Is your child is struggling with a weight problem? There is no better way to help than to encourage healthier eating and exercise habits.
But don’t make the mistake of singling out your child for change. Your whole family can benefit from better nutrition and more physical activity. And your child has a much better chance of success if everyone is involved.
These strategies can be useful for weight loss and prevention – for kids or adults.
Help kids fit in at least 60 minutes of exercise every day. This does not have to be all at once. A 20-minute walk to school in the morning, 10 minutes of walking the dog after school, 15 minutes of basketball in the driveway and 15 minutes of an “active” video game would do the trick. Share in these activities with your child as much as you can. They are less likely to be active if they have to “go it alone.”
Limiting television, computer and video game time (except for active video games) frees up time for more physical activity. If your child has a TV in his bedroom, think about removing it. Kids with TVs in their bedrooms tend to watch more and play less.
Celebrate with fruits and vegetables
Most kids (and adults) don’t get close to the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and veggies a day. Encourage your child by making these choices accessible. Put out a tray of cut-up veggies while you are cooking dinner. Keep fruit salad in the fridge for easy snacking. Include some sweet carrot or red pepper slices in their lunch box.
Cut back on sugar sweetened drinks
Sugar-sweetened drinks such as ice teas, sodas, lemonades and even fruit juices are loaded with excess calories and sugar. Replace these drinks with water, seltzer and low-fat milk. Keep 100 percent fruit juice to no more than one cup a day.
Pare down on junk
Though you want to avoid being too restrictive, eliminate temptation by clearing the house of junk foods. Sugary treats, fried and salty snacks offer nothing more than empty calories. Encourage healthier snacks such as low-fat string cheese, whole-grain crackers, rice cakes with natural peanut butter, veggies dipped in hummus and fresh fruit. Wholesome and satisfying foods are lower in calories and better at controlling hunger in between meals.
Begin with breakfast
Research has shown that breakfast eaters have more success at weight loss than non-breakfast eaters. Send them off in the morning with a bowl of low-sugar cereal and fruit, a slice of whole-wheat bread spread with peanut butter and banana or plain yogurt mixed with a fruit cup (no added sugar). Even a banana and a glass of low-fat milk will do the trick if they are running out the door.
Dine out less
You can make wise food choices when eating out, but it is easier to control portions and calories when dining at home. Go convenient with turkey burgers, tacos made with ground turkey or chicken soup with a toasted English muffin. And who says you can’t have scrambled eggs for dinner? Pair with whole-wheat bread and a steamed veggie (or put veggies right into the scrambled eggs).
Be a role model
While there is no guarantee that your child will follow in your footsteps, eating well and exercising yourself sets a good example. It also helps children to feel that they are not alone in the process.