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Managing the Munchies

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With an increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes in young people'so much so they don't even bother calling it 'adult onset'#157; anymore'it's clear that eating habits play a major role in our health. But for many teens, snacking on high-sugar, high-fat food is as much a part of life as homework or driving lessons.

We referred to them as the "carob kids" in high school - two sisters, children of a doctor and a dentist, who'd been forbidden sweets since kindergarten. Their lunches contained healthy snacks like oranges, dates, and, you guessed it, carob squares.

Meanwhile, back at our cafeteria table, we were gorging on delicious offerings from the vending machine: chips, chocolate bars, and sour soothers, all washed down with an icy cola. On reflection, we dined on some pretty scary stuff.

With an increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes in young people so much so they don't even bother calling it "adult onset" anymore it's clear that eating habits play a major role in our health. But for many teens, snacking on high-sugar, high-fat food is as much a part of life as homework or driving lessons.

Now, I don't want to lay on the scare tactics. Certain risk factors for type 2, including family history, nationality, and obesity, may not affect you. Even if you are at risk, you can protect your future by changing eating and exercise habits.

Get in the habit of taking care of yourself now. A diet full of sugars and fats causes a lot more problems than just diabetes, including obesity, high blood pressure, and general fatigue and fogginess.

On a day to day basis, corner-store carbs pop and energy drinks, doughnuts, and candy make your blood sugar spike and crash, meaning they give you a temporary burst of energy only to exit your bloodstream quickly and leave you feeling more tired than before. Not only that, they offer nothing but empty calories. Healthier alternatives are available, and I promise they won't make you look like a dork.

Got the Munchies?

If you crave something salty or crunchy, instead of chips, try nuts. Pistachios and almonds have good nutritional value, as do flavoured soy nuts. If you like spicy, try the exotic but addictive wasabi peas.

Satisfy sweet cravings with alternatives like single-serving low-fat yogurt or a good old-fashioned piece of fruit. Seems like the shops are finally catching on even the store at the gas station on my corner carries apples and bananas now.

You might have to visit whole-foods stores and bakeries to find better baked goods. When that's not possible, at least check your portion sizes. I live by the rule of never eating a cookie larger than my head.

Would You Like a Beverage With That?

Pure fruit juices and soy milk are better options than pop or energy drinks. If you love fizz, try sparkling water and juice spritzers. If you've just gotta have a pop or super-mocha-frothy-thing, at least scale down the size. Who needs to drink that much of anything?

Changes you make now will protect your health, and your blood sugar, for the future. And trust me, as a lifetime candy addict, it doesn't get any easier as time goes on. Maybe all that time, the carob kids were the ones who felt sorry for us.

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