When I was a kid we weren’t allowed to have junk food in the house at all. There were no sugary cereals to be found either. Even when we could have a treat it was in very limited amounts. I distinctly remember going over to friends houses and wanting nothing more than to raid their pantry. I marveled at one friend in particular, who could open a pantry filled with junk food, take one piece of licorice and walk away. All of those treats in one place and all she wanted was one piece of licorice? Was she crazy?
No she wasn’t crazy. She was just used to being around junk food so the novelty had worn off.
Yesterday the news broke that the number of teens in the U.S. diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes has grown by over two and half times in the past ten years, jumping from 9% to 23%. Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by higher than normal blood glucose levels which are a result of the body’s inability to properly produce or use insulin. That is a scary statistic because the complications which can stem from unmanaged diabetes are simply horrible.
Maybe now diabetes will become part of the conversation for doctors and parents. According to the American Diabetes Association, early detection of symptoms and early treatment can decrease the chance of developing complications. Since we know that healthy habits and regular physical activity can help prevent diabetes, maybe schools will take this into consideration when purchasing items for their cafeterias and vending machines or when they are debating whether to cut gym class and athletic programs.
In the meantime, we need to teach children that healthy habits such as regular physical activity and a balanced diet are incredibly important. They need to understand that life is about more than candy, soda and video games. It’s up to us to be role models and instill healthy habits in our kids. Yet as far as I’m concerned (and while you may not agree), it is essential to provide a balance so when our children are on their own they will make smart choices rather than making up for lost time by consuming every item of junk food in their path.
There are some simple tips to consider so your child does not become part of that 23% of kids with teen diabetes:
- At the supermarket, look for whole grain breads, crackers, cereals and pasta rather than those made from white flour or with high sugar and salt content.
- Use lean meats and low fat dairy products rather than full fat items.
- Limit the fast food, or at the very least, read the menus carefully and limit the menu items that contain the most fat, sugar and salt.
- Try to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned or frozen ones. However, keep in mind that canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are much healthier than no fruits or vegetables.
- Look for healthier snack options for your kids or put a limit the amount of junk food they consume.
- Serve water with meals instead of soda and other drinks with high sugar content, high salt content and high fructose corn syrup.
- You are their role model. Show them your own healthy habits by eating a balanced diet and doing some sort of regular physical activity.
What have you done to instill healthy habits in your children? How are you showing them that there is more to life than candy, soda and video games? Are you being a strong role model? Do they understand the importance of a balanced diet and physical activity?