Preventing Type 2 in Children

Preventing Type 2 in ChildrenType 2 diabetes is on the rise. By the year 2050, one in three people will have diabetes. Children from certain racial and ethnic groups are at higher risk, including African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American children.

What is Diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes.

In type 1 diabetes, the body can no longer make any insulin. Insulin is a hormone your body needs to use glucose. Glucose is a sugar your body uses to give you energy. People with type 1 diabetes inject insulin every day in order to live. At this time, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.

In type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin. But, it may not make enough, the insulin it makes may not work well, or both.

Type 2 diabetes may be prevented or delayed for many years.

Diabetes Risk In Teens

Risk for diabetes goes up if you have a family history or if you are overweight.

Age is also a risk factor for diabetes as a person’s risk increases after age 45.

However, the number of teens diagnosed with prediabetes and diabetes is growing. For this age group, being overweight is their number one risk factor.

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Children and teens may be able to prevent diabetes or delay its onset for many years. Small changes can make a big difference. Even a small amount of weight loss can help prevent or delay diabetes.

Losing weight is hard, especially if you’re trying to do it by yourself. Get the whole family involved. After all, a healthy diet for preventing diabetes is a healthy diet for everyone.

Lose Weight By Eating Healthy

Here are some healthy eating tips the whole family can try.

  • Drink water — Limit sugar-sweetened drinks including, sodas, juices, sports drinks, and coffee drinks. These drinks add calories with little or no nutritional value.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables — If fresh is not available, try frozen or canned fruits (in natural juice, not syrup) and vegetables. They’re more affordable, easy to cook and they don’t go bad!
  • Make healthy snack foods easy to find in the kitchen — Place grapes, carrots or plain popcorn on the counter.
  • Limit fast food — When you do choose fast food, make healthier choices:
    • Choose salads with dressing on the side
    • Choose foods that are grilled or broiled
    • Choose diet sodas or low-fat milk to drink
    • Hold the mayo
    • Choose baked chips or apples slices instead of French fries.
    • Order the kid-size meal
  • Learn how to Create Your Plate — Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. For the remaining side, fill half with a lean protein, and the remaining quarter with carbs or starches, like brown rice or whole grain pasta.

Lose Weight By Getting Active

  • Limit sitting in front of a screen time to no more than 2 hours a day — This includes TV, computer, phone and video games.
  • Get moving — Children and teens should get 60 minutes a day of exercise most days of the week. Here are ways your family can be more physically active:
    • Walk, bike, or scooter to school. Try a “walking school bus” or supervised bike rides.
    • Turn up the music and dance
    • Walk outside, in a mall, at a park, or in a museum
    • Join your local YMCA
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
    • Get off the bus a stop early and walk
    • Park at the far end of the lot
    • Play interactive video games that get you up and moving
    • Walk around while talking on the phone or watching TV
  • Set Goals — Challenge your child, and yourself by setting small goals. Reward your successes with non-food items. (Ex. Having a sleepover, renting a movie, going shopping)

Get more tips on setting goals, healthy eating and staying active.

Warning Signs

Children and teens with type 2 diabetes often feel no symptoms at all. However, be aware of some common symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent or nighttime urination
  • Blurry vision
  • Unusual fatigue

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, contact a health care provider.

To learn more, call us at 1-800-DIABETES (342-2383) or email

  • Last Reviewed: July 8, 2013
  • Last Edited: December 30, 2014

Articles from Diabetes Forecast® magazine:

Diabetes Forecast