Making Healthy Habits continued...
"As parents, we're responsible for bringing good food to the table and for making activity fun," says pediatrician Walsh. It's a parent's job to decide what food comes into the house. If healthy food is in the house, that's what your child will eat. You also can enroll your child in sports or active classes that she likes. "If play is fun, they'll continue to love to move and be active their whole lives," she says.
It's important to make sure the whole family's on board. Mom can't sit and eat ice cream in front of the TV while expecting an overweight child to play and move. Come up with activities -- hiking, basketball, dancing -- that everyone will enjoy. Then moving becomes a fun family habit.
The same goes for mealtime. Don't serve a separate meal for the child who's not at a healthy weight while the rest of the family gets fried chicken and butter-soaked biscuits. Everyone at the table should eat a meal that is half made up of veggies. The other half should be made up of a side of lean meat and a side of whole grains.
That way eating well and regular activity become habits for everyone, and you're setting the groundwork for a lifetime of healthiness.
That doesn't mean foods become "good" and "bad" with the bad ones being totally off-limits, says registered dietitian Krieger.
"We want kids to enjoy their foods and not feel bad about eating anything," she says. Don't keep candy and sodas in your house. But if your kids are at a party, for example, let them eat the cake and ice cream.
When Kids Think They are Fat
As much as you may not want to, sometimes you have to address the issue of weight with your child because she brings it up with you first.
Louisiana State University professor Melinda Sothern occasionally has run into preschoolers obsessed with weight. "I've seen 3-year-olds who want their moms to put them on a diet because they think they're fat."
Most of that weight awareness is due to teasing, says Southern. "Even though there are more and more kids who are overweight, that doesn't mean there is more acceptance. They are still going to get teased because they can't keep up on the playground."
Even young children can tease each other about weight, says Schwartz. They may see that an overweight child doesn't run as fast or play as much.
"They might actually say, 'I don't like that person because she's fat,' and that's a real opportunity for parents to say, 'You can't know what's somebody's like by the size of their body.'"
If your child is on the receiving end of that prejudice, sit down and talk about that teasing or bullying. Explain how much you love your child, and find out how the teasing made her feel. Then work together on a plan to make her feel better while making healthy lifestyle changes.
Get more tips on how to talk to your child when she's been teased about her weight.