According to two recent studies, the onset of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents has roughly doubled since the onset of the COVID pandemic.
In 2019, the pediatric hospitalization rate for new-onset type 2 diabetes in one study was 0.27% compared to 0.62% in 2020. Kids admitted to the hospital in 2020 were also sicker and had a higher risk of requiring intensive care admission. Pediatricians in Raleigh, NC, and throughout the nation believe it is quite possible that decreased opportunities for exercise and physical activity, as well as economic factors making it harder for many families to put healthy food on the table, may be part of the reason.
The pediatricians at Carolina Kids Pediatrics in Raleigh, NC, believe that re-engaging in daily physical activity is crucial for not only diabetes prevention, but also physical and mental health for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children engage in at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.
If your kids are not into organized team sports, there are other ways to get them active. Use apps to help your kids track their physical activity, and even engage in friendly competition with their peers or family members. I personally love the app Strava, which allows kids and adults alike to track their physical activity as well as set goals over time – they can even follow their friends on the app, comment and provide encouragement to their friends on their activities, and maybe engage in a bit of friendly online competition. (I do request that if your kids look up their pediatrician on Strava that they refrain from making fun of the old man’s running pace…)
To decrease your child’s risk of diabetes through your meal planning:
- Serve at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day (true, your kids may not always eat them, but provide frequent opportunities!)
- Include high-fiber, whole-grain foods such as whole-grain pasta, brown rice, peas, bread, and cereals at meals. Avoid excessive carbohydrates between meals (a piece of fresh fruit makes a better snack than just about anything that comes in a package)
- Choose lower-fat or fat-free toppings like grated low-fat parmesan cheese, salsa, herbed cottage cheese, nonfat/low-fat gravy, low-fat sour cream, low-fat salad dressing, or low-fat yogurt.
- Offer about 2 to 3 cups of low-fat milk daily.
- Avoid excessive juice, and limit juice to 4 oz or less per day in toddlers and preschoolers.
- Select lean meats such as skinless chicken and turkey, fish, lean beef cuts (round, sirloin, chuck, loin, lean ground beef—no more than 15% fat content), and lean pork cuts (tenderloin, chops, ham). Trim off all visible fat. Remove skin from cooked poultry before eating.
- Include healthy oils such as canola or olive oil in your diet. Choose margarine and vegetable oils without trans fats made from canola, corn, sunflower, soybean, or olive oils.
- Use nonstick vegetable sprays when cooking.
- Use fat-free cooking methods such as baking, broiling, grilling, poaching, or steaming when cooking meat, poultry, or fish.
- Serve vegetable and broth-based soups or use nonfat (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk or evaporated skim milk when making cream soups.
- Use the nutrition facts label on food packages to find foods with less saturated fat per serving. Pay attention to the serving size as you make choices. Remember that the percent daily values on food labels are based on portion sizes and calorie levels for adults (a portion size for a young child is usually less than 1/3 of an adult’s portion size – visualize the amount of food that would fit in the palm of your child’s hand as a typical portion size)
For more tips on curbing your child’s sweet tooth, check out:
Contact your pediatricians at Carolina Kids Pediatrics in Raleigh, NC at (919) 881-9009 – or send us an e-mail through the patient portal - if you need to schedule a checkup to discuss your child’s nutrition.