June 14, 2012

Parents: Time to Take a Seat AS Head of the Table

ADA 72nd Sci SesI’m just back from the American Diabetes Association’s 72nd Annual Scientific Sessions and I'm even more concerned about our diabetes epidemic. Prior to 10 year ago you never heard about type 2 diabetes in children or prediabetes. Not so today! Stats show 1 in 3 children born in 2000 or beyond will develop type 2 diabetes. Today nearly 80 million Americans (that’s over a quarter of our population!!) have prediabetes. The TODAY multicenter NIH trial, recently in the news and headliner at ADA, is downright scary! It showed that type 2 diabetes in youngsters progresses more quickly requiring more rapid progression through oral blood glucose lowering medications and on to insulin. A major concern with type 2 in youth is that with rapid disease progression and less than ideal control, these people may develop heart, kidney and eye disease just a couple of decades later. That's the prime of these childrens' lives.

A take away message from the 2012 ADA meeting is we’ve got to continue to beat the drum about preventing overweight BEFORE type 2 diabetes. The most cost effective approach is to encourage healthy eating from the start. I believe it’s absolutely critical for parents to take a seat AS the head of the table and serve up  tough love when it comes to healthy eating.

Just before leaving for ADA, I read Casey Seidenberg’s 6/7/12 Kids and Nutrition column in Washington Post’s Local Living section, It’s time to get healthful Casey head shotfood off the back burner.  Casey is co-founder of Nourish Schools in Washington DC. Casey’s piece was so in line with my thoughts…she took the words right out of my mouth! So with heart felt thanks for all she is doing to feed our kids healthfully and Casey's OK to post her column, here it is:

As parents we’ve probably all said, “I’d do absolutely anything to keep my kids safe and healthy.” And we mean it. In fact, many parents sacrifice sleep, relationships and the corporate ladder to do right by their children. They save money to pay for education. They rush to the pediatrician at the first sign of a sniffle. They hire tutors and spend hours helping with homework.

So why do so many of these same parents buy fast food and sugar-laden snacks,and spend little time exposing their kids to healthful, whole foods, thus ignoring the established link between poor nutrition and disease? If many diseases can e prevented by good nutrition, isn’t there a contradiction here?

I know that money is a factor, as eating well can sometimes cost more. I also know that time is a factor, because cooking takes longer.

But as parents, if we want the best for our children, let’s choose to spend some of our money and time on foods that give our kids the best kind of energy, the best ability to concentrate in the classroom, and the best chance for long-term health. Providing children with a wide vocabulary and knowledge of history is imperative, but teaching them to feed themselves in a way that supports their well-being is important, too.

This is meant to encourage, because I believe we can all do better. As a working mom of three, I am not able to make every meal from scratch nor every snack a healthy one. Like any aspect of parenting, we don’t have to be perfect. The meals don’t always have to be home-cooked. The snacks don’t always have to be package-free. But I think we should all try, in whatever capacity we can, to prioritize our kids’ health.

So here’s the idea: No matter how healthy you are, take it up just one notch. I’m going to. If you currently cook one dinner a week, cook two. If breakfasts are sugar-laden, cut some sugar. If you already feed your families healthfully, experiment with new foods or make someone else a meal. And make sure you are setting an example for your children by eating the right foods yourself.

Feeding our kids healthfully must become a part of our parental claim “I’d do anything to keep my kids safe and healthy.” Why? Because the food they eat isn’t just anything; when it comes to long-term health, it just might be everything.