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On Call: Preventing Diabetes

Q. Most of my husband's family has Type 2 diabetes. How can I stop my children from getting it?

A. This is a great question because doctors are seeing more and more kids with diabetes these days, and that's thought to be due to childhood obesity. So the best way to prevent it in your children is by keeping them at a healthy weight, starting now.

The American Heart Association issued new guidelines for kids last year to try to stem the obesity epidemic; following them will also help curb diabetes. They include:

  • Drink only 100 percent juice, and no more than four to six ounces a day.
  • Forget the "clean-plate club"  -- let kids listen to their hunger signals, and don't ever force them to finish meals.
  • Serve high-nutrition foods such as whole grains, nonfat and low-fat dairy, fish (stick to those lower in mercury, like cod, tilapia, or flounder), and lots of fruits and veggies. (Just keep offering them if your kids don't bite at first.)
  • Reduce empty calories by cutting back on sweets and other processed foods, and on soda and other sugary beverages (including sports drinks).
  • Cut back on saturated fats and trans fats  -- avoid fried foods and fatty sauces, keep to lean cuts of meat, and serve more legumes instead of meat.
  • Eat healthy yourself! Kids learn best by watching your example.
  • Get your children moving. Try exercising daily as a family  -- taking walks, going to the pool, or (my 5-year-old Natasha's favorite) doing yoga.