Packing Lunches for Your Diabetic Child

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It seems like the easiest thing in the world to pack a lunch. But two years ago when my younger son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, those little everyday things felt like huge obstacles.

I was packing my son a lunch so I could send him to school and he’d have to eat without me–and I’d barely gotten the hang of handling the food-involved diabetes-care tasks when he was in the house! He’d just gotten out of the hospital on Saturday, and here it was Monday morning and lunch had to be made. I needed a plan.

The easiest thing I could come up with was a list. I grabbed a 3×5 index card and listed everything in my son’s lunchbox, including the carb count for each item.

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That 3×5 card gets packed right into the lunchbox, along with an icy pack to keep things cold and a paper napkin (which usually comes home unused, but hope springs eternal and I pack one each day anyway).

At my son’s school, all the kids get a midmorning snack break as well as a lunch break. This works out really well, because everyone’s having a snack around 10 AM, not just him. The middle-school teachers just have the kids bring their snack to class and eat it while they work (teachers of younger students allow for a more structured snack time). So I pack quite a bit into his lunchbox, knowing that some of what’s in there will be eaten for morning snack.

Because the card has a list of each food instead of one number with the grand total of carbs for the meal, my son can decide which items he’ll have for snack and dose his insulin accordingly. If he happens not to be so hungry that day, he can leave something behind and subtract that from his total insulin.

Before my son got his insulin pump, he had to go to the school nurse for an insulin shot before his snack and again before lunch. He’d bring the card down at snack time and leave it with the nurse, who would put it with his diabetic supplies until lunchtime.

One other lunchtime skill was left to be mastered: the snack table. The school has a table where the PTA sells snacks like granola bars, packs of nuts, bags of chips and, on Wednesdays, soft pretzels. I always used to send my son with 50 cents so he could buy a snack. But when he had to get insulin shots before going to the cafeteria, he couldn’t eat that extra food without an extra trip to the nurse for an extra shot. So we made a deal: I gave him 50 cents and told him to buy a snack and bring it home. We’d include it on the list for the next day, when he’d buy a new snack for the day after that, and so on. So he got to go to the snack table “like everybody else” even if he had to wait a day to eat his treat–after the first day he always had the treat from the day before.

What works for you when you’re packing lunch for your diabetic child? Share your ideas in the comment box!

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