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Thirty years ago, type 2 diabetes was rare in children. Now, unfortunately, it is commonplace.
This is partially due to lifestyle choices where convenience has become the norm. Fast food is available on every corner, we don’t walk far for anything, and active outdoor playtime has given way to cellphones and tablets, video-game systems and TV screen time.
These unhealthy choices have led to endemic sedentary routines and a rise in weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Many parents are aware of these issues but might find it difficult to figure out lasting solutions.
With the holidays in full swing and many families sharing time off together, it is the perfect opportunity to work on a family plan for a healthier new year.
Try some of these tips to improve your family’s health:
>> 1. Set the schedule: Establish schedules for meals, snacks, exercise time and sleep. Inadequate sleep contributes to higher than normal blood sugars. Check out sleepforkids.org to see how much sleep your child needs.
>> 2. Plan the meals: Know what a balanced meal looks like and what size portions you should be enjoying. Go to myplate.gov for healthy meal ideas like increasing fruits and veggies in your family’s diet and one meatless meal per week.
>> 3. Include the kids: Make time for a weekly family meal-planning meeting that involves the kids. Discuss choosing meals and snacks, grocery shopping and meal preparation.
>> 4. Share the moment: Enjoy a meal together at least once a day. TVs, tablets and phones are not invited!
>> 5. Healthy options: Limit junk food and sugary drinks to occasional treats. Provide healthy snack alternatives like fruit, unsalted nuts and air-popped popcorn. Keep the candy, cookies and salty snacks out of the house altogether.
>> 6. Hydrate: Drink plenty of water. Rather than buying cases of plastic bottles every week, purchase a filtering pitcher, filters and a quality water bottle for each family member. This is a money saver!
>> 7. Fast food fix: Instead of depending on fast food for busy-day meals, plan ahead. Use the crock pot or pull something out of the freezer that you prepared ahead of time. If available in your area, take advantage of your grocery store’s curb side pick-up service and skip the fast food drive-thru.
>> 8. Reward substitutions: No more food rewards! Switch that candy bar treat for something else. Substitution ideas:
>> Gift cards for music downloads.
>> Sleepover party for friends.
>> Verbal praise.
>> Getting to choose new hairstyle.
>> 9. Monitoring screen time: Limit time spent on TV, computers, tablets and phones to two hours per day.
>> 10. Keep moving: Assign active chores like raking the yard, vacuuming and sweeping.
>> 11. Setting socials: On pretty days, play family games outdoors. Involve your neighbors!Invite friends and neighbors to walk, bike or play outdoor games. During bad weather, have family dance parties.
>> 12. Family fitness: Join a gym as a family. Set individual fitness goals and have friendly competitions to encourage each other.
>> 13. Have fun: Laugh a lot together! Research shows a relationship between negative moods in children and higher levels of blood sugar.
>> 14. Take a class: Learn about nutrition and healthy cooking by visiting a registered dietitian or taking a healthy cooking class such as the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s SNAP into Health or Cooking Matters.
In the beginning, some of these healthy lifestyle practices can feel like a lot of work, but after a few weeks, they will become healthy family habits and will reduce the risk of your children developing type 2 diabetes.
You will also make many happy family memories.
Anita Longan is a registered dietitian nutritionist who provides a variety of diabetes and nutrition programs and counseling at the HopeHealth Diabetes and Nutrition Center in Florence.
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