By Kelly Sipala
Helping your child overcome a weight issue is never an easy task. If you are like most parents, you may find the task so difficult that you loose patience and want to give up. When it comes to children and obesity, it is a struggle for the parents and the child. As a parent, your most important job is to reinforce your love because your child is hurting. The toll of excess weight on a child is not only physical, but emotional and social as well. How can you reinforce your love and be compassionate while tackling your child’s weight?
A common misconception is that cutting back a child’s calories and forcing them to eat less is the right approach in order to help your child loose weight. That is not the answer when dealing with children and their eating habits because, unlike adults, children are still growing. Also, to a child, withholding food means withholding your love.
If calorie restriction isn’t the best choice than what does work? Here are some tips you can try at home!
- Stock up on fruits and vegetables when you are at the grocery store. Having lots of healthy choices in the home will encourage healthy eating. Remember to place the fruits and vegetables at a close range for the kids to reach in the refrigerator and put the more processed stuff up high and in the back of the fridge or cabinet, “out of sight, out of mind”.
- Have sit down meals with the family as often as possible. Control portion sizes by plating food in the kitchen. A good rule of thumb for portion size is 1 Tablespoon for each year in age. The more colors on the plate the better.
- Check out http://www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for the newest recommendations for children and nutrition.
- Have planned regular meals and snacks. Make sure your child is sitting down to eat.
Snacking is a whole other topic. Snacking is fine for kids and can be a great way to encourage eating a fruit, a whole grain or a low fat dairy such as yogurt. Having the kids participate in the preparation is a great motivator…that always seems to work!
With the hot summer weather, keeping your child hydrated with lots of fluids is critical; water, popsicles made with 100% real fruit juices, low fat milk and juicy fruits such as melon are all great choices. Try to stay away from soda which is high in calories, provides no nutritional value and, if it contains caffeine, can actually dehydrate kids more.
Encouraging healthy choices is only part of the solution, the other half is to encourage your child to take part in daily physical activity. All kids over the age of 2 should be getting about 2 hours of physical exercise a day. Limit TV, computer and video game time. Or, use these activities as rewards. Television can be a distraction to kids, as it can be with adults too, and generally it makes us want to snack more. Don’t let your kids snack while they are watching TV, it is too easy to overeat when distracted by an entertaining show. Did you know the more TV’s you own, the greater the chance of you or your children being overweight? Get the kids outdoors! Riding their bike, playing kick ball in the yard, going for a walk, swimming, or even helping around the house; anything to get them up and off the couch. Summer is here, now is the time to take advantage of the wonderful local fruits and vegetables and the beautiful weather!
Satter, Ellyn. (2011). The Overweight Child. Retrieved from http://www.ellynsatter.com/the-