There is a ton of stuff you can do to help Zach!
#1 Become educated about the disorder of Juvenile Onset Type 1 Diabetes. This means learning some anatomy and a bit of physiology (like where the pancreas is and how it works). This is best accomplished by reading a book from the library about anatomy, not diabetes. Anatomy books give facts, not opinions of programs, diets or supplements.
#2 Learn what the nutrition labels on foods mean. Basically all foods fall into one of three categories: Fats, Proteins and Carbohydrates. Zach should be on a food program and if you learn how to measure a food then you can have the right foods on hand for him when he visits. For the most part fats and proteins affect the blood sugar levels very little or very slowly. For example, some foods, like nuts, are mostly fat, a little protein and a little carbohydrate. The great news is that the fat in most nuts is a monounsaturated fat and helps the good cholesterol that your body needs for nerve function and other processes. Fat also delays food absorption so you feel satisfied longer when you include it in your foods. The protein is great for a growing boy and the small amount of carbs is ok for the most part. So a small serving of peanuts may be good to have on hand for him to snack on (if he doesn't have nut allergies.) The thing is, you have to read the label to find out what a serving is!
Some foods, like broccoli are carbohydrate although you may not think of them that way. Vegetables are mostly made up of plant sugars and starches, and cellulose(fiber) as well as some vitamins and minerals. Because the plant sugars are packaged inside the cell walls of the vegetable our bodies have to work to get at them. This is why you can eat a mountain of broccoli and gain no weight. The calories are present in the broccoli but your body can't access all of them. In foods like spaghetti or bread the cell walls of the wheat have been broken down and the plant starches have been stuck together in an almost pure starch (carb!) form. These foods raise blood sugar levels and give us the energy we need to function but insulin is needed to handle this carb load and get the sugar into the body's cells where it's used for energy production.
Please understand that insulin is like a UPS truck moving packages from here to there. Each package has some food energy for the cells but if you don't have enough trucks (insulin) the packages never reach their destination. This is why you don't want to interfere with the amount of insulin that Zach needs. He needs all he is supposed to have and unless his pancreas spontaneously starts pumping out insulin again he needs to make it available via injection so he can use the food he eats.
3# Accept his diabetes as part of him and his new lifestyle. Don't waste time and hope on 'miracle cures' and 'natural' or 'alternative' meds. His doctor has diplomas all over his wall testifying to his/her knowledge and experience in handling medical conditions. She/He has scientific training and care about his/her patients. This is the person to help Zach with his insulin needs so he is able to use the food he puts in his body. He/she is the one who will order nutrition and insulin classes and make sure that Zach knows how to regulate his blood sugar levels for optimum health and energy needs. Turn your anxiety for him into something positive by learning new ways to help him cope. If you are allowed to, attend his nutrition classes with him. Look at positive things in his future instead of how untreated diabetes can affect people.
4# Let Zach teach you about his condition. Show a healthy curiosity of what he does each day and as he teaches you he will become more self assured about owning his own health care. Ask him about foods and insulin needs. Help him pick out a cool ‘medical alert’ bracelet or necklace to wear so if he should run into problems there will be info for health workers to zone in on. Help him discover answers if he doesn’t know them. And finally, find out his favorite soda pop and get a case of it in diet. That way he will always feel welcome at your house.
"People are like stained glass windows: they sparkle and shine when the sun's out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light within."
- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross