Over 200,000 individuals under the age of 20 in the U.S. are diabetic.
The majority of them have type 1 diabetes, often referred to as juvenile diabetes. However, as obesity rates in children continue to rise, type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in young people.
From 2001 to 2009, there was a 30.5 percent increase in type 2 diabetes in youth. There are now an estimated 5,000 new cases per year in the United States.
Although family history plays a role in the development of type II diabetes in children, the main culprits are: unhealthy diet, excess weight, and lack of physical activity.
Initial symptoms of diabetes in children are similar to those of adults. Excessive thirst, dry mouth, frequent urination, fatigue, even blurred vision. Watch children closely for any of these symptoms.
While childhood diabetes is treated much the same as adult diabetes, (monitor blood sugar levels, avoid eating refined sugar and simple carbohydrates, and increase physical activity), there are additional things to take into consideration when treating childhood diabetes.
It is essential to establish an interdisciplinary health care team. This means working with a range of medical professionals including physicians, nurses, diabetes educators, social workers, and dieticians.
This team approach helps to bring more solutions and ideas to the table, and offers the most comprehensive care benefits. The healthcare team will provide lifestyle and diet tips and it is important to follow their instructions closely.
When a child is diagnosed with diabetes, the whole family shares that diagnosis. Meaning, every member of the family must get on board to make the necessary changes for that child’s health. A diabetes diagnosis will not only affect the child, but siblings and parents, too.
The transition to a new lifestyle will likely not be quick nor easy for every member of the family. We humans are set in our ways, and don’t tend to take change very well.
When a necessary change meets with resistance, work as a team to find a solution. Remind everyone that you are supporting each other as a family, and emphasize the importance of working together.
Quit fast food and prepare the majority of meals and snacks at home. Plan your meals each week and have the whole family participate. Would everyone rather have steaks and salad for dinner on Tuesday, or shrimp and broccoli with brown rice?
Also, bringing the kids into the kitchen to prepare meals can increase their willingness to try new and different foods. One is more likely to try (and like) something he or she helped to make!
Enjoy plenty of protein – beef, poultry, and fish. Aim for a serving the size of your palm. Baked, broiled, or grilled meats are best. Steer clear of deep fried or pan fried foods.
Find delicious, exciting ways to eat more vegetables. Don’t be afraid of fat! Avocado, salmon, eggs, and nuts all are good sources of heart-healthy fats.
Learn the difference between carbs and sugars. Choose complex carbs that are also high in fiber, such as whole grain breads, brown rice, quinoa, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Keep junk food out of the house. Foods like cupcakes and candy should be limited to very occasional treats. Instead of ice cream for dessert, have a piece of fruit. Instead of a bag of potato chips for a snack, dip raw veggies in hummus or pesto.
Toss out the sodas, processed juices, and energy drinks. Water is best. If you don’t enjoy a plain glass of water, try water infused with fresh fruit (lemons, limes, oranges), veggies like cucumber, or herbs such as mint.
It’s not simply about giving up sweets. Sugar is everywhere. From ketchup to yogurt, sugar hides in places you would never think to look. Check nutritional labels carefully.
A diabetes diagnosis not only changes diet, but other lifestyle aspects, as well.
For today’s children and teens, physical activity is on the decline. Most would much rather stay inside and play video games. Make a goal of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for each family member. Start slowly. Walk the dog for twenty minutes in the morning, participate in gym class or team practice at school, and take a walk after dinner with the family. Every bit counts.
Speaking of video games, limit screen time to no more than two hours a day. This includes TV, computer, video games, and phone. This not only keeps kids up and moving, but also more engaged in their surroundings.
Again, not all of these changes will be easy. Some may even be met with downright – “You’ve got to be kidding me” attitudes. However, through sincere effort and dedication, attaining a healthy and happy family is possible. Not only is it possible, it is crucial for the health of our future generations.