Managing childhood diabetes during the holidays

Photos: Kaiser Permanente

Antioch Medical Center doctor offers advice

By Antonia Ehlers, PR and Media Relations, Kaiser Permanente Northern California

The holidays are in full swing, but they can be challenging for parents of children with diabetes. Unfortunately, the rate of children with diabetes has been on the rise for years, especially type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is directly linked to the increasing number of children who are overweight.

“Diabetes is a condition where your body is unable to properly process sugar into energy/fuel for our bodies,” explained Kaiser Permanente Antioch Medical Center Pediatrician Kristin Moschetti, MD. “When you are overweight, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases because it causes the cells in our body to become resistant to the effects of insulin. This extremely important hormone is the key to helping our bodies to process sugar properly.”

The stress of the holidays also can spike blood sugar, according to Moschetti. Parents of children who need insulin should plan for more frequent blood sugar checks; insulin doses might need to be changed.

“Think of the cells in your bodies as billions of tiny little cars,” Moschetti said. “Cars need fuel to run. For our cells, that fuel is sugar that we get from carbohydrates. So, think of the gas pump to get that fuel into the cells being insulin. If insulin isn’t working properly to get sugar into the cells, the sugar builds up in the bloodstream and causes the blood to become toxic.”

For children with type 2 diabetes, eating a low-carbohydrate meal before going to a party can help to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels. Low-carb options include popcorn, low-sugar yogurt, cheese, veggies, chicken, tuna and peanut butter. Dipping sauces can add extra flavor.

“You don’t want your child’s blood sugar to get too high,” Moschetti said. “It can affect party behavior. Eating food with lots of carbohydrates will cause your child’s blood sugar to spike higher, which can make your child irritable and moody.”

Moschetti encourages parents to bring healthy snacks to holiday parties. Charcuterie boards are all the rage, and it’s fun for kids to create holiday shapes such as a Christmas tree, menorah, candy cane or snowman that’s adorned with fresh veggies, fruits, cheese and popcorn.

“I want parents of children with diabetes to know that they can enjoy holiday celebrations,” Moschetti said. “At the end of the day, we want our kids to enjoy the holidays and be kids, so it’s OK to eat a small amount of the unhealthy foods. However, moderation is key. All you need is a little party pre-planning and a few healthy options.”

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