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Tips for Teens: Lower Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Today, more teens are getting type 2 diabetes. Take steps to lower your chances. Start by being more active and making healthy food choices.

Diabetes is a serious disease.

Food we eat is turned into glucose (sugar) so our bodies can use it for energy. When you have diabetes, glucose builds up in your blood and cannot get into the cells in your body. If blood glucose stays too high for too long, it can damage your eyes, kidneys, and nerves.

You are at risk for getting diabetes if you:

  • have someone in your family with diabetes
  • weigh too much
  • do not get enough physical activity
  • are Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, African American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander

Take action to keep healthy.

Action: Aim to get to and stay at a healthy weight.

Most teens who get type 2 diabetes weigh too much. To lower your chances of getting diabetes, lose weight by being active and making healthy food choices.

Action: Be physically active every day.

  • Walk or bike to get from place to place. Take the stairs. Dance, play soccer, or sports. Play basketball or skateboard with friends.
  • Get 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Start slowly. Twenty minutes, three times a day is okay—it all counts.
  • Keep TV and computer time to 2 hours or less each day.
  • Ask your family members to get fit with you.

Action: Choose healthy foods every day.Image of a mother and daughter cooking.

  • Eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and one or two healthy snacks.
  • Eat salad with lots of veggies. Add 1 tablespoon of low-fat dressing or mayo.
  • Drink water instead of regular soda, fruit drinks, or sport drinks.
  • Eat foods high in fiber, such as whole grain breads and cereals. Other high fiber foods are brown rice, lentils, dried peas, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Eat fish, meat, poultry, low-fat cheese, and soy products. Servings should be about the size of your palm. Baked, broiled, or grilled foods are best. Remove skin and all the fat you see..
  • Eat a piece of fruit, instead of a candy bar or chips, for a snack or dessert.

Eat smaller meals and snacks.

  • Fill half your plate with salad or veggies. It is okay to have second servings of these foods.
  • At fast-food restaurants, order small meals or share a larger meal with a friend.
  • If eating pizza, have two pieces of thin crust cheese or veggie pizza.
  • ​For snacks, try using a small plate or bowl to control how much you eat.Image of a healthy snack.

Here are some healthy snack ideas:

  • a cup of veggies served with salsa
  • a piece of fruit one small tortilla with one to two slices of lowfat cheese or turkey
  • three cups, or a single-serving bag, of low-fat microwave popcorn

Talk with your doctor about your risk for diabetes.

Your doctor can:

  • Help you take action to lower your risk
  • Connect you with people and programs that can help

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the support of more than 200 partner organizations.

This information is not copyrighted. The NIDDK encourages people to share this content freely.


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February 2010