My 8 year old son was just diagnosed type 1 and was released from the hospital last night. I’m so overwhelmed. Where do I begin? Any helpful tips? Where can I go to find no carb snacks? He’s picky so any recommendations that your child likes? Please help! Thank you!
Hi @Lhartz . Welcome to the forum, the club no one wants to join. If it helps any I was diagnosed in 1963 and am doing well, especially with the technology available now. I like to recommend the book Think Like a Pancreas by Gary Scheiner. He has diabetes and works in the field so has a unique personal perspective that is particularly helpful, and I think you will find it a valuable addition to your education. It will be a tough learning curve, especially since diabetes is not always predictable. That may make things frustrating but you will learn to adapt.
You will hear about lots of technology - insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are huge. I highly recommend a CGM for peace of mind. Pumps are great but many people do well on shots, and I personally feel it’s good to know how to manage using them - going “old school” is a valuable tool for many reasons.
Look for an endocrinologist who specializes specifically in Type1 - one who works with children is even better. You’ll have lots of questions for them so be sure to write them down so you don’t forget. If you read the “Parent” topics you’ll find lots of them here as well, but please remember not to take anything as medical advice - it might serve as discussion with your doctor, whom you will be working with closely for a while.
Keep in touch and let us know how things are going. Oh - check the Resources tab at the top of the page - they’re may be some local chapters and events near you where you might get in person support. And it is a little early, but you might check out suggest camps in your area - I went to diabetes camp a few summers when I was young and it was a blast.
All the best you you and your son!
Dorie gave good advice but wanted to share some favorite low carb snacks of mine.
Also, not to overwhelm or add to things to think about but something I wish my endos would’ve told me when I was a kid and was diagnosed. Make sure if you’re doing no carb snacks, that they’re not loaded in fat and a ton of protein in one sitting. In small amounts for a snack you shouldn’t see huge spike, but fat and protein can both affect your blood sugar too later on. I’m up right now from having a little too much fat with dinner and needing a second correction. So while I advocate for no carbs snacks here and there, as long as you take some insulin to cover what he’s eating with carbs, a good blend of carbs, fat, and protein (think small apple with 1 the peanut butter) can sometimes be a better choice for blood sugar than a pile of cheese a meat. That being said some of my favorites that are low carb or no carb and shouldn’t be too much of a bs impact:
-Greek yogurt with berries ( I personally eat plain yogurt because I find berries are sweet enough, but you could add a little sweetener to the yogurt if it’s too bitter)
- a handful of mixed nuts(just keep an eye on serving size because of fat)
-celery and apple with PB or nut butter (again just pay attention to how much PB you’re using)
- turkey jerky or turkey pepperoni (this one is no carb but could pair with some crackers of choice if wanted)
-cheese stick (I personally do the Sargento lower fat Colby jack and if I want carbs I’ll eat it with an apple or crackers)
- popcorn (just watch butter and oil for preparation) actually this is one of my faves to pair with some jerky or cheese too. It helps balance the carbs that are in popcorn, but also popcorn you can have a pretty large portion for not as many carbs as you think which is why it is one of my faves
-hard boiled eggs
Also one other thing I just want to echo that Dorie mentioned! I second the cgm comment- whether you guys choose a pump or mdi, it’s so beneficial to see how things impact your numbers and can help make changes easier in the future, share data with endo etc. plus like dorie said, lots of peace of mind. It can be very overwhelming at first, because you’re going to see first hand how wild diabetes can be and it can take a lot of willpower to not look at the data all the time but if you can learn to use it as a resource for data points and a safety guard to prevent lows and super high highs, it’s super beneficial!
You may hear about people referring to Dexcom: is one of the CGMs available and part of peace of mind is you can share numbers - so while it’s reading his numbers (they update every 5 minutes) and he can see them on his pump (should be very one), handheld receiver or smart phone - you can see them too - and get alerts that you might need to take action. There is another CGM called Freestyle Libre - it shares as well. Dexcom can be paired with a pump to make adjustments automatically (there are limits) - Freestyle does not do this so it does not have all the bells and whistles, but I’ve used it as a backup and personally found it to be very accurate.
As you consider CGMs and pumps, you will be assigned a rep to work with you and provide training. When I first started it was my rep who coordinated with my insurance - be sure to let them do this rather than trying it yourself - navigating that can be confusing even for those of us with experience, so let them handle it. They will also recommend suppliers you can use, so don’t feel you have to do that in your own. You can usually switch suppliers if you wish.
First off, take a deep breath. And now another. Yikes. My son was diagnosed 4 months ago at age 10. That first week–that you’re still swimming through–feels like you’re drowning and will NEVER get better. But it does. That first night, we got home and decided to make pasta, not realizing that the carb count on the package was for uncooked and not cooked pasta (seriously, how is that helpful?!). A lot of time and math later, we got to eat our first meal at home!
Think of how much better you already are at giving insulin injections and calculating carbs since you left the hospital!!!
Since you’re still in these very early days, my tips are as follows:
- DO NOT go on the internet and research a bunch of things. DO NOT read additional books about diabetes. Spend your energy LIVING in the moment, in your life with your kiddo. Just feeding your child will take ALL your extra energy these first weeks. THAT IS OK!!! (I’m a dietitian myself, so I had a leg up on all of this…but it was still a giant pile of overwhelm!!!)
- Create a list of the carbs for commonly eaten foods and the portions your son usually eats. Then you don’t have to do so much math before every meal. We also got a small whiteboard for our fridge, and we calculate his carbs for each meal on there. I eventually made a carb counting recipe box with notecards for different foods and meals, but a sheet of paper will work for now!
- Make a station in your kitchen (or another convenient location) for all of your current diabetes supplies. We have a sharps container on the counter, and kleenex, plus a tray with his insulin pens, needles, alcohol wipes, and dot bandaids. The drawer below it contains a box of needles, alcohol wipes, lancets. Extra items can go in a cabinet or closet, and he has a star wars pouch to take items (pens, meter, log book) to/from school each day (but a plastic baggie will work fine at the beginning!).
- Include your son in all the steps/math/decisions you’re making so he becomes comfortable with this new normal, too. Your goal is to help him be as independent as possible, so start with that mindset from the beginning. Ask him questions, like how much his correction factor will be based on his blood sugar, and help him calculate how many insulin units he needs based on his carbs. We did a lot of counting by 15 together, since my son’s insulin:carb ratio was 1 unit:15 g carb.
- Work with your son’s endocrinologist to get insurance approval for a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). You’re likely still waking your son up in the middle of the night to check his blood sugar. My son got his CGM (Dexcom…we’ve had a good experience) the next week after getting out of the hospital. It has been a HUGE blessing. It took away much of the anxiety we had, especially during the night. It would beep and wake us up if he was going low, so we didn’t need to worry.
Do you need to make a plan for school? Do you have school nurse helping you out? (My son is at a private school, so no school nurse. But they’ve been great working with us.)
Did you get a JDRF bag from the hospital? We read a bunch of the books and got the app to use with the Rufus bear in those early weeks. Those resources helped my kid just have some fun with his new diagnosis.
I like like list of snacks Taylor gave. We send a low-carb snack to school with my son so he only has to give insulin once per day at school for lunch, or if there’s a birthday treat.
So those are the very basics I would focus on if I were you. I hope that helps. Just figuring out your day-to-day rhythm takes A LOT of work and energy right now, so be gentle on yourself. And remember to just have some fun with your kid and your family when you’re out of this first week or two. It does get better…I promise!
Feel free to message back with any questions, and remember you are most definitely NOT alone!
As I type this I’m munching on some mini peppers. Only a couple of grams of carbs each.
Yeah! That and cucumbers with hummus. Sooo good.
My favorite low carb snacks? There are some great sugar-free options out there. Jell-o, Jell-o pudding, various sugar-free chocolates, sugar-free cookies, etc. You can also buy Splenda and bake with it the same way you would with sugar.
Getting in the habit of not snacking is also good, if possible. If you eat consistent amounts from day to day, your body will learn to expect that and you’ll just get out of the habit of snacking.
But also, a diabetic can eat just about anything, as long as you account for it with insulin, exercise, and moderate portions. Don’t just go low carb. It’s not necessary, and it’s not healthy. Not to mention that low carb doesn’t mean low calories. Hummus, for example, can be fairly high in both fats and protein, and tends to keep my blood sugars elevated for long periods. Your body runs on carbs. Every cell in your body uses sugar as a fuel source, and complex carbs are just chains of sugar stuck together that digest more gradually. Know the different kinds of carbs and foods, and how each affects blood sugars.
But I have to disagree with Claire’s first point. It’s possible to both live in the moment and learn the ropes. I found that the more I knew about nutrition, how my body works, etc., the better I was able to live because I knew what I was doing and how my choices would affect the next few hours and why. There’s a lot to take in, and it’ll take at least a year before you start to feel comfortable with it on a day-to-day basis. Learn what you can from reputable sources, and take it in at a pace you can handle.
But if you want a list of carbs, resources like Calorie King are very useful, giving nutritional breakdowns of common foods, including from popular restaurants and averages of common prepared foods from grocery stores and suchlike. Calorie King is the one my grandfather used. It comes as a pocket-sized book, a website, or a phone app. But there are other similar options that work just as well.
Including your son in what’s going on is great advice. Push him a bit to move to the edge of his comfort level, but don’t force him past it. Let him know that you’ll help him, he’ll be okay, and he can do just about anything in life as long as he learns to plan for it. And he’ll be healthier for putting thought into what he eats and how much.
When you have questions, hopefully you’ll have a good team of medical professionals. But we’ll help you here as much as we can.
That first week (or month…) is one step at a time. One shot at a time, one carb at a time, one meltdown at a time, one finger poke at a time.
You will never perfect diabetes because it’s always changing. Just take it one step at a time. You’re going to have to make a new normal.
For snacks… pickles, eggs, popcorn, sandwich meat (if you go to the deli counter in the grocery store they often have many different types. Let your kid pick out a few. Often times they’ll let you taste the different kinds.), cheese (again, lots of variety), mini veggies (not fruits) like cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, celery- like others have mentioned you can dip in humus or peanut butter. You can find pretty low carb dark chocolate, whipped cream, sugar free jello and pudding, drinks like tea, diet soda, diet lemonade. Sometimes when I’m high and super hungry I chew lots of sugar free gum- again, lots of flavors. If you’ve got other kids in the house you might want to buy a tub to put in the pantry/fridge with food that’s only for your son. I’ve had my siblings drink all of my diet soda instead of the regular soda. It’s not so fun.
Definitely include your son in everything. Push him a little, but not too much. Teach him to test his blood sugar. Make sure he can do basic mental math like addition and subtraction, make sure he knows his multiplication tables by heart when he’s ready to calculate insulin doses/count carbs. I can’t tell you how helpful knowing what 25+6 is or 25/10 is when I’m counting carbs. Don’t assume he’s always going to have a calculator nearby!
Teach your son to be able to state his symptoms loudly and clearly (even when he doesn’t feel well) so that he can say “I’m high, please call my mom” and “I’m low. Can I have some juice” so that when he’s in school/with friends/teachers he can get the help he needs and they know what to do to help him. In the coming weeks make sure he can also tell people what diabetes is- it can be super simple, like “my body stopped making insulin so now I have to take shots and check my blood sugar” why? “Because my body made a mistake and thought my pancreas was a bad germ so it smooshed it” I’ve found that that usually satisfies curious lower elementary age students.
Whoops I realized I rehashed pretty much everything everyone else has already said. Oh well. Good luck! I hope this first week has gone well. You’ve come to the right place to ask questions!
To be honest my best advice is start with carb counting and medication management (regular blood sugar test and insulin with meals) you will learn more about his body and everything else as the doctors teach him and you. Test blood sugars at least 4 times a. day but since he’s young whenever he is really thirsty, urinating a lot, looks like he’s not feeling too well, etc keep his blood sugar 80-150. low carb snacks slim Jims, pork skins, any type of nuts, celery with peanut butter, carrots, lunchables are perfect, gatorade, meat, cheese, propel… you have too fed him like a lean athlete and sports is a good idea or just regular physical activity.
Depending on what your offered in the state your in when it comes to devices SAY YES TO THE INSULIN PUMP!!! it allows you to control type 1 diabetes easy on the go. If your a busy parent and he’s a busy kid this device ran with the continuous glucose monitor (cgm) is what I would recommend for anyone.