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Weight Management For Children
Why it is important for your child to be at a healthy weight:
Your child's risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol increase if he is overweight. High cholesterol may lead to heart disease later in life. Your child also has a higher risk for obesity as an adult. Your school-age child may feel more stress and sadness if he is overweight.
How to help your child manage his weight:
- A healthy meal plan and increased physical activity can help your child reach a healthy weight. The first goal may be for your child to stay at his current weight while he grows normally in height. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about a weight management plan that is right for him.
- Be a positive role model for your child by following a healthy lifestyle. Your child learns from your behavior. Your child will be more likely to make changes if he sees you make changes. The whole family should make these healthy lifestyle changes together. They may help to improve the health of everyone in the family.
Help your child follow a healthy meal plan:
- Give your child 3 meals and 1 or 2 snacks each day. Offer your child a variety of healthy foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, and lean protein foods. Do not force your child to eat all the food on his plate. Allow your child to decide when he is full. This can help him learn to stop eating when he is full.
- Make sure your family eats breakfast. Skipping breakfast often leads to overeating later in the day. An example of a healthy breakfast would be low-fat milk (1% or skim) with a low-sugar cereal and fruit. Some examples of low-sugar cereals are corn flakes, bran flakes, and oatmeal.
- Pack a healthy lunch. Pack baby carrots or pretzels instead of potato chips in your child's lunch box. You can also add fruit, low-fat pudding, or low-fat yogurt instead of cookies.
- Make healthy choices for dinner. Make it a habit to add vegetables to your family's meals. Include healthy protein foods. Choose beans or other legumes such as split peas or lentils. Choose fish, skinless chicken or turkey, or lean cuts of beef or pork. Cut off any visible fat before you cook the food. Some dessert ideas include fruit dishes, low-fat ice cream, or angel food cake with fresh strawberries.
- Decrease calories.
- Cook with less fat. Bake, roast, or poach (cook in simmering liquid) meats instead of frying.
- Limit high-sugar foods. Offer water or low-fat milk instead of soft drinks, fruit juice drinks, and sports drinks. Buy low-sugar cereals and snacks. Ask your healthcare provider for information about how to read food labels.
- Keep healthy snacks handy. Some examples include fruits, vegetables, low-fat popcorn, low-fat yogurt, or fat-free pudding.
- Limit meals at fast food restaurants. When you do eat out, choose restaurants with healthier food choices.
Other ideas for feeding your child:
- Eat meals together as a family as often as possible. Do not eat in front of the TV.
- Do not give your child food as a reward for good behavior. For example, do not promise your child a candy if he behaves well at the store.
- Do not keep food from your child because of poor behavior. If the family is having dessert, let your child have it also.
How to help your child increase his physical activity:
- Children need about 1 hour of moderate physical activity each day. Help your child get this amount by planning activities for the whole family. Hike, bike, or go for a walk after dinner. Involve your child in other physical activities such as washing the car, gardening, and shoveling snow.
- Limit your family's TV, video game, and computer time. Decrease time spent watching TV to less than 2 hours each day.
Other ways to support your child as you make lifestyle changes:
- Your child needs support, acceptance, and encouragement from you. Tell him that he has done well when he has tried to eat healthier or be more active. Tell your child that you still accept and care for him when he is having trouble making changes.
- Try to make only a few changes at a time. It may be hard for your child to make too many changes all at once. During one week, you could serve a healthy breakfast and take daily walks with your child. After that, you could add another new change each week.
- Focus on making lifestyle changes to improve the health of your whole family. Try not to focus these changes on your child because he is overweight.
- Teach your child not to use food as a way of handling stress or rewarding success.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.