Lifestyle Changes Can Help Kids Avoid Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, once the sole province of overweight adults, now affects kids who have poor eating habits and get little exercise.

Why is it so important to watch kids' weight? Eighty percent of overweight kids become overweight adults, but those kids are not guaranteed to become diabetics. Parents can do a lot to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in their kids—even if the parents already have it. The American Diabetes Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer these tips:

  • Ban habits that lead to overeating. Make kids use a plate and eat at the table.

  • Make sure kids exercise. They need an hour a day, all or most days. Sports teams are one option, but outdoor play, such as running around and bike riding, are other options.

  • Control portions. Don't let kids overeat. Switch to smaller plates to encourage smaller portions.

  • Delay seconds at mealtime. Wait 15 to 20 minutes before you offer seconds.

  • Don't buy junk food. Offer low-calorie snacks such as carrots, celery, Italian ices, low-fat cheese, or fresh fruit.

  • Limit or get rid of soda and other sweetened beverages. These have a lot of calories with minimal nutritional value.

  • Cut back television time and other sedentary "screen time," such as video games and computers. Two hours a day or less is all that's recommended.

  • Set a good example. Eat in a healthier manner—and exercise too.

If you have questions about your child's nutritional needs, be certain to check with your pediatrician.