ST. GEORGE – Just this past month, The American Academy of Pediatrics published a technical report on the Management of Type II Diabetes in Children and Adolescents. This information is timely, given that a disease which in recent years was only found in adults, now affects millions of children. In fact, one in three new diagnosed cases of type II diabetes is in patients younger than eighteen years old.
Type II diabetes is a disease caused by a problem in the way the body uses or makes insulin. Insulin is required to move glucose from the blood into the cells for energy. When insulin can’t do that, glucose in the blood rises and causes short term and long term symptoms/damage. Short term symptoms may include headaches, increased thirst, fatigue, blurred vision, and dizziness. The most significant long term damage is neurological disorders effecting the eyes, kidneys and feet.
Type II diabetes is preventable. Attention to healthy eating, physical activity and weight management are important. Children should be encouraged, in a positive way, to incorporate all three into a healthy lifestyle.
When it comes to healthy eating, keep the message positive. Instead of telling your children what they can’t have, focus on what they can. Fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats should be emphasized. When you add in lots of the good stuff, it tends to crowd out the bad!
I would suggest using the following table to educate yourself and your children on how to build a balanced meal. By making half of your plate vegetables, you automatically control the portions on the other side of the plate.
Here are some ideas on how to make meal times fun:
- Add one new food each week for variety and to introduce your children to new tastes! For example, ever tried millet? It cooks in the same water to grain ratio as rice and is just as simple to make.
- Involve the whole family in weekly meal plans.
- Let the kids choose what new vegetable they may want to try and look up recipes together on how to prepare them.
- At the grocery store, let your children pick out a fruit they would like for snacks that week.
- Save time on meal preparation by enlisting help from the whole family. You can even take an hour on the weekend to spend time in the kitchen together prepping some foods for the week.
- When your children pack their lunches for school, encourage them to think about the plate method above.
Eating healthy can be fun! It should also involve the whole family–that’s the key to success!
Written by Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD, CLT, for St. George Health and Wellness
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