Carrying extra weight can affect a child’s body image, self-esteem, and health. And yet, almost one in five American adolescents is overweight. Is your child one of them?
If so, here’s how you can help your child reach a healthy weight without a lot of dinnertime drama:
- Talk to your child’s pediatrician about his or her weight. The doctor will calculate your child’s body mass index (BMI) and if it’s too high, will tell you what it should be.
- Focus on healthy eating habits rather than weight loss. The goal for most overweight kids is to maintain their weight and “grow into it” rather than lose weight.
- Don’t single out your child. To help your child succeed, make healthy habits a family affair.
- Drink more water and less soda. Cutting out high-calorie drinks can have a big impact on your child’s nutrition and calorie intake.
- Promote fruits and veggies. Make these the go-to snacks by having them cut up and ready to go. Munching on healthy fare such as apples, grapes, berries, carrots, and celery will fill up your child without adding a lot of extra calories.
- Eat less junk food and more real meals. Serve lean protein, fruits and veggies, and whole-grains.
- Get physically active. Get pedometers for the whole family to encourage everyone to take more steps. Some of the newer smart phones build them in; use them! Take family hikes or ride bikes together. Encourage participation in any sport that interests your child, whether it’s tennis, swimming, soccer, or something else.
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep. Numerous studies have found a relationship between weight gain and insufficient sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adolescents need between 8 to hours and 9 hours a night.
People who are overweight as kids are often overweight as adults, setting themselves up for health problems ranging from heart disease to diabetes. The good news is that making small, everyday lifestyle changes can lead to a lifetime of good health — and a healthy weight.