Sinai Health Magazine

Fall 2019 | The Changing Face of Diabetes

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Type 2 Diabetes & Kids: How to Reduce the Risk in Your Family

Type 2 diabetes used to be a condition that only affected adults. But it’s been on the rise in kids and teens in Canada and around the world for the past two decades, as people consume more ultra-processed foods and spend less time being active. Fortunately, there are lots of ways parents can help their kids reduce their risk factors for developing diabetes.

“Some diabetes risk factors can be reduced or managed, but other factors may be beyond your control,” says Christie Hamilton, a dietitian at the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital. Hamilton and her fellow dietitians see all types of patients with all types of diabetes, and have a wealth of knowledge to share about managing the condition and living a full life. Hamilton notes that people over the age of 40, or with a parent or sibling who has diabetes, are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Being of African, Arab, East Asian, Hispanic, Indigenous or South Asian background can also increase the risk.

But, adds fellow dietitian Jennifer Sampson, “The number one risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes is obesity, so ensuring a healthy body weight is essential. Setting a good example and teaching kids healthy lifestyle habits from an early age are the best ways to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Try these tips to help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in your family.

  1. Plan. Plan. Plan. Meal planning and sticking to the corresponding shopping list is the best way to ensure you’ve got healthy meals, snacks and food on hand.
  2. Involve your kids.If kids help choose and prepare their meals and snacks, they’ll be more likely to eat what gets put on the table.
  3. Chop it up.Take some time to pre-cut vegetables like carrots, cucumbers and peppers, so that they’re always on hand for a quick snack. Frozen, pre-cut fruits and veggies are great to use in quick-prep meals and smoothies too, and are often less expensive than fresh.
  4. Water, water everywhere.Don’t keep sweetened, high-sugar drinks at home, like pop or fruit juice. Instead, fill pitchers of water and keep them on the table or in the fridge, along with milk or milk alternatives. Send kids to school with (preferably reusable) water bottles. You’ll save money, calories and visits to the dentist.
  5. Be a role model. If you show your kids you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle — by eating right, being physically active and getting a good night’s sleep — they’ll likely follow in your footsteps. It’s OK to have treats once in while or to enjoy a lazy day, but as long as most of your choices take health into consideration, you’ll be doing yourself and your family a favour.

Written by Nancy Carr | Illustration by Suharu Ogawa