The list of carb-free foods and low-carb snacks the nutritionist handed us when our daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a little over 4 years ago included sugar-free Jello, sugar-free gum and diet soda. I kid you not. Those were the so-called “free snacks” I could feed my toddler between insulin injections, because they contained fewer than 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving and would have little effect on her blood sugar. Luckily, eggs, meats and cheeses are also carb-free. Cheese sticks and sliced turkey quickly became our go-to toddler snacks.
The body turns carbohydrates into glucose.
Today, our thriving first-grader is on an insulin pump, which allows us more flexibility with what and when she eats. But the synthetic insulin children with type 1 diabetes get by injection with a syringe or through an insulin pump does not work as effectively as natural insulin does. So we depend on low-carb or even carb-free snacks, for instance, when our daughter’s blood sugar level is too high. As a health-conscious mom, however, I am not only concerned about my girl’s blood sugar, I also want her to eat foods that provide the essential nutrients her growing body needs. Typically, we don’t use artificial sweeteners; and we never buy “diabetic” foods, as these are generally highly processed and full of additives.
Here is a list of carb-free and low-carb foods that are healthier choices for children with — or without — type 1 diabetes (portion-control, of course, is important to keep the total carb count low):
Kid-friendly Low-Carb Vegetables
- Dark leafy greens — spinach, kale, arugula …
- Bell peppers
- Bamboo shoots
- Green Beans
- Summer Squash
- Brussels Sprouts
- Snap peas
- Spaghetti Squash
- Water Chestnuts
Kid-friendly Low-Carb Fruits
Other Low-Carb Kids Snack Ideas
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Popcorn (plain, lightly salted) — read the article “Best Healthy Popcorn – Tested by ‘bon appétit’“
- Plain yogurt
- Tuna salad
- Cottage cheese — read the article “Cottage Cheese: A super snack for kids (and you)“
- Organic beef or turkey jerky (watch the nutrition facts, choose brands with low added sugar)
- Deviled egg boats
- Organic meatballs
Carb-Free Kids Snack Ideas
- Cheese stick
- Cheese cubes
- Hardboiled egg
- Scrambles eggs
- Sliced deli meats
- Grilled chicken strips
- Organic hot dog (plain) — read the article “Organic Hot Dogs: Relish their rise and pair them with satisfying sides“
- Smoked or grilled salmon — read the article “Alaska Salmon: Boost your family’s immune systems with fish omega-3“
Tip: We like to roll a cheese stick in a slice of meat, such as turkey or ham, and cut it into little rolls.
Are you the parent or grandparent of a child with type 1 diabetes? What carb-free snacks and low-carb foods does he/she like to eat?