Kids and Dieting
Over the past two decades, the number of overweight children has increased significantly. Today, at least one in five children in the United States is overweight. So why is childhood obesity such a problem? A few of the major reasons include the increase in the number of hours children spend watching television, a lack of physical activity and the availability of processed foods and fast food restaurants.
It is important for parents to teach their child that increased activity, along with good nutrition, work together to improve their overall health.
Is Dieting Right for Your Child?
In most cases, it is not recommended that a child be placed on a diet. Limiting what a child eats can affect growth and development and may lead to an eating disorder. However, if your child has a severe weight problem and is placed on a restrictive diet it should only be done under the supervision of a physician or registered dietician.
How Can Your Child Become Fit?
If your child is overweight focus on getting fit, not losing weight. By doing so, you can teach your child healthy habits that will follow throughout his or her lifetime. Some simple ways to help your child get fit include:
- Exercising as a family. Plan family activities such as taking the dog for a long walk, bicycling or bowling.
- Limiting television and computer time. Set limits on the number of hours your child watches television and sits at the computer or plays video games.
- Setting a good example. Be a fitness role model for your children by taking the first step yourself and encouraging an active lifestyle.
- Monitor afterschool snacking. Kids tend to snack the most between the time they come home from school and the time they eat dinner. This is a great time for after school activities, chores and school work.
Develop Healthy Eating Habits
In addition to physical activity, healthy eating habits are important in finding a weight that is acceptable for your child. Developing a healthy diet might be easier than you think. There are simple things you, as a parent, can do to help your child make healthy eating choices without limiting his or her diet.
- Strive to include the recommended 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Use these snacks in place of cookies, candy and chips.
- Try cooking with beans, black beans, navy beans, split beans, garbanzo beans, etc. They are low in fat and high in protein and give appetite satiety.
- Plan regular snack times. Do not allow your child to graze all day long. If you do, he or she will probably not have the appetite to eat at lunch or dinner, causing your child to miss out on healthy nutrients. Instead, plan healthy snacks at specific times each day.
- Think your drink! Apple and grape juice have more sugar than Mountain Dew. Basically drink water and low fat milk. Use other drinks only as special treats every once in a while.
- Increase water consumption. Often, the human mind thinks it is hungry when in reality the body is in need of fluids. By drinking at least six glasses of water each day and drinking a full glass of water before meals your child is less likely to overeat.
- Eat at home. Limit eating out to less than one time a week.
Weight Loss Programs
Although most children can lose weight and become fit by making minor changes to their lifestyle, there are some children who need more help. If a physician determines that a weight problem could affect your child’s health, he or she may recommend a supervised weight loss program for children or refer you to a registered dietician. Never allow your child to take diet pills, go on a fad diet or engage in an extreme exercise program. These weight loss methods can be dangerous to your child’s health and can cause poor habits that may last a lifetime. If you feel your child is a compulsive overeater, is depressed or is trying to lose weight but doesn’t need to, contact a physician right away.