Help For Parents of Overweight Children
Childhood Weight Strongly Influenced By Parental Environment
Parents have a huge influence over the weight of their children. For example, studies into adopted children show that genes account for only about 33 percent of a child’s weight. The balance is due to environmental factors such as family eating habits. Perhaps this explains why 80 percent of children born to two obese parents become obese themselves. (By contrast, 14 percent of children born to normal-weight parents become obese.) In addition, other studies show that 80 percent of adolescents (aged 10-13 years) remain obese as adults.
How to Help Your Overweight Child
If your child is overweight, you’re not alone. According to the latest US statistics, approximately 15.3 percent of children (ages 6–11) and 15.5 percent of adolescents (ages 12–19) are overweight. An additional 15 percent of children and 14.9 percent of adolescents are at risk for overweight (BMI for age between the 85th and 95th percentile). However, given the link between childhood and adult weight, and the health risks associated with overweight, it’s important to help your kids maintain a normal weight and shape.
Weight Control Not Weight Loss
Except in rare cases where a child’s health is in danger, a determination to be made with a doctor, the basic objective of weight control in children is just that: weight CONTROL not weight LOSS. Rather than trying to induce the child to lose weight, let height catch up with weight by maintaining a slow rate of weight gain.
Do Not Restrict Food
It’s not a good idea to restrict food if your child is overweight. Restricting food can induce a binge mentality, and be detrimental to health. Associating food with pleasure or pain is never a good idea. In any case, trying to exert tight control over what children eat is a hopeless task. The correct approach is to help children to decide properly for themselves how much to eat.
Encourage Physical Activity and Exercise
Exercise is a lifetime requirement for optimum health and weight. Encouraging physical activity in childhood is a great way to engender good exercise habits that can endure into adulthood.
Take walks with your child after meals
Take up sports which the whole family can do
Teach kids how to swim and ride bikes at an early age
Don’t encourage kids to watch TV and limit computer time
Set An Example
– If you are overweight,
– If you keep talking about your weight and shape,
– If you eat unhealthy foods,
– If you watch a lot of TV,
Your children are likely to follow your example.
– If your weight is healthy,
– If you eat healthy foods,
– If you take regular exercise,
Your children are likely to do the same.
Learn About Nutrition
It’s not easy to cook healthy meals for your kids, or yourself, without some understanding of nutrition. True, we live in a society that is overflowing with foods, but this doesn’t mean that our food is nutritious. Many women are deficient in nutrients like Vitamin B-complex and Iron, while metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes (a major cause of which is an unhealthy diet) are rampant. So knowing what constitutes a healthy diet can be invaluable when planning meals and snacks for your children. Lastly, understanding nutrition enables you to pass on your knowledge to your kids. I mean, lets face it – what is more important that knowing what to eat?
Practical Tips for Parents of Overweight Children
Here are a few detailed suggestions to help your kids stay healthy and maintain a normal weight.
1. Drinks – replace regular soda with plain water, or flavored water like Fruit20. Dilute fruit juices, half and half with water, encourage them to drink 2 glasses of 1 percent milk each day.
2. Use homemade soups to fill him/her up either as snacks or before meals.
3. Make salads more interesting by adding fruits like grapes, sections of mandarin orange, chunks of pineapple, sliced peaches.
4. Make fruit fun by freezing grapes, thick slices of banana and all sorts of berries. Serve berries topped with low-fat Cool Whip or dipped in a low-fat Jell-O Chocolate pudding.
5. For treats, keep a supply of low-fat ice-creams like Blue Bunny Ice Cream Bar or Cone, Skinny Cow Low-Carb Ice Cream Sandwich. Also encourage them to snack of air-popped popcorn.
6. Keep a variety of low-fat yogurt, light cheese strings, veggie sticks, like carrots, celery, peppers at the front of the refrigerator so the kids can grab them when they want a snack.
7. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen table where the kids can see it and reach for it without thinking. Kids tend to eat what they see!
8. Encourage them to snack on healthy carbs like whole grain cereals with low-fat milk, whole grain bread with a light spread of peanut butter and jelly, or fruit spread or fruit breads.
9. Children tend to eat what they get, so set a good example by eating right yourself. Make sure you sit at meal times and make food just part of the enjoyment of being together.
10. Make sure your child eats breakfast. Whole grain cereals, low-fat milk, yogurt and fruit is fine. Encourage your child to get his/her own breakfast from an early age and provide them with the right food so they automatically make healthy choices.
11. The same applies to snacks. Provide your kids with healthy options and limit junk food.
12. Don’t use food as a reward for good behavior or don’t restrict food as a punishment. For example, don’t say to your child “unless you do xyz you are not getting any candy”.
13. Don’t force your child to eat if they are not hungry. Children’s appetite vary and often during a “growing spurt” they lose their appetite. Don’t worry when this happens, as soon as their growing spurt is over you will find they eat extra to make up.
14. Don’t forbid any foods, simply limit them. If your kids want to go to McDonalds occasionally, fine. Just don’t make it a regular occurrence.
15. Limit time spent watching TV – your own and the kids. There is overwhelming evidence that too much TV makes our kids fat!
16. Get active and have fun with your kids. Take them to the pool, play ball, go fishing, or hiking. Teach them to appreciate the outdoors by taking them camping, even if it’s only overnight!