Family vs. The Beast

Managing type 2 diabetes can feel like a lot. Doing it together makes it easier.

While your genes can increase your risk of having type 2 diabetes, genetics isn’t the only way your family influences diabetes. The ways you eat, play, and live together matter more. Finding new ways for everyday eating, shopping, and being active together can help everyone get and stay healthy. Because when it’s family versus The Beast, The Beast can’t win.

Shopping, cooking, and eating

Making and sharing food is at the heart of family life. Learning and making small changes to eat healthier together will only make mealtimes better. Here’s how:

At home

Simple changes in how you store and serve food can help everyone lose weight. For example, research shows that people tend to eat more when there is more food on their plate. Eating a single serving – or portion control – is the key to losing weight and keeping it off.

Instead of putting bowls of food on the table, which can tempt everyone to have second and third helpings, put single servings on each plate. Check the label or this useful guide to find out how much of each food makes up a single serving. Another trick is to curb your appetite with a healthy snack before the family sits down. Eating a piece of fruit, raw vegetables or even drinking a glass of water can take the edge of hunger before everyone dives into the family meal.

It’s easy to eat more than a single serving when your attention is focused on something else, like watching TV. Place single servings of snacks in bowls rather than eating straight from a bag. It’s also easy to eat more than you need when food is within easy reach. To help everyone out, store foods like chips or cookies out of sight on a high shelf.

Here’s a game to play with your kids to help them learn about portion control. Ask your family to put in a bowl as much as they usually eat of their favorite snack. Then check the serving size on the label and fill another bowl with that amount. Compare the portions. Is one bigger than the other? How many more calories would they eat without first knowing the portion size?


Taking your kids grocery shopping is another way to learn about portion control and choosing healthy foods. Ask them to read the labels of food at the store. How many servings are in a bag of chips? Can they find a breakfast cereal that is low in added sugar and high in fiber? The Federal Drug Administration’s Read the Label program for kids has tips and games for kids in Spanish and English you can print out to help your kids learn more.

Consider spending the majority of your time shopping on the outer aisles of the grocery store for fresh often healthier options for your family’s food choices.

If you buy groceries in bulk at warehouse clubs, remember that the larger the package, the more of it we tend to eat. So, practice portion control when you’re home again by dividing up the contents of large packages into smaller containers.

Eating out

Keep an eye on portion size when you go out to eat, too. Restaurants tend to serve more than one person needs in a single meal, as well as adding extra butter and other high-calorie ingredients. For a healthy meal out, two family members may want to split an entrée. Or ask the server for a to-go box and wrap up half your meal as soon as it is brought to the table. Asking for sauces and condiments on the side provides you with control over the added calories these usually contain.

At school or work

If you’re packing lunches for school or workdays, you can easily control portion size. Also consider using 100% whole grain breads instead of white bread for sandwiches. Tortillas or pitas have even more fiber which will help keep kids full. Lastly, try spreading sandwiches with mustard or hummus instead of mayonnaise to cut extra calories. Eating a variety of foods helps to keep eating enjoyable, so be sure to include seasonal fruits and vegetables in your choices.

Getting active together

Being physically active together can become as much of a family tradition as eating well together. A 30-minute walk each day outside is a simple but powerful way to reduce stress and lose weight. Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes will drop with every pound you walk off. A family walk can also be a good time to catch up with each other about your day and talk with kids to help them learn more about staying healthy. If you’ve got a FitBit or another pedometer, start a friendly competition to see who can walk the most steps in a day. Staying physically active is easier when you choose activities you all enjoy and can do together, like playing soccer or basketball, or taking a hike in one of Monterey County’s beautiful trails.

Mutual support

When preventing and managing type 2 diabetes becomes a family habit, helping each other stay on track may have the biggest payoff of all. Learning about diabetes as a family, and how the disease affects everyone differently, will show how you can best help each other. Create time in the family schedule to make healthy food, take a walk or shoot hoops, or check blood sugar. Remember that people’s moods can change with blood sugar levels, so expect and accept each other’s ups and downs. And be sure to celebrate each other’s successes and avoid blame for backsteps in diet and exercise.

More help is available for your family online and right here in Monterey County. The American Association of Diabetes Educators offers community forums and support groups you can connect with other families managing type 2 diabetes. Together, we can ban The Beast from our homes.

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