Helping children who are overweight

Date - March 30, 2014 / Author - Cara Toomey / Category - Uncategorized

The main reason we spend so much time worrying about what to feed our children (and ourselves) is not only because children (who are in a pretty much constant state of growth) need the nutrients and energy to grow and develop properly, but because we do not want them to become overweight and increase their risk for ailments such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Childhood obesity is a problem in our country. According to the CDC , “The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.”

It is important not only to discuss ways to prevent obesity in children in the first place with proper nutrition, but also discuss tips for children who may already be overweight and how to help them to get their weight to a healthy range, and give them proper tools to know how to make healthy food choices as they grow and age.

When is a child considered overweight? It may not be as clear cut as you think. If you feel your child maybe over weight, it is best to let a healthcare professional make the determination. Determining an ideal weight for children is more difficult than it is for adults, because children’s are growing, and their growth comes in spurts, at unpredictable times . Your healthcare professional will have growth charts that they can use as a tool to help make the determination.

It is not generally advised to put a child on a restrictive diet. The majority of the time, unless the child already has other health risk factors, (which a healthcare provider can help screen for and discuss) the goal for children who are over weight or obese is to slow or stop weight gain, not weight loss. This will allow your child to grow into his or her ideal weight. The other goal should be to teach them to eat a healthful, balanced diet. There are somethings that can be done to help facilitate this!

  • Don’t use food as a reward when encouraging kids to eat. For example, by promising dessert to a child in exchange for eating vegetables, they may infer that vegetables are something that are something that must be suffered through, rather than something to be enjoyed in their own right.
  • Model healthy food habits – Children look up to their caretakers and will look for you for direction and will pick up on cues that you send and your attitudes regarding food.
  • Eat only at specific, scheduled meal or snack times. This will help avoid boredom eating.
  • Make sure portions are appropriate for your child’s age. A good general guideline for children is to serve about one tablespoon of each food, per year of age.
  • No eating in front of the television. Eating passively while concentrating on television makes it very easy to ignore our body’s cues that it is full.
  • Encourage physical activity, as a family is even better!
  • Family meals, prepared at home – there are a wide variety of physical and psychological benefits of preparing meals and eating them together as a family, all of which increase the health of the entire family! You can find out more about the connection between family meals and  here.
  • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. There are may studies showing that lack of sleep is correlated with risk of obesity. You can read more about from the mayo clinic 

Weight gain is a complex interaction of genetics, environment and behavior. Children who are overweight need support, and guidance. The suggestions in the list above are just a few ways to help. It is always important to keep in mind that you are not only helping your child to get the nutrition they need to grow during childhood, you are helping them build a lifelong relationship with food, and we’d like that relationship to be as healthy as possible and guide them toward making healthy choices for the rest of their lives.

If you need more information, check out  WebMd’s tips, and speak to a health professional regarding your child’s particular needs and how you can help them. There are ideas for getting your family moving here.


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