We’ve all heard the childhood obesity statistics: the number of overweight and obese kids has tripled in the last four decades. The good news is that there are many ways that you can guide your child on the path to a healthier body weight now. Read on for some ideas.
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Home is where the health is
As a parent, you are the nutritional gatekeeper of the home. If you don’t want a child to eat a food, don’t bring it into your house.
Keeping a healthy home is not as extreme as it may sound. If you love ice cream, go out as a family once a week for a modest serving of the real thing. It's far more satisfying than the fat-free varieties that many families eat each night.
A family that eats together...
A family that eats together stays healthy together.
But family meals don’t have to be family style: keep serving bowls and platters off the table to help control portion sizes.
Talk the talk
You may not think you’re a role model, but your children are aware of everything you do. If you forbid your child from eating candy but keep a stash in your car, your child may receive mixed messages. Also, don’t put yourself down or talk about your weight in front of your child. Try to focus on positive health patterns, not pounds.
Walk the walk
Kids with active parents are more likely to engage in physical activities. Physical activities don’t have to be done in a gym, or require joining a sports team. Hiking, dancing, active play and even chores can be a form of physical activity. Taking time for fun physical activities will encourage your kids to do the same, and those who are active in childhood are more likely to grow into physically active adults.
Limit screen time
We all know that kids who sit in front of a TV or computer screen burn fewer calories than those who engage in physical activities. But there are other ways television leads to weight gain in kids.
1. Sitting in front of a screen encourages mindless eating – that repetitive hand-to-mouth motion that occurs when we eat but our attention is focused elsewhere. For this reason, it is especially important to turn off the TV while eating meals and snacks.
2. Kids who watch TV are also exposed to advertisements, many of which are for sugary cereals, snack foods, soda and other foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to two hours a day for older children, and even less for younger ones.
Emotional vs. physical hunger
Take stock of your child’s emotional state. In many instances, overeating is caused by feelings of sadness, anxiety or boredom. If you suspect that your child may be eating for emotional reasons, talk to him. You might consider contacting a psychologist if you suspect your child is eating for emotional reasons.
It’s hard for anyone to change habits, but even more so for children. Keeping your expectations in check will help you to stay positive and support your child. Understand what is and is not appropriate for your child's age. For instance, asking an 8-year-old to just say no to dessert is a set-up for failure!
Keep in mind that progress does not occur in a straight line. Sometimes, it takes several tries to get it right. Have confidence that it will happen.