Protect Your Family from Type-2 Diabetes

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Medical Conditions, Mealtime

Dear Karla,

I am a mother of three and am concerned for my children, as diabetes runs in my family. Both of my parents have type-2 diabetes, as does my brother. I have done some research on diabetes and want to protect my children from going down that same path. Do you have any tips that I can incorporate into our daily routine so my entire family is protected?
Thanks, Andrea

Dear Andrea,
It is a very valid concern you have, and one that many of us should be aware of and making changes to avoid. If we look at the existing stats on the prevalence of diabetes, they are not 100 percent accurate. Diabetes can only be diagnosed through a screening process, and many Canadians do not go to their doctor for regular check-ups or blood testing. Blood tests must be done to check the fasting levels of blood glucose, which will tell the doctor if further tests are needed. Some guess that in the next 15 years, the global incidence of type-2 diabetes in children will increase by 50 percent. Type-2 diabetes is very closely tied to being heavier than your healthy weight, and about 95 percent of children diagnosesd with type-2 diabetes are overweight.Protect Your Family from Diabetes

The first thing you can do is take a good look at your family's lifestyle. Start by asking yourself these simple questions:
  • How often do we eat out as a meal or a mid-day snack?
  • Am I (or is my partner) overweight? What about my kids?
  • If I open up the pantry cupboard, what food items do I mainly see?
  • When I open up the fridge is it stocked with more packaged, bottled, or jarred goods than fresh produce?
Type-2 diabetes is commonly referred to as a "lifestyle disease," as it finds you after years of eating poorly. Eating poorly leads to weight gain, sometimes high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, and other problems associated with carrying extra weight. I often hear clients speak of aches in their joints, as their joints are built to sustain them at a healthy weight and do not grow as their waistline grows.

Here are some things you can do with your family right now to start making a difference in their health:
  • Come to that place of acceptance in your mind: Recognize changes need to be made and you are ready to carry them out (often we want to fight the truth, which will not get us anywhere ahead). Remember -- no one is perfect.
  • Schedule your family for yearly physical check-ups: Make sure that everyone gets full blood work and screening done for diabetes (unless the children are under 10 years of age, are not overweight and exhibit no symptoms -- for a full list of symptoms click here).
  • Get the entire family moving: Maybe it's evening walks, going for nightly swims, or being on a family sports team. Martial arts, gymnastics, dancing, hockey, football, etc., are all great individual choices too, but remember if mom and dad are not doing it, the children will not see the importance. This step often gets thrown to the curb, but it is one of the most important and you want your children to understand and accept a healthy lifestyle involves moving as a big component.
  • Set limits on TV and computer/game time: The Canadian Pediatric Society likes to use numbers of 1 to 1.5 hours a day, tops. Now that many kids are doing homework on the computer, make sure that it is really homework time and not watching-videos-on-YouTube time.
  • Do a kitchen clean up: Ditch the sugary pop, fruit juices and flavoured beverages. All of these are loaded with sugar. If you insist on juice, really limit the amount and make sure it is only 100 percent fruit juice. Throw out all cereals, crackers, breads, etc., that have the word "enriched" on their label, search for "whole grain" choices instead. Fill your crisper with fresh fruits and veggies (and frozen ones are ok, too). Canned food items lack nutrition, so try to keep those in minimal quantities.
  • Make a list of 10 healthy snacks: Refer back to this list when you're low on ideas. Try apple or pear with nut butter, unsulfured raisins with dry cereal and sunflower seeds, toast with light cream cheese and dried cranberries -- there are lots of possibilities! (I have a book filled with pages of quick healthy snack ideas, too!)
Above all, remember that type-2 diabetes results from poor lifestyle habits, and if you bring your family up in a healthy environment -- even with the occasional ice cream cone -- you will be okay.

Karla Heintz, B.Sc., is a nutrition educator and author of Picky? Not Me, Mom! A Parents' Guide to Children's Nutrition. If you have a question you would like answered please leave it in the comment section below. Thanks!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.