If your child is among the growing number of kids with Type 2 diabetes, or is on the path to developing the disease, you might see it not as an individual problem but as a family matter.
Kids who develop Type 2 diabetes need to control their blood sugar, or they risk facing a host of medical complications down the road. Diet and exercise go a long way toward keeping blood sugar in check. But kids can’t go it alone.
“Parents and caregivers need to protect the home by bringing healthy foods on board,” Danielle said. “You have to set them up for success.”
The family, she said, needs to function as a team. “Everybody in the family should follow suit. If you buy Little Debbie snacks and say the child with diabetes can’t have them, that doesn’t work. They end up sneaking food and acting out.”
Healthy eating and exercise may be enough to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. For those with the disease, it may be enough to keep blood sugar in the normal range, without medication or insulin.
Much of Danielle’s focus for her patients is on making carbohydrates count and increasing exercise. Here is her advice:
- Engage in 60 minutes a day of “sweaty activity.”
- Ditch the sugary drinks. They cause blood sugar to spike.
“Get rid of juice in the morning,” she adds. “Eat your fruit in the morning, don’t drink it.”
- Meals should emphasize “produce and protein.” For breakfast, for example, try 2 scrambled eggs and an orange. Or hard-boiled eggs for a quick breakfast. Greek yogurt and fresh fruit are also good choices.
Danielle is not a proponent of cereals and breads, especially for kids dealing with obesity, which is associated with Type 2 diabetes. Refined starches, such as white bread, many cereals and pasta, convert quickly to blood sugar, causing it to spike. Excess carbs are stored as fat – a sure ticket to weight gain.
If cereal does make it to the breakfast table, make sure it’s whole grain and low sugar. Or choose oatmeal (but not sugary, flavored instant oatmeal).
Likewise, for other meals go with whole-grain breads and pasta, and brown rice. But watch the portion size.
Recent research shows that cutting back on carbs, not fat, is the key to weight loss.
So what does smart eating look like on the dinner plate?
At least half of your plate is non-starchy vegetables. A cold salad and a hot vegetable. Lean protein. No second helpings of rice, noodles or potatoes (1 cup max). Aim for whole-grain starches such as brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. Portion out starches, and put the rest in the fridge so you are not tempted to go back for seconds.
The key to sustaining healthy eating habits is a healthy state of mind, Danielle said. “There are so many psychological aspects,” she explained. “Kids have to be in the mindset. They have to want to do it, not be forced to.”