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Diabetes Educ. 2007 Jul-Aug;33(4):671-9.

Healthy eating practices: perceptions, facilitators, and barriers among youth with diabetes.

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  • 1Teacher's College Columbia University, Department of Health and Behavior Studies, New York, New York, USA.



The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of healthy eating by youth with diabetes as well as facilitators of and barriers to healthy eating behavior.


One hundred forty youth aged 7 to 16 years with diabetes participated in 18 focus groups. Sample race/ethnicity was 71% white, 18% African American, 6% Hispanic, and 5% other; 69% of the participants were female.


Healthy eating was defined primarily in terms of eating fruits and vegetables, low fat, low sugar, and eating to keep blood sugar in range. However, there were notable differences in perceptions of healthy eating versus perceptions of eating practices good for diabetes management. Specifically, "free" foods (foods high in fat but low in carbohydrate) were commonly reported as being good for diabetes management. Major barriers to healthy eating included widespread availability of unhealthy foods, preparation time, and social situations. Parental behaviors, including monitoring food choices and positive modeling, were the most commonly reported facilitators of healthy eating.


Findings suggest that youth with diabetes have a general understanding of healthy eating and face similar barriers and facilitators to healthy eating as nondiabetic children do. However, the diabetes regimen may influence their understanding of healthy eating, sometimes negatively. Diabetes nutrition education sessions should emphasize the connection between healthy eating and both short- and long-term diabetes outcomes, and they should highlight strategies to reduce saturated fat consumption while avoiding excessive carbohydrate consumption. The diabetes educator can play an integral role in promoting healthy dietary practices by facilitating parental involvement, designing action plans for managing social situations, and increasing awareness of healthier alternatives to widely available unhealthy foods.

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