Healthy Children - April 2013

 

Help Your Child Reach a Healthy Weight

By Lindsay-Hazel

Child obesity is a regular topic in the news-and with more than a third of American children either overweight or obese, there’s real reason for concern. Burt while many stories talk about school lunch programs and government initiatives, it can be hard to know what to do when you own child falls into that one-third category. Then, it’s not about statistics anymore-it’s personal.

Getting Started

The first step is to take an honest look at your kids. Denying a weight problem isn’t going to help. If you have concerns about your child’s weight, talk to their doctor. Kids develop differently, and it’s possible that yours are still shedding their baby fat. Their doctor can give you a better idea of wither there is a problem or not.

If one or more of your children are diagnosed as overweight or obese, the next step is to acknowledge it without blaming them or yourself. It’s not too late to change bad habits and develop better ones.

The key is that you’re determined to help them get healthy and active. You’re the biggest influence in their lives, and you can help them adopt healthy habits now that will last a lifetime.

Next, explain the reasons for change. Kids often don’t understand the link between what (and how much) they eat and what it does to their bodies. Don’t explain it in terms of weight or appearance; instead, talk about being healthy and strong.

Children and adolescents can be sensitive about their weight, especially if they’ve been bullied because of it. Make sure you always use positive reinforcement and build up self-esteem, and never make your child feel guilty for being overweight.

Create A Plan

Now it’s time to create an action plan. Set the limit on “screen time”-TV, video games, and computers. Sedentary lifestyle is one of the major factors in the rise of childhood obesity. Have your kids earn their screen time, like playing outside for an hour earns them 15 minutes of their favorite video game. Turn this activity time into family time. Take a bike ride together through your neighborhood. Teach your children games you played as a kid, like freeze tag and leap frog. Pretty soon, they might start enjoying physical play as much as (or even more than) sedentary play.

Diet is the other big factor in childhood obesity. Improving what children eat also needs to be a family effort. Kids’ eating habits are often learned from their parents, so first take a look at what you eat and what you feed them. Again, don’t blame or stress about the past; instead, set goals for moving forward.

Fruits and vegetables need to become fixtures of your meals. Also, cut back on fast food and snacks like potato chips-swap nutritious snacks like string cheese, nuts, grapes and rice cakes. Curb your family’s soda habit and encourage everyone to drink more water. Don’t’ allow soda at the dinner table; instead offer low-calorie drinks like low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, or water.

These changes can seem overwhelming at first, but you don’t have to make them all at once. Start small, like setting a goal of serving veggies with dinner five nights a week. You probably won’t be able to reform your family’s diet and exercise routine in a few days. Change can be difficult for kids (and sometimes more so for adults). Make sure your children understand that this lifestyle change isn’t’ a punishment for bad behavior or for being overweight, but rather a family effort to get everyone healthier.

Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian and “Today” show nutrition expert offers tips to parents:

  1. Never single out one child struggling with a weight issue. Even thin siblings benefit from healthy eating and regular exercise.
  2. Involve your kids in meal planning, shopping, and cooking. When kids help pick out and prepare veggies for the stir-fry or seasoned turkey meat for tacos, they’ll be more likely to branch out from mainstays like chicken nuggets.
  3. A good rule is 90 percent healthy food, 10 percent fun food. Certainly we should limit the not-so-healthy stuff-but not eliminate it. Diets that are too restrictive backfire.
  4. If you’re having a tough time getting your kids on board, don’t hesitate to seek the help of an outside professional. As parents, we all know that some kids are much more likely to follow guidelines and show interest when the information is coming from someone else. To find a qualified pediatric/adolescent registered dietician in your area, visit the American Dietetic Association’s website at eatright.org.

 

Health Alliance Winter/Fall 2012