An increasing number of children are overweight. Not only do many of these children suffer from low self-esteem and problems within their social groups, they are also at increased risk for a wide range of health problems.
So, what are the best ways to help an overweight child? Most experts agree that it is important not to put children on highly restricted diets. Cutting caloric intake can impede children’s normal growth and is not usually safe unless closely monitored by a health-care professional. Your child’s doctor can help you determine whether your child’s current weight is healthy and whether any changes or spurts are something he will grow into.
Love and Support
The most important way to assist an obese child is with your support. A loving and accepting environment is the most important foundation for helping a child deal with health and emotional issues, including weight. Provide an atmosphere where your kids can raise their concerns with you and mention their weight in a supportive and non-confrontational way.
Weight Control is a Family Affair
Make life changes as a family. If you feel your child needs to increase the amount of physical activity she gets or to eat more healthfully, it is important to set a good example. Involve the whole family in new sports or outdoor activities. Plan, cook, and eat healthy meals together; cooking special food for only overweight family members is demoralizing. Eating new nutrient and fiber-filled foods together is not only fun, but it is also good for the health of everyone in the household.
There are easy ways to increase the amount of physical activity in a child’s daily life. Start with your children’s interests; if they like a particular sport, make sure they are enrolled and able to attend practice. If they do not find organized sports compelling, take bike rides, go for walks, hike, or swim. Gyms and sports clubs often offer special rates for family memberships. These are great if you want to try using exercise equipment or weight lifting, and the staff trainers can help even novices get started with custom-tailored healthy routines.
When you go to do errands, do not spend your time circling the parking lot searching for the best space. Instead, park by a nice tree at the back of the lot and walk the extra few steps. Instead of taking the elevator or escalator for one or two floors, climb the stairs. Set an example by creating good habits and your children will find their activity level increases without them even being aware of it.
In most households, parents shop for food and do most of the meal preparation. This means you have a large amount of control over what foods your children consume. This does not mean you need to immediately remove all sweets, fats, and other treats from the household. Instead, make changes gradually.
Fill the kitchen with fresh fruits and vegetables. Pre-wash and cut servings of produce so fruit and vegetables are ready to eat and easy to snack on when hunger strikes. Use lean proteins instead of higher fat products. Replace complex carbohydrates with higher fiber options. For example, purchase whole-grain bread and pasta. If your family does not care for the flavor, find versions that use some whole grains blended with white flour and gradually increase the percentage of the healthier substitutes.
Ground oats can replace one-third of the flour in many baked goods. Reduce the amount of fat in cooking by using cooking sprays and by replacing fat with other flavor enhancers. In many cakes and cookies, it is even possible to substitute unsweetened applesauce for a portion (usually one third to one quarter) of the fat content without impacting flavor or texture.
Do not eliminate treats entirely, since that only leads to feelings of deprivation. Instead, model behavior of moderation when it comes to high calorie offerings.
Do not eliminate