SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the number of young people under age 20 with diabetes in the United States is likely to increase more rapidly in future decades.

According to a recent study, a mathematical model and data from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study for calendar years 2002–2017 showed an increase in type 1 and type 2 diabetes among youth under 20 years old.

This expected upward trend may lead to as many as 220,000 young people having type 2 diabetes in 2060 —a nearly 700% increase.

In addition, the number of young people with type 1 diabetes could increase by as much as 65% in the next 40 years.

Even if the rate of new diabetes diagnoses among young people remains the same over the decades, type 2 diabetes diagnoses could increase by nearly 70% and type 1 diabetes diagnoses could increase by 3% by 2060, according to the CDC.

WSAV News 3 spoke with JC Lewis Primary Healthcare Dietician Pamela Hoffstetter on preventative actions families can take towards better health now and in the future.

Dietician Pamela Hoffstetter spoke about the importance of physical activity to help combat illnesses like type 2 diabetes. She is pictured before she begins her favorite activity, kayaking. (Photo provided by Hoffstetter)

What are some healthy food choices for kids?

The big thing is a snack should be about 100 calories, not 300.  So that’s a big thing because they are eating too much.  So healthy snacks would be like maybe 25 peanuts, or a piece of fruit, like a handful of grapes – not a whole bag of grapes.  If they have to have chips, then they should be counting out about 10 chips. 

They should be drinking water, they should not be drinking fruit juice, or soda, or any kind of sugar-sweetened beverage, or sports drinks.  They should not be drinking Powerade or Gatorade.  Even if they play sports, they should be drinking water.

For families who haven’t made the best food choices for many years, what are some other steps they can take?

One easy way to make a change on their day off, let’s say they’re off on Friday, soak a bag of dried beans, like black beans or kidney beans.  The next day cook them by following the directions and make a pot of delicious black bean soup or turkey chili.  Some kind of homemade bean soup, and that really is so extremely beneficial.  Beans can be used as a protein alternative, they will lower bad cholesterol, they help to keep blood sugars stable.

When you come home after working and you don’t feel like cooking, you can pull that turkey chili out, reheat it, and make a lot of different things from it. I like to make a taco salad with it. I’ll put a cup of turkey chili on lettuce, put a quarter cup of shredded cheese on top of the turkey chili and then I’ll use plain fat-free yogurt instead of sour cream. If I’m going to have tortilla chips with it, I will count them out and limit them to 10 chips and I’ll drink water with the meal.

There’s no special magic diet, it’s about eating well-balanced and limiting portion sizes.

What would you say to parents who have children that are picky eaters or don’t like eating vegetables?

Get the kids involved in helping to prepare meals so that they start becoming aware of how difficult it is to actually prepare a meal. 

Kids need to be more engaged in nutrition so that they can start being more discerning about what they’re putting in their bodies.  So, instead of forcing these kids to eat a vegetable, make them realize how valuable good nutrition is.

Parents should set a good example. If you tell your kid not to eat fast food and then you’re eating it yourself, you’re just setting an example.  So, if you have a parent who wants their kid to change their diet then they need to do it too.

Is it OK to have fast food occasionally?

Every once in a while, that’s fine to have fast food but maybe instead of having a high fructose corn syrup soda, maybe have a water with it or an unsweetened tea, or even a diet lemonade.  Always practice being discerning.  Maybe have a small sandwich instead of an extra-large, maybe go with a regular fry instead of an extra-large. 

What other changes can people make?

The other issue is that our children are not moving.  They need to get that physical activity and what’s recommended by the National Institute of Health is an hour every day of moderate physical activity.

So, kids need an hour every day.  They’re not getting it in school, they’re not getting it at home.  They’re not getting it and they’re becoming obese, and this is turning into all the metabolic issues – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and reflux disease.

Everybody should be moving.  Nobody should be sitting still watching TV all of the time or gaming all of the time.  That’s the biggest problem, instead of locking their kids out of the house, people are locking their kids inside and they’re just looking at screens and not moving.

I really encourage people to use physical activity, go for a walk, do yoga as a way to deal with emotions and stress and pain, instead of going to ways that are injurious to your health.  Get out and talk to people, don’t go to food to comfort yourself or anything else that’s dangerous to your health.  Use talk therapy, go for walks, use phyical activity that’s beneficial to your health.

I teach my patients, you know, don’t deprive yourself.  But feel empowered and in control with what you’re putting in your body.  Your body is your precious vehicle that is going to take you through life.  So, be discerning what you put in your body.

For more information on how to prevent type 2 diabetes in youth click here.