Preventing Type 2 Diabetes in Kids

Key points

  • Many people think that only older adults can develop type 2 diabetes, but kids and teens can get it too.
  • Type 2 diabetes is increasing in kids and teens in the United States.
  • Take action now to help your kids prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors


About one-third of American youth have overweight. This doesn't automatically mean they're unhealthy, but it does increase risk for some conditions like insulin resistance. Insulin is a key hormone that helps you balance blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance (when you can't use insulin properly) is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes for kids and adults.

High blood pressure and high cholesterol, conditions that are linked with overweight, can also increase the risk for insulin resistance.

Young kids and teens are still growing. If they have overweight, the goal is to slow down weight gain while still allowing growth and development. Talk to your doctor for dietary advice.


Being physically inactive increases the risk for type 2 diabetes. Being active helps the body use insulin better and decreases the risk of overweight. Most kids and teens don't get the recommended amount of physical activity per day.


Kids who develop type 2 diabetes are usually diagnosed in their early teens. One reason is that hormones during puberty make it harder for the body to use insulin. This is especially true for girls, who are more likely than boys to develop type 2 diabetes.

More risk factors for type 2 diabetes

  • Having a family member with type 2 diabetes.
  • Being born to someone with gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).
  • Being a Hispanic/Latino, Black Native American/Alaska Native, Asian American, or Pacific Islander person.
  • Having overweight, obesity, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

If your child has any two risk factors listed above, talk to your doctor about getting their blood sugar tested. Testing typically begins at 10 years old or when puberty starts, whichever is first, and is repeated every 3 years.

Take action family style

Help your kids take action to prevent type 2 diabetes while they're young. Set a new normal as a family—healthy changes become habits more easily when everyone does them together. Starting early can help kids develop a lifetime of healthy habits. Here are some tips to get started:

Mealtime makeover

  • Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Make favorite foods healthier with swaps like whole grains, lean meats, and more vegetables.
  • Get kids involved in making healthier meals.
  • Have meals at the dinner table rather than in front of the TV or computer.
  • Teach your kids how to read food labels.
  • Have meals together as a family as often as you can.
  • Avoid insisting kids clean their plates.
  • Reward kids with praise instead of food.

Getting physical

kids riding bicycles
Aim for your child to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
  • Aim for your child to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day (doesn't have to be all at once).
  • Make physical activity more fun; try new things.
  • Ask kids what activities they like best—everyone is different.
  • Limit screen time where possible.
  • Plan active outings like walking, hiking, or biking.
  • Turn chores into games where you can, with healthy prizes.