Healthy Treats, Healthy Examples
As obesity rises, one school models proper eating.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
January 2007 —I was recently asked to contribute some treats for a teacher appreciation day at the elementary school that my oldest two children attend. As with all class parties, bake sales, and school functions, I anticipated that I would be requested to provide more trays of sugary, refined carbohydrate-laden things I shouldn't eat.
But this year I was pleasantly surprised. When I asked the event chairperson what I should bring, she replied that they were in greatest need of fruit, low-fat snacks, and low-sugar options for those staff members with diabetes or who were following weight control plans. I agreed enthusiastically and purchased some whole grain snacks and fruit for the buffet table.
With type 2 diabetes and childhood obesity both on the rise, I thought that this simple step taken by the school leadership sent a powerful message. Even if the kids weren't directly there to witness whether their teachers selected the healthy options, it's important to recognize and affirm healthy eating and weight control plans both in ourselves and in the teachers who are role models for our children.
Among children aged 6-11 (the ages of my children), roughly 30% are considered overweight, with 15% classified as obese. Just trying to imagine what these percentages mean in terms of the total number of affected and at-risk children is staggering. In my kids' classes alone, this means that around six children in each of their classes are already at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Obese children and adolescents are over 12 times more likely than normal-weight children to have high fasting blood insulin levels, a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes. These kids are also at risk for high blood pressure, asthma, sleep apnea, and bone and joint problems when compared with peers of normal weight. The same statistics hold for teenagers, with a slight increase in percentages of both overweight and obesity among teens when compared with younger children.
Another shocking statistic is that the prevalence of obesity in young boys and girls has quadrupled over the past 25 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Scientific studies have found that carrying excess weight during childhood is a strong predictor for being overweight or obese as an adult. Since type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight or obese, it's not an exaggeration to say that weigh control measures are true preventive measures against type 2 diabetes for many people.
Of course there were chocolates and other splurges at our teacher appreciation buffet, and that's fine. But the inclusion of healthier options provided a much-needed balance, and it might encourage many people to partake of the healthy treats while trying just a sample of the traditional goodies.
This was one small party at one school – hardly a precedent for nationwide change. Still, I applaud the effort and believe that there was a valuable lesson learned – that encouraging healthy eating among adult role models is a critical step toward helping kids acquire sound nutritious habits for life.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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