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The ABCs of Diabetes

Written by Mark Macdonald – fitness and nutrition expert, best-selling author and founder of Zen Project 8  

Oh to be a kid again, right? No bill stress, worries about the cost of living, or work dramas with colleagues! Life seemed so easy back then. 

 But for 11,000 Aussie school kids, there is a significant stress in their lives, one that affects their day to day lifestyle and threatens the longevity and quality of their life. It’s a serious issue, and this World Diabetes Day on November 14 presents a timely reminder to discuss the impact that diabetes has in society, and how we as parents can play a role in helping to prevent our children developing the disease.  

Diabetes is a word that unless you’re familiar with the condition in your own family, is something many adults tend to gloss over. But let’s get schooled on diabetes – after all, at the very core of parenthood is the function of nourishing and nurturing our children. Understanding the role of food therefore is a lesson we all need to sit down and take! 

What is Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes? 

When people talk about Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, they are talking about a disease that elevates the level of sugar in the blood. Type 1 diabetes is when your child is no longer producing insulin in their body to break down sugars, but because the body needs insulin, it needs to be replaced. In Type 2 diabetes, your child is still producing insulin, but the body no longer reacts to it the way it was designed to. The production of insulin that isn’t being processed correctly can lead to a number of complications.  

 How does food affect blood sugar levels? 

 Excessive carbs and calories in each meal can create a blood sugar spike, where the body goes into fat storing mode. Skipping meals, restricting calories or playing sport on an empty stomach can result in your child’s blood sugar levels plummeting, causing the body to burn muscle and hold on to fat.  

 So the goal is to balance the body’s blood sugar, which really isn’t difficult. When your child eats protein, it positively affects the blood sugar hormone glucagon (raises blood sugar), eating carbs affects your child’s blood sugar hormone insulin (lowers blood sugar), and eating fat slows down the rate of your child’s digestion by inhibiting the release of HCL (stomach acid). Too much of any one of these can cause those spikes and crashes, but when your son or daughter eats a combination of the three nutrients in the right portion sizes and intervals, they can keep their blood sugar balanced and keep feeling satisfied for longer. I call it PFC Every 3 – a combination of protein, fats and carbs every three hours.   

What should my child be eating? 

 I remember as a kid the last thing I thought about was what type of food I was eating. If it smelled, looked and tasted good I was all in! But as a parent, and usually the decision maker at meal times, it’s your job to teach your growing kids that basically the better quality food they put in their body, the better their body will work for them, especially when it comes to concentration and study or performance and sports. 

Of course, the moment kids are told they can’t eat something, that’s the only thing they want! I’ve been a kid myself and I’m a parent, so even though I’ve made nutrition and fitness my life’s work, I firmly believe in eating the foods you love. If your child is not enjoying their meals, they will quickly rebel!  

 Here’s some great PFC Every 3 examples: 

  • Equal portions of chicken (protein), brown rice (carbs) and avocado (fat) with vegetables like salad or cauliflower or capsicum.  
  • Eggs (offering protein and fat) with a side of apple or watermelon (carbs).  
  • Turkey (protein) with avocado (fat) on a wrap with a side of fruit (carbs).  

 And I know, kids will be kids! If yours is like my son Hunter, they’ll pester for sweets until you cave. And that’s ok. Just keep it balanced! So, if your child wants lollies, give them some cheese (protein and fat) with some lollies (carbs). This makes the meal PFC Every 3, which balances the blood sugar and most importantly prevents kids from going on a sugar binge. Kids then never feel deprived and understand the importance of balance and moderation.    

Learning begins at home 

As parents, we are role models, first aid officers, taxi drivers and so much more! But first and foremost we are educators and role models for our children. It is our job to show and tell the correct information to help our children grow into healthy men and women. For more information on PFC Every 3 visit  

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