How to Help Your Children Stay Healthy: Tips to Lower Their Chances of Getting Type 2 Diabetes
This tip sheet explains what type 2 diabetes is and provides great ideas parents can use to help their children be active and eat healthier to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Reviewed for Plain Language Principles
This publication has been reviewed by NDEP for plain language principles. Learn more about our review process.
Last reviewed: 07/01/2014
This tip sheet is for parents who have kids that are 8 to 12 years old. It tells you about type 2 diabetes and why some kids have more chance of getting diabetes. It also gives you great ideas about how you can help your kids be active and eat healthy foods.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease. It means that your blood sugar levels are too high. If your blood sugar levels stay too high for too long, it can damage your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and even your teeth and gums. In the past, only adults got type 2 diabetes. Now some children and teens are also getting type 2 diabetes.
What makes some kids more likely to get type 2 diabetes than other kids?
- Having a mom, dad, sister, brother, or other family member with diabetes
- Being overweight
- Not being active
- Weighing 9 pounds or more at birth
- Being born to a mother who had diabetes during the pregnancy
- Being an American Indian, Alaska Native, African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander
What can you do?
- Help your children be active each day.
- Make meals and snacks that are healthy and taste good.
- Take your kids grocery shopping. Teach them how to read food labels to help find healthy foods.
- Limit portion sizes of foods high in fat, sugar, and salt.
- Limit your kids’ play time in front of the computer, tablets, smartphones, and TV to 2 hours per day.
- Ask the doctor if your kids are at a healthy weight and if they have a greater chance of getting type 2 diabetes.
- Be a good role model. Eat healthy foods and be active with your kids.
What can kids do to be healthy?
- Be more active.
- Eat well.
How can your kids be active?
Ask your kids how they like to be active. What is fun for them? If they don’t have ideas, you can suggest that they:
- Ride a bike
- Shoot hoops
- Jump rope
- Go for a walk or run with a parent or older family member
How much activity should your kids get?
Your kids need about 60 minutes of activity a day. They don’t have to do it all at once. For example, 20 minutes at a time, 3 times a day is fine.
Have your kids start out slow. Support them. Let them know the important thing is to just keep moving! They can add more activity each week.
How will being active help?
Being active can help your children:
- Build muscle and burn off extra fat.
- Grow strong bones and stay flxible.
- Feel good and sleep better.
- Be at a healthy weight.
How can your kids eat well?
- Make good food choices.
- Eat healthy snacks.
- Adopt healthy eating habits.
What are good food choices?
Talk with your kids about how they think they can eat healthier. Make a list together. Here are some tips you might want to include:
- Eat foods that are high in fiber such as whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, lentils, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
- Eat foods low in saturated and trans fats such as lean meat, chicken without the skin, fish, and non-fat or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Eat baked, broiled, or grilled foods instead of fried foods.
- Eat foods that are low in salt such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Do not add salt to your foods.
- Eat lots of vegetables. For example, make a salad with leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, and peppers. Use 2 tablespoons or less of a low-fat dressing.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks such as soda, sport drinks, and fruit juice.
What are healthy snacks?
Here are some easy, healthy snacks:
- A piece of fruit such as an apple or banana
- A slice of toast with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- A cup of low-fat or non-fat yogurt
- Raw vegetables such as carrots or celery with salsa
What are healthy eating habits my family can try?
- Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.
- Limit portion sizes when eating a meal. Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fill one quarter with a lean protein, such as chicken or turkey without the skin or beans. Fill one quarter with a whole grain, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta. Drink a cup of low-fat or non-fat milk with your meal.
- Limit desserts such as cookies and ice cream to only 1 or 2 times a week.
- Turn the TV and other devices off during meals. Enjoy eating and talking with family members.
An easy snack recipe that parents can make with kids:
- 1/2 cup of low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of skim milk
- 1 cup of frozen fruit (try strawberries, blueberries, or peaches)
- 1 banana
Place yogurt, fruit, and milk into a blender. Mix until smooth. Pour into glasses to serve. Get creative and ask your kids to think of other fruits to add.
To learn more:
National Diabetes Education Program
Learn about diabetes and how to prevent it
Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics – Kids Eat Right
Nutrition information and resources for parents and caregivers
Bam! Body and Mind
Health, fitness, and safety information for kids
Choose My Plate
Tips on healthy eating
Youth Physical Activity Guidelines
Resources to help kids become active
Ways to enhance children’s activity and nutrition
WIN – Weight-control Information Network
Resources to help parents guide kids in making healthy food choices and becoming more active