Changing for LifeYou want your child to be fit and healthy for a whole lifetime. That’s why it’s so important for you to start helping him or her to develop healthy eating habits now. Changing habits is easier when you’re young. What’s more, tackling overweight early on can prevent many or all of the devastating medical effects of obesity. READ MORE
Healthy eating doesn’t mean dieting. As just about anyone who’s ever dieted can testify, you can lose dramatic amounts of weight by dieting—but the chances are good that you’ll gain it all back again when you go off the diet. Healthy eating means switching to foods that are full of nutrients and fiber, not empty sugar and fat calories. It means listening to your body and learning how much you need to feel full, and not eating more than that. When your child changes his or her eating habits, he or she may take the weight off more slowly than by dieting, but it’s more likely to stay off. LESS
It Starts with YouYou are your child’s strongest influence and greatest supporter in making the switch to healthy eating. As a parent, you control the food in your home. You buy it, you prepare it, and you decide whether or not your family will eat together, and when. And you are the role model for how and what your child eats. If you set a good example, it’s likely your child will follow it. And if you, or others in your family, are battling weight problems as well, changing to a healthier way of eating is something you can do together. There’s power in numbers! READ MORE
Good eating habits start young—very young. Being overweight as a baby can put a child at risk for obesity later. So don’t make your baby finish a bottle or continue a breastfeeding session if he or she is full. Pay attention to your baby’s appetite so that you’ll know how much is enough. Breastfeeding your baby and not introducing solid foods until he or she is 4-6 months old make later obesity less likely.
Remember, though, that kids under the age of 2 need a little more fat in their diet than older kids for good brain development. When your child is between the ages of 2 and 3, you can transition to a lower-fat diet, including switching to low-fat milk and yogurt. LESS
- Beverages. Have low-fat milk and seltzer available. Flavored (but unsweetened) seltzer is a fun and healthy alternative to soda. Make “spa water” by adding fresh mint leaves or a few slices of lemon or lime to a pitcher of water and keep it in the refrigerator. Limit sodas, fruit drinks, and sports drinks, which all have large amounts of added sugar.
- Snacks. One of the reasons kids like packaged snacks is they’re so accessible—just open and eat. So make sure it’s easy for them to have healthy snacks, too. Keep cut-up vegetables and baby carrots in the refrigerator. Have a bowl full of washed fruit on the counter.
If your child likes dips, try hummus and other bean dips along with low-fat yogurt and vegetable-based dips, or fat-free ranch dressing. Stick to whole grains when buying pretzels, crackers, and breakfast cereals (low-sugar cereals make good snacks, too). Nuts are healthy but high in calories. Roasted soy nuts are crunchy, full of fiber, and lower in calories than nuts.
- Breakfast. Starting the day with a good breakfast is important! Skipping breakfast may cause your child to crave high-calorie junk food later in the day. But be sure to avoid sugary cereals and high-fat breakfast meats like sausage and bacon.
- Main meals. Limit meals out, especially at fast-food restaurants. Make family favorites like tuna casserole, sloppy joes, bean and rice casserole, chicken gumbo, vegetable stir-fry, and beef stew. Emphasize fish, lean meat, beans, whole grains, and vegetables over starches, fatty meats, and high-fat dairy products.
- Dessert. Skip dessert most nights. If you do want to offer dessert, fresh fruits, possibly with low-fat yogurt and cinnamon or a little honey on top, are healthy and satisfy a kid’s sweet tooth.
- Fiber. Fiber is important because it increases feelings of fullness and removes cholesterol from the body. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are rich in fiber. Aim to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Eating TogetherOne of the most important things you can do to help your child lose weight is to eat together as a family. If isn’t possible to eat dinner together, then make breakfast your family meal. READ MORE
Families that don’t eat together tend to eat more fried foods and soda and fewer fruits and vegetables. Family meals teach kids to eat in a conscious way and to have eating routines. If there’s no family dinner, kids are likely to eat in front of the TV or computer, mindlessly munching. Turning off the TV lets kids focus on the food in front of them.
You can control portion size when you put your child’s food on the plate and bring it to the table, rather than serving the meal family-style. Start kids with a smaller portion; they can ask for more if they’re still hungry when they’ve finished it. Encourage them to eat slowly and chew thoroughly. LESS
Share the Responsibility and RelaxShare the responsibilities of planning, shopping, preparation, serving, and clean-up. Helping to plan meal menus and shopping for the ingredients can be fun. Encourage your child to help out with the cooking. If kids are involved in planning and preparing the meal, they’re much more likely to eat it. READ MORE
Eating as a family can be a great way to catch up on news and also to reinforce family bonds and your child’s sense of security. Sometimes, though, family meals can be stressful. Be patient, don’t expect your child to eat everything you put in front of him or her, and relax. Just by eating together, you’ve taken a major step toward instilling good eating habits and a conscious attitude toward food. LESS
Food Do’s and Don’tsDon’ts
- Don’t keep fattening foods in the house and forbid your overweight child to eat them. This will only cause resentment and “sneaking.”
- Don’t use unhealthy food as a reward (for finishing a meal, for instance). This teaches him or her to think of sweetened or fatty foods as being of higher value than healthy foods.
- Don’t withhold food as a punishment. If you teach children to see hunger as a form of punishment, they may overeat so that they don’t feel “punished.”
- Don’t make your child finish everything on the plate.
- Don’t criticize or punish your child for bad food habits. Negative approaches to changing eating habits don’t work, and they make kids feel bad about themselves, which can make them eat more.
- Do keep the kitchen stocked with food that’s good for everyone in your family.
- Do bring home fattening foods like chips, cookies, sodas, and ice cream every now and then if your child wants them. This may seem like odd advice, but if you don’t, these types of foods will become “forbidden fruit” and seem all the more desirable. But make sure that eating unhealthy foods is the exception to the rule, not the rule.
- Do restrict snacking to the kitchen or dining room so that your child won’t munch mindlessly in front of the TV.
- Do talk to your child about how high-fat, high-sugar foods are strongly marketed to kids, often with free toys and colorful packages featuring cartoon characters. Explain to him or her that foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products aren’t pushed in advertising but are much better for you.
- Do praise your child for making healthy food choices.
Weight-Loss GoalsAn initial weight loss of 5-10 lbs is reasonable and can be a good first goal. Losing 1-4 lbs per month is a realistic and healthy rate of weight reduction.
Photo credit: Praise your child for good food choices
Copyright 2008 Bruno De Regge
Photo credit: Don’t put your child on a diet
Copyright 2008 Tamaki Sono
Photo credit: Eating dinner together
Copyright 2008 Jason Lander
Photo credit: Being a good role model
Copyright 2006 Brian J Jolley
Photo credit: Girl eating watermelon
Copyright 2009 Emma Forsberg