying the delicious dishes and desserts of the season. But for kids with type 1 diabetes, holiday eating can be stressful. Some of the challenges my patients face during this time include figuring out when to eat, carbohydrate (carbs) counting, and how much insulin to take.

Luckily, most kids with type 1 diabetes are on flexible insulin regimens. All they have to do is match their insulin dose to the carb counts they plan to eat to keep blood sugars healthy. Sounds simple, right?  Well, here are some ideas that might make carb counting and keeping blood sugars healthy easier over the holidays.

1. Measure carb portions at home more often. I know you're not going to bring your measuring cups to your next holiday meal, but measuring your carbs at home can give you a better sense of how much you're eating at your holiday meal. You can then estimate how many carbs you plan to eat to dose insulin correctly.  Using food scales are also a very helpful tool to be more accurate with carb counting.

2. Use carb counting apps or web sites. If you search carb counting apps you'll come up with countless options to help with carb counting. Some apps to consider include, Calorie King, My Fitness Pal, and Meal Memory. Both Calorie King and My Fitness Pal apps have a food search so you can carb count common foods based on the food portions. The Meal Memory app is great to use when eating out or for the holidays. According to the app site, it's a simple self-tracking system that shows how each meal affected your blood sugars. Finally, SparkRecipes has a Recipe Calculator you can carb count your favorite holiday recipe. All you have to do is list the ingredients, the number of servings you plan to make, and it will calculate the carb grams per serving. No matter what app or web site you choose, carb counting can be easier at your fingertips!

3. You don't have to eat sugar free. It's a common myth that kids with type 1 diabetes need to eat sugar-free foods. Of course I would prefer all kids, regardless of diabetes, to limit eating sugary treats and beverages, but having diabetes doesn't mean they cannot enjoy treats once in a while. Sugar-free foods, especially desserts, contain sugar alcohols which can give them a belly ache and/or diarrhea. It is suggested to avoid these sugar-free foods and just count the carb grams in their treats and cover the carbs with insulin. Sugar-free foods containing other artificial sweeteners does not mean the food is carb free, so don't be fooled in thinking sugar-free is carb-free.

4. Holiday eating is for one day, not the whole week. I don't want to sound like a scrooge, but try to remember taking that larger slice of pie is OK for the holiday meal, but try not to stretch it out for the whole week.  Fatty foods digest more slowly leading to delayed high blood sugars even if you count the carb grams right.  To prevent this all week, try limiting overeating to that special day rather than the whole week.

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