Healthy diets for youth with type 1 diabetes can be hard for parents to obtain

Researchers found a healthy meal plan to be more expensive, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Philadelphia, PA, July 8, 2015

Patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) often need to modify their eating habits, but many youths with T1DM do not consume a healthful diet. To learn more about the challenges their parents may face in providing them with a more healthful diet, researchers set out to discover the availability of healthier food options and the price difference of the food items at stores frequented by families in northeastern Kansas and western Missouri.

Common barriers that clinicians hear as to why more nutritious diets are not provided include not knowing which foods to buy or prepare, not having the time, or not having enough money. To determine if a healthier diet really was more expensive, researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, and Children’s Mercy Kansas City, in Kansas City, Missouri, recruited families with children aged 1–6 years, at least six months beyond his or her T1DM diagnosis, and on an intensive insulin regimen. A total of 23 families were included in the final results. During a home study visit, parents provided demographic information and details on the primary store at which they shop. Masters students in dietetics, who were blinded to the study questions, were dispatched to each of the stores to collect the lowest non-sale prices for 164 food items on the USDA Thrifty Food Plan (R-TFP) and a modified healthier version of the Thrifty Food Plan (H-TFP) to determine food prices for two standard shopping lists.

“Our results showed that a healthier market basket cost 18% more than the standard basket. Moreover, families can face barriers in finding specific healthier foods at their local stores,” lead author Susana R. Patton, PhD, CDE, Department of Pediatrics, University of Kansas Medical Center, said.

Small and independent markets were found to have a higher percentage of foods missing from the shopping lists compared with chain and big box stores. Consistent with parents’ perceptions, the H-TFP was more expensive than the R-TFP; average cost for the R-TFP was $324.71 versus $380.07 for H-TFP, a $57.62 difference. The greatest differences in cost were observed for proteins and grains.

Based on these results, the researchers suggest nutrition counseling strategies such as reframing food purchases in terms of nutrition per dollar, providing recipes and teaching families how to cook lower-cost substitutes for higher-priced foods, and providing information on local stores that offer a wide selection of healthful foods. However, the research in this study was somewhat narrow in its scope and the results may not extend to other populations. More research will be required to extend these conclusions more broadly.


Notes for Editors
“The Cost of a Healthier Diet for Young Children With Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus,” by Susana R. Patton, PhD, CDE; Kathy Goggin, PhD; Mark A. Clements, MD, PhD (DOI:, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 47, Issue 4 (July-August 2015), published by Elsevier. 

Full text of this article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732-238-3628or to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Natalie Lutz, Director of Communications, University of Kansas Medical Center at +1 913-588-2598 or

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Susana Patton and information specifically for journalists are located at Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission. 

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

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