A family is one of the most influential factors in a child’s life.1 From their first cry to the moment they learn to sustain themselves, children depend on their families to tend to their needs and protect them. As primary caregivers of the child, we can easily say that nurturing a child is the most important responsibility of a parent. Teaching a child to make healthy lifestyle choices that will shape their health for a lifetime is something every parent can do to help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adults over the age of 45.2 But, do you know that there is a growing incidence of type 2 diabetes in children as well?3 Type 2 diabetes comprises 8-45% of all recent cases of diabetes among children and teenagers. Of all the factors leading to type 2 diabetes in the younger population, obesity seems to be the prime causative factor.4 Obesity is typically caused by an increase in caloric intake and a sedentary lifestyle.5
The good news is that type 2 diabetes is often preventable. On this World Diabetes Day, let’s see how parents can prevent type 2 diabetes in their children. Parents need to make minor alterations to their child’s everyday life to create an environment that encourages healthy eating and lifestyle habits, which can shield their child from this disabling disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that parents incorporate changes such as limiting exposure to television (TV), promoting physical activity, and introducing healthy mealtime habits in their children’s lives to prevent type 2 diabetes.6
Curtail exposure to TV
Recent studies have found that advertisements for foods and beverages influence a child’s food choices, brand preferences, and requests made to parents. Many researchers have studied the poor nutritional quality of foods and beverages that are advertised to the younger population. Many such foods have high levels of total fat, sugar, calories, saturated fat, or sodium and are nutrient-poor or “junk” foods that can lead to obesity.7
Research has also found that kids who never watched TV during mealtimes were at a lower risk of being overweight as compared to the ones who did.8 Another study found that kids ate more while watching TV compared to what they ate while doing other activities.6
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend viewing of television in children aged two years or younger.9 Parents should monitor the time spent by the child in front of the TV and discourage children from watching television during mealtimes.6
Promote physical activity
We see that young children who go to the playground are usually physically active and healthy. However, as they grow older, they may not engage in physical activity due to various factors such as:
- A feeling that they aren’t as good as their peers at sports
- The absence of role models
- Increasing demands of academic activities at schools and tuitions
- Busy families10
The CDC recommends that children should engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity, preferably daily. Since children tend to imitate their parents, you should incorporate physical activities into your routine and encourage your child to join you. Some activities you could engage in with your child are:
- Brisk walking
- Playing football
Encourage healthy mealtime habits
Encouraging healthy eating habits in children is essential for preventing them being overweight. It also enhances the overall well-being of the child. We have listed a few recommendations for parents to encourage healthy eating habits in their children.
- Eat breakfast daily. Skipping breakfast may leave the kids hungry and may result in them looking out for unhealthy food options.
- Eating together with the family helps the child enjoy a variety of foods.
- Start with small servings of food and let the child decide whether he/she is still hungry.
- Buy fewer high-calorie foods and soft drinks.
- Serve more vegetables and fruits at mealtimes.
- Offer the child low-fat milk or water instead of fruit juice, which is higher in calories.11
These recommendations are simple steps that any parent can introduce in their child’s life. Every small step can have a significant impact on your child’s future. This World Diabetes Day, a shout out to all the parents out there — let us make a resolution to keep our children healthy so that they can live a full, diabetes-free life.
- Schor EL. The influence of families on child health. Family behaviors and child outcomes. Pediatr Clin North Am. 1995 Feb;42(1):89-102.
- Type 2 diabetes [Internet]. [updated 2019 May 30; cited 2019 Nov 08]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html.
- Reinehr T. Type 2 diabetes mellitus in children and adolescents. World J Diabetes. 2013 Dec 15;4(6):270-81. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v4.i6.270.
- Temneanu OR, Trandafir LM, Purcarea MR. Type 2 diabetes mellitus in children and adolescents: a relatively new clinical problem within pediatric practice. J Med Life. 2016 Jul-Sep;9(3):235-239.
- Sahoo K, Sahoo B, Choudhury AK, Sofi NY, Kumar R, Bhadoria AS. Childhood obesity: causes and consequences. J Family Med Prim Care. 2015 Apr-Jun;4(2):187-92. doi: 10.4103/2249-4863.154628.
- Prevent type 2 diabetes in kids [Internet]. [updated 2017 Jun 29; cited 2019 Nov 08]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/prevent-diabetes-kids/index.html.
- Harris JL, Graff SK. Protecting young people from junk food advertising: implications of psychological research for First Amendment law. Am J Public Health. 2012 Feb;102(2):214-22. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300328.
- Vik FN, Bjørnarå HB, Overby NC, Lien N, Androutsos O, Maes L, et al. Associations between eating meals, watching TV while eating meals and weight status among children, ages 10-12 years in eight European countries: the ENERGY cross-sectional study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2013 May 15;10:58. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-10-58.
- Tips for parents–ideas to help children maintain a healthy weight [Internet]. [updated 2018 May 23; cited 2019 Nov 08]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/children/index.html.
- Motivating kids to be active [Internet]. [updated 2018 Jun; cited 2019 Nov 08]. Available from: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/active-kids.html.
- Encourage healthy eating habits [Internet]. [updated 2018 Jul 16; cited 2019 Nov 08]. Available from: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/nutrition/article/encourage-healthy-eating-habits.