Diabetes Prevention: Are You a Healthy Role Model?

Getting your kids to eat right and exercise often depends on your own actions. Make diabetes prevention a family affair by becoming a healthy role model.

Susan Amoruso
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Falling into bad habits is easy when raising a family. You’re constantly on the go: running to work, shuttling kids, keeping up with household chores. It’s no surprise, then, that finding time to eat right and exercise can fall by the wayside.

While poor health habits aren’t good for anyone, they’re especially dangerous for parents with a history of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is on the rise among children and teenagers. And although genetics plays a significant role—approximately 45% to 80% of affected kids have at least one parent with diabetes—obesity is also a major factor.

Parents can help reverse this trend by encouraging healthy habits—and discouraging bad ones. In fact, modest weight loss and regular moderate exercise (even walking) can cut the risk of developing diabetes by more than half, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center, the global leader in diabetes research, care and education.

Read on for a few simple lifestyle changes you can make to slash your child’s diabetes risk.

Start the day right.
Do you insist that your children eat breakfast, but find yourself rushing to work on an empty stomach or grabbing a donut along the way? Say it once, say it twice: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, especially when it comes to controlling blood sugar and weight. Studies show that people who skip breakfast consume more calories throughout the day, because they tend to snack on high-calorie foods or overeat at lunch. Even if you get in a quick bowl of oatmeal and half a banana or grab a yogurt to go, you’re teaching your kids the importance of fueling the body and brain with a morning meal.

Strive for family sit-down meals.
Your husband is snacking in front of the TV. Your daughter is eating in her room while texting friends. And you’re dining a la standing at the kitchen counter. Sound familiar? Although eating together every night may be unrealistic, it’s important that you strive to make dinnertime a family affair at least a few nights a week. According to a University of Minnesota study, kids who eat with their families tend to snack less and consume more fruits and vegetables.

Take care with condiments.
Teaching your youngsters to cover healthy foods with sauces is a slippery, sugary slope. Ketchup has about 1 teaspoon of sugar in every 1-tablespoon serving. Barbecue sauce has 2 teaspoons in every ounce. Even fat-free salad dressing can be laden with sugar—as much as 2 teaspoons per 2 tablespoons. So don’t automatically place condiments on the table. And buy ones that are low in sugar: Remember, ingredients are listed on food labels based on amount, from highest to lowest, so watch out for ones that start with sugar, corn syrup, glucose, fructose or lactose. And for a healthy dip base, try nonfat Greek yogurt; add dill, cucumbers and chopped onion and scoop then up with carrot and celery sticks!

April 2012