Tasty Brown-Bag Lunches For Kids With Diabetes

Some suggestions for healthy, tasty, and carb-counted lunches!

Our school lunch blog generated some thoughtful comments and questions, one of which we are addressing today. If your child has diabetes and attends public school what can you give him or her for lunch that’s nutritious, carb smart and won’t end up in the garbage or traded for something more tempting?

Depending on the effort you want to put in and the time you have to make lunches, there is actually a wide variety of choices you can offer your hungry child. And with today’s cold packs there is very little you can’t transport to school safely.

Here’s a school-week’s worth of suggestions (plus two bonus menus).

Carbohydrate: 57 grams
— Peanut butter and diet jelly on whole wheat bread (for those institutions that allow peanut butter)
— Baby carrots
— Diet pudding
— Water

Carbohydrate: 56 grams
–Chicken salad made with celery, almonds and red grapes in half a whole wheat pita
— Skim or 1 percent milk
— Apple slices

Carbohydrate: 52 grams
— Vegetable Beef kabobs – chunks of sirloin beef interspersed with onions, grape tomatoes and green peppers in a lavash wrap
— A sports bar
— Skim or 1 percent milk

Carbohydrate: 41 grams
— Greek yogurt and fruit parfait
— Celery sticks and julienne red and orange peppers
— Almonds and cashews

Carbohydrate: 55 grams
— Turkey Breast or Roast Beef on rye with mustard
— Small side salad of lettuce, tomato, carrots and peppers
— Chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies

Two bonus lunches
Carbohydrate: 63 grams
— Flavored hummus with whole grain crackers and baby carrots
— Skim or 1% milk
— Cup of grapes and sliced melon

Carbohydrate: 48 grams
— Left over cold vegetable pizza on whole wheat crust
— Low fat fruited yogurt
— Water

Most students with type 1 diabetes have to go to the nurse’s office to have their insulin given. It is helpful for the nurse to know the carb count of lunch if the child is using an insulin-to-carb ratio. The lunches above are easy to count and the carb count can be increased or decreased by adjusting the portion of milk or desserts. (And remember to check the carb count of the foods you use to make each meal. The counts in this blog are estimations based on typical carbs in each food.)

And suppose you don’t want to pack a lunch or your child wants to buy lunch? Well, these new school lunch guidelines make it easier to feel comfortable with the food selections in the cafeteria. Kids want to feel normal and it’s important to as much as possible allow a child with diabetes to participate even in activities that involve food.

Having them choose an appropriate lunch from the cafeteria prepares them for making decisions on their own, reinforces carb counting skills and gives you an occasional break from food preparation.


  1. This should be taken down! Why you would give a diabetic child 50+ carbs every lunch is beyond me….Utterly ridiculous.
    Unfortunately, from the time of diagnosis many are taught the “eat whatever you want/ you need carbs, just count and dose insulin” rule
    It’s sad and scary for these little ones who do not know any better.
    do some research….. feeding a diabetic kids…or anyone rather a low fat high carb diet is detrimental to their health..
    Take a walk on the wild side…Cut carbs significantly down, up the “good” fat intake, and watch those Blood Glucose numbers stay in check.

    • I am interested in the research you have done regarding type 1 diabetic children having success with a low carb high fat diet.

  2. To respond to the comments above: Kids with T1D need 150-200 carbs per day depending on age and weight, in order to maintain brain development and growth. It would be quite difficult to make those numbers without about 50 carbs at lunch. Fats and protein slow down carb absorption and smooth its uptake in the body. They are a very important part of the diet for kids with T1D. A child with T1D needs to eat healthfully, and does not need to limit carbs themselves with few exceptions. The exceptions are centered around encouraging complex carbs rather than simple, quickly absorbed sugars.

    It seems the person above does not understand how diabetes works. While those with T2 diabetes need to limit carbs due to insulin resistance, those with T1D have an autoimmune disorder and do not produce insulin. In order for their bodies to access the nutrition in the food they eat, they MUST have insulin, not limited carbs or or anything like that.

  3. I totally agree with Lindsay. Read the new book by Adam Brown who has type 1 and discusses the things he wished he had known early on- including recognizing th fallacy of the idea that you could eat as many carbs as you want as long as you bonus for it. Unfortunately, for many people with type 1, this is simply not the case. While it is necessary for children to eat carbs to grow properly, it does not have to be in the form of having 60 carbs in one sitting- especially one in which prebolusing is particularly challenging- in the middle of the school day. If I gave my 16 year old daughter 60 carbs for lunch at school there is absolutely no way that her glucoses would be below 200-250 for several hours afterwards. Her thinking would b affected for the r mainesee of the day. Some suggest that no single meal should be above 30 carbs- while this is difficult for most kids, doesn’t it make more sense to have higher carb meals when prebolusing is more likely to occur?

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