Help Kids Beat Type 2 Diabetes this New Year (Guest Post)

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The holidays are a time of struggle for many people as they try to balance eating healthy while still enjoying all the delicious goodies that tend to come around in November and December. My family is the same as any, but this year we had to make a drastic change in how we spent the holidays. November was American Diabetes Month, and ironically, November was the same month that we found out that one of my younger cousins was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.

I couldn’t believe that my 13-year old cousin could get a disease that I believed was only for adults. However, after talking to her doctors and doing some research on the subject, I found that there are many children in the world who now suffer from this disease. What was scariest for me, was what could happen for my cousin down the road if we didn’t take care of this right away. According to St. Joseph’s Hospital Cardiac Center, if left untreated, diabetes can lead to later complications in life such as blindness, heart disease and even various neurological problems. Once we learned this, we knew that we needed to work together as a family to help my cousin get better, and to prevent any of my other cousins or family members from getting this disease, too.

Eating Healthier

Since one of the two biggest factors of Type 2 Diabetes prevention is diet, we knew that the first thing we needed to do as a family was to make a pact that we were all going to eat healthier this year. Here are a few tips that we used:

Swap out the Chips for Healthy Snacks

January is especially full of bowl games and parades that draw children to the television set. Instead of setting out the common holiday snack faire like chips and dip, try creating a plate full of raw vegetables and low-fat dip. Leave the carbohydrates like fancy breads and cookies tucked away and set up snack stations with fresh strawberries and fat-free cream or nut-rich trail mix with a few chocolate pieces. The goal is to cut back on rich sweets and high calorie fats in exchange for filling treats with fiber, but low in calories.

Make Healthier Versions of Family-Favorite Meals

One of the hardest changes for the kids in our family (and lets face it, some of the adults, too) was the thought that they could never have any of their favorite meals again. This isn’t true! We have found ways to make healthier versions of favorite family meals – and although some took a little bit longer than others for the kids to be open to, over time each person has finally come around. **Note: it always helps to let kids help plan and prepare meals – they are much more likely to eat something they helped create! Here are a few meals we made healthier:

  • baked chicken strips with sweet potato fries vs. fried chicken tenders and French fries
  • stringed squash & lean turkey-meatballs vs. white spaghetti & fatty beef meatballs
  • pureed cauliflower with garlic spices vs. mashed potatoes
  • low-fat/fat-free frozen yogurt with fruit and nut toppings vs. ice cream with hot fudge and candy sprinkles

Being Active

The second factor of Type 2 Diabetes prevention is the necessity of regular physical activity. Many kids today like to spend the majority of their time sitting in front of the TV, their computer or playing video games. While this is okay – in moderation – it’s important to get kids moving as much as possible. Here are some things we have done to get the kids in the family (and the adults!) moving:

  • swimming at the local college pool
  • taking nature hikes in the park and nearby woods
  • having dance competitions using the Dance Dance Revolution video game
  • getting the neighborhood kids together to play big games of tag, soccer, kickball, capture-the-flag, kick-the-can, etc.
  • getting outside in the snow to go skiing and sledding, ice skating, building snow forts and snow men, and having snowball fights!
  • relaxing Saturday-morning wake up or Sunday-night calming practice of Yoga

Carolyn is a 20-something year old with a passion for life, fitness and overall well-being. She is an avid cycler, golfer and has been known to bust some serious moves on the dance floor. Check out Carolyn’s blog at http://fullonfit.blogspot.com/