Tips for Families
Note: Consult with your child's pediatrician if you're concerned
that he/she may be overweight.
- Make meals together. Involve children in planning
family menus, purchasing ingredients, cooking, and cleaning up. Read
nutritional labels together to ensure the selection of more healthful
- Limit, but don't restrict, certain foods. It is impractical and
unhealthy to eliminate fats and sugars entirely. Such restrictions often
lead to rebellion against a healthy diet. Accept the occasional birthday
cake, but help children recognize these exceptions are not the rule.
- Make healthful snacks available. While it's best
to limit snacking, it is unrealistic to eliminate it altogether. Stock
your shelves with healthful foods, such as fruits
and vegetables (fresh, dried, frozen, or canned), low-fat yogurts, frozen fruit juice bars, and whole-grain
cookies and crackers.
A Note about Attitude
|| The right attitude
is integral to helping your child control his/her weight. Remember
to love children irrespective of their weight, and try not to call attention
to a child's weight. Don't treat children differently because
of weight differences. If your child is already obese or at risk
of becoming obese, tell him/her that weight loss is not only important
to how they look, but also how they feel and think. Finally, recognize
any and all improvements in diet and exercise -- not just weight
change. Commend participation in a sporting activity; applaud reductions
in television and computer use; and identify improvements in attitude,
mood, and energy.
- It's not just food; drinks matter, too. Sugary beverages
are a prime source of extra calories. Read nutritional labels to ensure
that juices do, in fact, contain natural fruit juice, not merely high
fructose. Also, limit the consumption of soda, including diet soda.
While diet sodas are calorie-free, they also are nutrition-free and
often high in caffeine, which unnaturally boosts energy levels. Substitute
these beverages with milk, an excellent source of calcium, or water
- Learn what goes on at school. Find out when your
child eats lunch and has recess, and schedule breakfast, dinner, and
physical activities accordingly. Obtain a schedule of the meals served
in the school cafeteria, and plan with your child which days he or she
will eat the cafeteria meal, according to the nutritional value of the
menu options. Advise your child to avoid the schools' vending machines
and concession stands. If necessary, request that the school make more
healthful snack options available.
- Eat together. Whenever possible, try to schedule
mealtime so that the entire family can put aside its activities and
eat together for at least 30 minutes. Eliminate distractions, such as
television, radio, phone, or reading materials, and monitor your child's
portions while dining. Engage in conversation with children about their
day's activities. Social interaction while eating encourages children
to perceive eating as an experience, rather than as a task. And eating
together allows for you to have a more accurate understanding of how
much your child eats.
- Stop sitting. Experts agree that an increasingly
sedentary lifestyle is one of the chief causes of the rise in childhood
obesity. Watching television, playing video games, and using computers
all require children to sit still. Limit this time to no more than two
hours per day.
- Get moving. Gradually introduce daily activities
that involve various levels of physical exertion. For moderate to intense
levels of activity, enroll children in extracurricular or after school
activities (sports, performing arts, etc.) that meet at least weekly.
Light to moderate activities also can be introduced at home. For example,
your child can practice dance in the living room. Assign chores, such
as cleaning and gardening, and plan family outings that involve physical
activity, such as swimming, hiking, playing a game in a park.
- Don't use food as leverage. Separate eating from
discipline. Refrain from punishments that involve skipping or limiting
meals and special snacks. Likewise, avoid rewarding good behavior and
special accomplishments with trips to restaurants or ice cream stands.
Instead, use these moments as opportunities for social activity -- walking around the mall, playing a board game, or taking a long bike
ride or walk.
- Parents, participate. Children with unhealthful
eating habits usually acquire them from friends and family. Encourage
the entire family to accept a healthier lifestyle by eating the same
foods and participating in the same activities.