Feeding a child with a glucose intolerance

It’s an uncommon intolerance, but can be difficult for a sweet-toothed toddler to cope with. Here’s how to help your child with her glucose-free diet


What is glucose intolerance?

Glucose intolerance is a digestive problem that results when the body is unable to digest certain types of sugars, which are found in carbohydrate foods like bread, rice or ice cream. Glucose intolerance is different from diabetes, but the condition can sometimes lead to the development of type II diabetes. It is a particular problem in obese children.


A child with glucose intolerance will have insulin resistance, which means that her body makes more insulin than it needs to digest sugars. The body breaks down sugars too quickly, which can lead to low blood sugar. The excess insulin – the hormone that controls the amount of glucose sugar in the blood – left over can cause damage to organs like the heart.

Glucose intolerance can be hereditary. The initial symptoms are tiredness, muscle cramps and feeling weak. In children, it can result in bed-wetting. If left untreated, it can lead to type II diabetes and damage to organs like the heart.

Foods to avoid

Glucose is a sugar, so high sugar foods should be avoided. It’s best to steer your child away from:

  • Sugary drinks (such as fizzy drinks, squash and smoothies)
  • White bread
  • Breakfast cereals with added sugar
  • Ice cream
  • Sweets, cakes and pastries
  • Jam, honey, syrup
  • Chocolate
  • Sweetened sauces like ketchup
  • Fruit yoghurts

Glucose-free alternatives

Low-sugar or diet drinks and foods are a good alternative to full sugar products, and are widely available in supermarkets; look out for low-sugar desserts, jams and spreads and yoghurts. Unsweetened foods such as breakfast cereals or natural yoghurt can be made more appealing by adding chopped, or pureed, fruit. Children are advised to avoid large quantities of artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and sorbitol, partly because of questions over their safety, and partly because a low-calorie diet may leave them short on nutrition. Your child’s dietician can advise you on suitable glucose-free alternatives.

Hidden ingredients

Glucose is used in many foods, both sweet and savoury, and is not always labelled as simply ‘sugar’. Check for hidden sources of glucose such as:

  • Glucose fructose syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Dextrose

Eating out

Eating out is possible if your child is glucose intolerant, but can be made easier if you have a few strategies up your sleeve.

  • Encourage her to avoid nibbling at bread by taking along some healthier snacks as a starter, such as chopped carrot sticks and hummous. Explain to the waiter beforehand to avoid any embarrassment.
  • Phone ahead and ask for a copy of the menu, or have a chat with the manager on the phone. It is far easier for a restaurant to accommodate food allergies if they have advance warning. This also allows the chef time to buy specialist ingredients.
  • Because some restaurants use pre-packaged foods, even the chef may not know exactly what is in each dish. Go for the simplest foods on the menu such as grilled meats or bean-based soups, and when it comes to dessert, steer your little ones towards fruit rather than chocolate or ice cream.

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