Many lifestyle factors that affect healthy living, including food preferences, are formed in early childhood and may influence an individual’s eating habits for life. Using meal and snack time as teachable moments for wise food choices is one way to encourage healthy living. Children’s activity levels and food tastes are also significantly related to the activities and food preferences of their parents. You can be a role model to your child by taking a proactive approach to your own health through eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

Although Type 2 diabetes is linked to unavoidable predispositions like genetics and ancestry, the risk of diabetes can be lowered by implementing a healthy lifestyle from an early age. In the past, Type 2 diabetes was limited primarily to adults, but the lack of physical activity and obesity in today’s screen-addicted youth has made it more common among children and teens. Studies have shown that physical activity along with healthy food consumption can lower insulin resistance and help with weight loss, two contributors to developing diabetes. To lower the risk of diabetes in your child, follow these guidelines:

Foster and Model Healthy Eating Habits

  • Keep junk food out of the house – Don’t buy donuts, chips, cookies, candy, sugary drinks, or sodas. Instead, stock your kitchen with ready-to-eat fruits and veggies for an easy snack. Think baby carrots, celery sticks, and apple slices.
  • Serve non-fried foods – Bake, broil, roast, grill, steam, or boil foods instead of frying them. When using oils, utilize healthy options like olive or coconut.
  • Buy whole grains – Opt for whole grain pasta, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice over refined grains like white bread and white rice.
  • Serve foods with fiber – Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts all help reduce the risk of diabetes by controlling blood sugar.
  • Watch portion size – Serve smaller portions when filling your kid’s plate. You can always serve seconds if your child is still hungry.
  • Limit sweets – Reduce your child’s intake of fruit juice, candy, ice cream, sugary cereal, and sweet baked goods. Encourage your kids to drink water or milk, and consider serving fruit for dessert instead of sweets.
  • Limit eating out, especially fast food – Fast food is often highly processed and high in sugar, fat, and sodium with little nutritional value. Consider planning meals ahead of time or packing a healthy meal to-go.
  • Pack your child’s lunches – Provide your child a healthy packed lunch to eat instead of the greasier options at the school cafeteria.
  • Set a good example – Kids are very observant and notice what you eat. Show them what food they should eating by making healthy food choices and not overly indulging in unhealthy foods.

Encourage and Exhibit an Active Lifestyle

  • Limit TV and video/computer games – Keep TV watching and virtual game-playing time limited to 2 hours per day.
  • Aim for 1 hour per day – Children and teens should be active for about 60 minutes per day, so make sure your kids get some fresh air.
  • Have your kids complete active chores – Give them chores such as raking leaves and vacuuming that require some physical exertion.
  • Make exercise family time – Go to the park to shoot some hoops or take a walk around your neighborhood. Not only is it good for your health, but it’s also great for family bonding.
  • Set an example – Once again, your children will place importance on what they see you do. If they see you making exercise a priority, they are more likely to model it in their own lives.
By implementing these healthy choices and habits, you’ll improve your child’s quality of life while reducing their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

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