According to modern statistics, one in every three children in the United States is overweight or obese. That is three times the number of overweight children in the 1970’s and a trend growing around the world.
Studies have proven that intervention is successful is most cases when applied to children between the ages of 5 and 16. In fact, that may be the easiest time to establish healthy habits and prevent obesity later in life. The problem as a parent is knowing how best to intervene.
The most important thing to know is that you never want to put your kid on a calorie deficit diet. For one thing, a growing child needs plenty of nutrients to help them to move through each new milestone. Giving them a deficit can be a threat to that growth and may even impact their academic performance. For another, it is a serious blow to their self esteem during a time they are already very vulnerable.
Here are some ways that you can encourage healthy behavior and help your child maintain a healthy weight.
First, You Have To Make Your Own Changes
Your child will NOT understand why it's okay for you to have treats or carb-loaded meals when they're held to a higher health standard. The most important thing you can do to help your child make positive changes to their diet is by setting the example first. Drink plenty of water and avoid sodas and sugary drinks. Load up on veggies come meal time. Keep snacking and treats to a respectable minimum. Sometimes you can avoid any potential "finger pointing" conversations by simply changing your behavior and watching your children follow suit. Vocalizing your pleasure in eating well and being active will teach them valuable lessons - sometimes more so than correcting the child's behavior.
If The Conversation Must Be Had...
If you feel it is necessary to have a sit down with your child and talk about a change in eating habits, the best way to do this is by avoiding blame or shame. Gather the whole family together and talk about the benefits of fueling your body well. Together, put a plan in place for how you're going to make lifestyle changes in your home.
Let them help you to go through your food items, reading nutrition labels, and talking about ingredients. Togeher, you can clear out poor food choices and make a grocery list of things you can replace these items with.
Plan meals for the week as a family. letting everyone take part in making healthy choices and selecting foods they'd like to eat. When kids are apart of the process of choosing their fruits and vegetables, they're more likely to want to eat them. Let them help you shop for groceries.
This approach keeps your child from feeling targeted and makes it about them helping you, something all children want to do for their parents.
Cook At Home
Cooking at home may be one of the best ways to keep your child’s diet in check and to teach them good food habits. It also encourages them to eat veggies which is one of the single best things they can do for their weight and health. Plan ahead on outings by bringing snacks from home instead of hitting the fast food drive through in a crunch. Make lunches in advance so kids don't have to buy lunch at school. Asking a child to choose water over chocolate milk in the lunch line is nearly an impossible task. So make it a little easier for them by providing lunches from home.
Get Everyone Moving
Part of the challenge of incorporating more movement is getting our kids to put down their smart phones. Here are a few things you can try:
- Schedule a family night during the week where you all do something active together (go for a walk, play baseball, exercise, have a dance party, etc.)
- Set limits to screen time. For certain hours of the day, require phones and tablets to be locked away - including yours!
- Invite your kids to exercise with you. If you're a parent who follows workout videos in the living room or who regularly runs, invite your kids to come along.
- Get involved in after school sports programs.
- Start your own sports team. My wife started a running club for the kids in our neighborhood. She leads them on short runs and takes them through running drills once a week.
- Try out apps like 7 Minute Superhero Workout and Zombies Run, or a number of fun fitness apps to get your kids moving with the help of their smartphone.
Seeing changes in your child's weight is a slow and steady progress. If you push for quick results (like many adults aim for when dieting), you'll be disappointed and end up seriously hurting your child's self esteem. Taking it slow and making steady changes you can stick to will make these new life choices stick.
Kevin Jones is a full time professional fitness expert. When he isn’t in the gym, he is offering practical research, fitness plans and nutritional tips to the world. Kevin regularly contributes to many fitness and health authority websites. With a passion for family, fun, and fitness, Kevin has found a way to manage and combine these three aspects in an effective and successful way. Connect with him online; LinkedIn - Twitter