It used to be that type 1 diabetes was referred to as “juvenile diabetes,” but now, children are developing type 2 diabetes at a younger and younger age.
“The increase in type 2 diabetes in children has been strongly correlated with obesity. Two major reasons for this include unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles where keiki are not getting enough physical activity,” says Kauai Medical Clinic Pediatrician Dr. Carl Yu.
Yu recommends the following three-step plan to parents to help children avoid developing type 2 diabetes:
Create a Plan for Eating Healthy
- Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Include high-fiber, whole-grain starches like brown rice, whole-wheat bread and whole-grain pasta.
- Look for lean protein, including chicken and turkey, fish and lean cuts of beef or pork.
- Remember that daily values on food labels are based on an adult-sized diet. Appropriate portions for keiki will often be much smaller than the adult size.
Create a Plan for Physical Activity
- Children ages 6 years and older should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. This can be broken down to smaller chunks during the day as well as over different activities.
- Don’t limit exercise to organized sports – activities such as walking to or from school, going to the park, or even walking the family dog count too!
Limit Screen Time to AT MOST Two Hours a Day
- Encourage other forms of active play and entertainment. The less time keiki spend in front of screens (this includes television, computers, tablets, cell phones and videogames), the more chances they have to be active.
If your child is diagnosed with diabetes, Yu advises working with your child’s pediatrician or a registered dietitian to come up with a meal plan that meets your child’s individual needs.
“Learn the symptoms of high or low blood sugar and what foods may cause these conditions,” Yu says. “Physical activity, along with proper nutrition, is important as blood sugar is easier to control at a healthy weight.”