Tips to Help Kids Avoid Type 2 Diabetes
More and more children are struggling with obesity and are dealing with malnourishment by consuming many empty calories through sugary and processed foods and not eating enough nutrient-rich whole foods. This dangerous combination is leading to an epidemic in childhood onset of Type 2 Diabetes. However, kids can take steps today that could help prevent or at least delay the onset of diabetes by just making a few small changes. These changes could make a big impact as even a little weight loss and change in a healthier diet can affect the body’s ability to regulate proper blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes.
However, as most of us are aware, losing weight doesn’t come easy for most people. Social pressure, wanting to eat what it seems like everyone else is eating can be difficult, not to mention convenience foods for busy families usually come in the form of some salty, frozen, breaded meats or doughy pastries laden with fats, carbohydrates and cheese, and of course, sugar. While it may be that the whole family eats this way and only one child seems to have a problem with over-indulging, the fact remains that a diet that consists of convenience foods as described above is unhealthy for everyone regardless of their weight, and everyone is at risk of vitamin deficiencies, high cholesterol, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Therefore, the best way to help a child change his or her diet is to get the whole family to participate. After all, no matter who is currently at a healthy weight and who isn’t everyone can benefit from healthy eating habits. From weight management and improved energy and mood, to brighter skin, hair and nail tone and improved cardiovascular, digestive and neurological health-the benefits of a healthy diet are immeasurable.
Healthy eating-tips for the whole family:
This can be challenging for those who normally drink sugary beverages such as soda, juice, sports drinks, sweet tea, sugary coffee drinks and such. If water is difficult to drink, try using a slice of lemon or lime or even infusing a pitcher of water with fresh strawberries, oranges or cucumbers and watermelon. While plain water is best, and it is important to get used to drinking it, these other options can still help hydrate healthfully while keeping high sugar content in check. Drinking sugary beverages packs in very high empty calories and can even counteract hydration in some instances.
Eat more vegetables and fruits
Visit a produce stand for best value and freshness, if one is available. Supermarkets would be the next option, or try frozen varieties if fresh is not available. Add frozen spinach, peas and green beans to soups or stir fry and frozen fruits can be fun to eat in their frozen form as refreshing snacks or thaw and add to yogurt or cereal in the morning.
Parents can help make healthy snacks available such as nuts, plain popcorn, apples, grapes and carrot, zucchini and celery sticks. (Tip: Pre-make celery with almond butter or yogurt pineapple dip snack plates for kids)
Fast Food and Eating Out
Avoid fast food. When you do go out to eat as a family, make a plan in advance of what you will order by looking up the menus online. (This not only helps with healthy eating but also can help with budgeting).
- Choose grilled or broiled meats, seafood and vegetables
- Choose water or unsweetened iced tea to drink or limit one diet soda
- Opt out of cheese, mayonnaise or heavy sauces on your meals
- Order vegetables, salad or fruit instead of French fries
- Limit portion size – most adult portions are at least double if not triple or even quadruple what is considered a healthy portion size at a casual dining chain restaurant. So, when your meal comes, ask the wait staff to take at least half back and pack it up to go for you, in advance.
- Take the bread and chips and crackers away. So many restaurants bring fresh bread to the table when you sit down or chips and salsa, or have crackers available. Ask for that to be taken away to prevent temptation. Plus, if you eat all of those empty calories before your meal, you are less likely to eat all of the more nutrient-rich foods you are paying for.
Meal planning for health
When planning meals, consider that half of the meal should consist of non-starchy vegetables such as lettuce, greens, broccoli, zucchini, spinach, asparagus, green beans, etc. (Tip: Cauliflower can be cooked and mashed similar to potatoes without the added carbohydrates, sugars and starch). One quarter of the meal should consist of a lean protein such as fish, steak, pork, chicken or turkey. The remaining portion should be a complex carbohydrate such as quinoa, brown rice, bulgar wheat or barley.
Get Up and Get Active
Limit Computer, TV, Tablet, Phone, Video Game time
Time spent sitting in front of a screen should be for no more than 2 hours per day with the exception of necessary homework. This may not seem reasonable, and it may not be in your household, but limiting time spent doing activities that are not active can help promote engagement in active ones. Begin by having your kids log the amount of time they spend doing each screen-related activity-start time and end doing each thing: TV, video game, computer, etc. Then at the end of the week, discuss whether this should be modified and the plan for modifying it and why. (Tip: Don’t make it sound like a punishment-encourage them to do other really fun things, and include the family in things like evening walks and bike rides or an active game time or workout time.)
The whole family, from children to adults, should get 60 minutes per day of exercise most days of the week. Here are some suggestions for youth to get and stay active:
- Walk or ride a bicycle to school when possible and safe
- Encourage music and dancing
- Take a brisk walk outside, in a mall, at a park or on the beach o Join a gym-the local YMCA often has great rates
- When going somewhere, opt to take the stairs versus the elevator o When driving, park at the far end of the lot or a few blocks away and walk to your destination
- If you take a bus, exit at a stop one or two stops away and walk the rest of the way
- Play sports and interactive games and video games that encourage you to move
- Walk around or exercise while talking on the phone or watching TV
- Pick one sport to try: soccer, basketball, football, volleyball, tennis, jogging, swimming, cycling… anything. No need to join a team, but that would be great. Just try different sports
- Go outside as a family: Go on a hike, visit the beach, Play Frisbee in a park, ride bicycles, play sports-or try a new sport like paddle boarding, kayaking or learn to skateboard
Challenge your kid and yourself with small, achievable goals: Did you exercise or do something active like play a sport for 60 minutes at least five times this week? Did you maintain a healthy diet for at least five days this week? Reward successes with non-food incentives (Tip: Have a sleepover, rent a movie, go shopping, plan a short trip or adventure somewhere)
Youth Diabetes Warning Signs
Youth with type 2 diabetes are often asymptomatic, and feel perfectly fine, which is a little dangerous. However, these are some common symptoms of type 2 diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent or nighttime urination
- Blurry vision
- Unusual fatigue
If you notice any or all of these symptoms, contact your physician. To learn more about diabetes, feel free to visit: www.diabetes.org or email AskADA@diabetes.org.