You've heard it over and over again. America is facing an obesity epidemic and children are not exempt.
According to the Center for Disease Control approximately 17% of children ages 2-19 are considered obese. If you find your child fitting into the category of fat, obese, fluffy, or heavy don't despair. You are not alone. The good news is there are some concrete lifestyle changes your family can make now to encourage a healthy weight throughout your child's life.
Be A Role Model
Whether we like it or not our children copy so many of our behaviors. Good or bad. So if you want your children to eat healthier you might just have to pass up that second helping or 44 oz soda pop, or whatever is your vice. Let your child see you make healthy choices the majority of the time with an occasional "treat" and they will learn to do the same.
Pass On The Convenience Food
Whether you are hitting the drive up for a burger or the grocery store's frozen food section, these foods are often laden with fat and calories with little nutritional value. It is so very hard to eat healthy and cut calories with the majority of food choices available to you in these places. Planning ahead for meals, especially dinner will help prevent these last minute stops.
Limit High Calorie/Sugar Drinks 32 ounces of regular soda pop has around 400 Calories. Not to mention the ½ - ¾ C of sugar. 1 bottle of Nesquick Chocolate Milk has 300 Calories and ¼ C of sugar. These drinks add Calories with little to no nutritional value to your child's diet. Replace them with fresh fruit flavored water, regular milk, and an occasional 100% fruit juice.
Provide Healthy Snacks
Kids are notorious for being hungry, all day, every day. They do get hungry between meals and it's okay to give them something. Make fruits and veggies your 'go to' for eating between meals. Have them choose a few other healthy snacks and help them pre-portion them into baggies or smaller containers. Some ideas for healthy snacks are yogurt, a handful of whole grain cereal, fruit smoothies, boiled eggs, veggies and dip, cottage cheese, higher fiber crackers such as Triscuits.
Be Firm, Not Strict
Do not eliminate any particular foods or food groups from your child's diet. Decrease the amount of sweets eaten, but do not eliminate them all together. Encourage your child's healthy eating, but do not let it become a power struggle.
Use A Smaller Plate
Children are growing up in a super-sized world where portion sizes are out of control. Typically a smaller plate will still have adequate room for regular portion sizes for your child. The smaller plate will make the meal look full and appetizing to your child.
Whether they are participating in organized sports or just playing in the neighborhood, increasing physical activity and decreasing screen time should be a top priority. Make it fun, do it as a family, and help your child discover new active hobbies they enjoy.
Remember with all of your strategies to help your child maintain a healthy weight that "health" should truly be the goal. Kids can be brutal and there is a real chance that your child's weight issues have already resulted in negative attention at school, feelings of embarrassment or a decrease in self-esteem. Keep your efforts and language positive and encouraging.
Often times for a young child still growing the goal should be weight maintenance, not necessarily weight loss. They will eventually "grow into" those extra pounds. Build healthy habits as a family now and it will serve them well even in adulthood.