How teens can reduce the risk of diabetes

July 2, 2015 Providence Health Team

Regardless of your family history or genetic predisposition, you can still adopt a healthy lifestyle to mitigate your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight, through a combination of nutritious eating and exercise, is paramount. This is especially true for teens who have prediabetes, for whom the biggest risk factor of Type 2 diabetes is being overweight.

Eat healthy

When it comes to food, the three main sources of fuel are protein, fat and carbohydrates.

  • Protein
    Eating protein at every meal can help you feel full, longer. Choose proteins that are lower in fat, such as fish, poultry, tofu, peanut butter and low-fat dairy.
  • Fats
    Your body needs fat to survive but too much fat — and too much of the “bad” kind— can be detrimental. Unsaturated fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, are the “good” fats. Vegetable oils (like olive and canola), nuts, avocado and certain fish (like salmon and trout) are high in unsaturated fats. Limit your intake of saturated fat and avoid trans fat.
  • Carbohydrates
    Carbs are a great source of energy but eating too many at once may cause your blood sugar to spike. Not all carbs are created equal. Choose carbs that are high in fiber, such as whole grains (like whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal), lentils, beans, fruits and vegetables. Try to cut down on carbs such as white bread, white rice, soda and desserts.

Understanding the nutritional value of various foods is important, but that’s just the beginning. You have to apply that knowledge and practice healthy eating habits.

Here are some guidelines to get you started.

  • Drink water. Swap sugary drinks like soda, juice and sweetened coffee for water as often as possible.
  • Load up on vegetables and fruits. If you don’t have access to fresh produce, frozen or canned produce (in natural juice, not syrup) are fine alternatives.
  • Pack healthy snacks, like apple slices or carrots with hummus, instead of junk food like chips.
  • Try to avoid fast food. When you do eat fast food, order healthier options like a salad with dressing on the side or a grilled sandwich. 
  • Fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with a lean protein and the remaining quarter with carbs, ideally whole grains.

Stay active

Physical activity not only boosts your mood and reduces stress, it also helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range. Consider joining a sports league. If organized sports aren’t your thing, take up ice skating, do yoga, go for long walks or ride your bike. If you prefer to exercise indoors, lift weights or jump rope while watching TV. Start with 15 minutes each day and try to build up to an hour. While you’re at it, limit the time you spend sitting in front of a screen, such as playing games and streaming videos, to two hours a day.

Remember, you can speak with your school nurse or primary care provider if you want more tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle.

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