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Helping the Overweight Child - How you can help your child

As a parent, your job is to give your child the tools for a healthy lifestyle and remain as relaxed as possible about the result.

To help your overweight child eat well, use the same healthy eating approach with everyone in your family:

  • Eat together as a family as much as possible. The entire family, regardless of each family member's weight, should be offered the same food choices at meals.
  • Choose water instead of sugary drinks, such as sport drinks, soft drinks, and fruit-flavored drinks. For some kids, cutting back on sugary drinks makes a big difference in balancing the calories that they take in and burn off.
  • Remember that all foods, even less nutritious foods in small amounts, can fit into a healthy diet. Do not make any food item completely off limits. This may increase the desire for the forbidden food and can lead children to overeat when they get the chance.
  • Avoid power struggles over food. Your job is to provide healthy choices at specific snack and mealtimes. It's your child's job to choose to eat or not eat.
  • Have a regular meal and snack routine instead of snacking throughout the day. Schedule snacks for when your child is most hungry, such as after school or exercise.
  • Offer nutritious food choices.
  • Keep foods moderate in calories to help your child avoid getting too many calories. But don't make meals so low-calorie that your child can't feel full.
  • Avoid using food as a reward, whether for an achievement or for "eating all your green beans." (The "nutritious food, then dessert" tactic makes the healthier food seem like a less desirable food.)
  • Serve dessert as part of the meal to avoid the "dessert struggle." Offer healthier desserts, such as yogurt and fruit, more often than rich desserts. When you serve a rich dessert, it's okay to set out a single portion for each person.

To help your overweight child develop a balance between the calories he or she takes in and burns off:

  • Shift the focus away from pounds and toward a healthy lifestyle by avoiding weighing your child every day. Think about not even using the bathroom scale.
  • Move more. Make physical activity a part of your family's daily life.
  • Keep total TV and computer "screen time" to 2 or fewer hours a day.1 Encourage outdoor play as often as possible. Children should have at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous activity each day.

As for any child with health concerns, make sure your child has all of the well-child checkups and treatment that your doctor recommends.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 29, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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