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.

By
Susan Amoruso

Dish out healthy portions. An average bagel used to be three inches and 140 calories; today it’s six inches and 350 calories, or more, so it’s understandable if you’ve lost touch with what a healthy portion looks like. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep measuring cups, a food scale and other devices on your kitchen counter. After a while, you’ll easily be able to eyeball servings. That way, if your children enjoy licking their plate clean, you can rest assured they’re getting just what they need.

Keep the conversation flowing.
It’s a good way to slow down everyone’s eating, giving the brain a chance to receive fullness cues from the stomach. Try this: Create a conversation jar. Have family members jot down a question on slips of paper. For example, “Where should we go on vacation this summer?” “What gets you really mad?” “What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you?” Then, each night, take turns picking out a question slip.

Load up on veggies. Look at your dinner plate. Are there piles of starchy carbs and fatty meats? Your kids won’t eat vegetables if you don’t eat them, too. According to the American Diabetes Association, filling one-half of your plate with nonstarchy vegetables, such as spinach, squash, tomatoes and broccoli, can help prevent diabetes. Still can’t convince the kids? Plenty of recipes are online to help you sneak veggies into meals.

Say no to salt.
Put the saltshaker down. Or, better yet, don’t put it on the table at all. Kids won’t think about salting their food unless they see you doing it. Not only can high levels of sodium lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for those with diabetes, but some studies say that salt addictions can cause food cravings. Can’t shake the habit? Make food more flavorful by using herbs and spices known to protect against diabetes, such as oregano, marjoram, sage and cinnamon.

Say yes to sleep.
A lack of sleep has been linked to a host of health conditions, including a greater risk of type 2 diabetes. School-age children who get the recommended 9 to 10½ hours of sleep a night are less likely to be obese or have high cholesterol or high blood sugar levels—and a good night’s sleep can improve your child’s mood and attention span. Set a time when all electronics must be shut down—that goes for you and your partner, too—to get your family into a healthy sleep ritual.

Don’t make foods forbidden.
Just as you don’t want to allow your kids to gorge on junk food whenever they want, you also don’t want to label any food as “bad” or “off-limits.” Doing so may increase your child’s fascination with the foods and cause sugar binges. Instead, let your children know that certain foods—cakes, cookies, candy, ice cream—are only for special occasions. Eating sweets in moderation won’t harm your or your child’s health. So go ahead and have a small slice of that birthday cake—without feeling guilty about it.

Published
April 2012