School matters for childhood diabetes
Children eat more than 50% of their meals at school.
There's only one place children spend more time than at home: school. So, if your child has Type 2 diabetes or is at risk for developing it a particularly because of obesity a it only makes sense that school should be a place where parents advocate to guard their children's health.
The goal is to make sure that the daily practices at your child's school encourage healthy eating and physical activity.
Here are 3 ways parents can address childhood diabetes risks at school:
1. Endorse Exercise.
School-age children should get at least one hour of physical activity every day, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But many school districts have cut physical education and unstructured playtime or recess to make time for more instruction, according to a September 2013 report by the Learning First Alliance, a national public education advocacy organization.
The reason is that pressure to increase students' performance on standardized tests meant one or the other. And instruction won.
Still, physical activity is among the best ways to prevent or control childhood diabetes.
If your child's school has cut recess and physical education, meet with the school leaders to discuss how to incorporate these important activity breaks back into the school day.
The Childhood Diabetes Epidemic
5,000 per year: the number of children and teens diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. Cut the Cupcakes.
It seems as if cupcakes, candy, pizza, and other junk foods are the automatic go-tos for school celebrations. Holidays like Halloween and Valentine's Day might as well be renamed “Binge On Candy Day.”
Whenever a kid has a birthday, mom brings cupcakes to class. Think about it: If every parent in your child's class of, say, 20 students brought cupcakes for every birthday ‹ well, that's a lot of cupcakes.
The message we're sending to children is that celebrations need sugar. That's the wrong message for children who are living with childhood diabetes or at risk for it.
That said, let's give childhood celebrations a makeover:
- Instead of birthday cupcakes, have a mini-dance party.
- For holidays, skip the candy and play a class game.
- If you insist on food, bring fresh fruit instead of cake.
Besides, the teacher may thank you for not getting her students hyped on sugar for the rest of the day.
3. Clear Out Commercials.
There may not be television commercials playing in the hallways, but there could be other ways that manufacturers of high-sugar foods are tempting your children at school. For example:
- Do students have access to snack machines at school?
- Are there soda machines in the hallways?
- What kinds of foods are served at school events?
- Who's sponsoring the school events? A company that makes sugary drinks?
- Is the lunch menu packed with greasy this or sugary that?
These are all subtle commercials urging your child to eat high-sugar, unhealthy foods ‹ the kind that children with Type 2 diabetes concerns should avoid. And your child may be exposed to them for hours a day.
It's hard enough for adults to restrain themselves. How much more willpower does it take for children?
If you see these elements in your child's school environment, it's time to round up other parents and meet with the school leaders about making healthy changes.
Maybe the snack and soda machines should only be available for a short period of time when the school day ends. Perhaps you can brainstorm about new, health-conscious partners for concession stands and event sponsorships.
Tackling childhood diabetes may start at home, but your child has a much better chance of preventing or managing Type 2 diabetes if she can be healthy both at home and at school.
Camp Hodia Ruby Sneaker Reception
Join us Saturday, May 16, at the West Valley Medical Complex, 1906 Fairview Ave., Caldwell, for a reception benefiting Camp HODIA Youth Diabetes Programs. Your family will have the opportunity to hear from Miss Idaho Sierra Sandison, a Type I diabetic, who will share her message of conquering adversity, standing up to bullies and celebrating what makes each of us unique. Snacks, games, prizes and more!