Let’s face it. Diet is a four letter word no matter how you look at it. But it is an even more frightening word when you associated it with children. Unfortunately, with the rise in childhood obesity over the last several years, dieting has become a way of life for many tweens. When kids are babies and toddlers we assume that they’ll grow out of their “baby fat”. But when they begin to reach the higher grades of elementary school, we realize that there may be more to the baby fat than we originally thought.
Helping our children to lose weight NOW is vital. Once puberty hits the scales can tip in either direction, more often than not it tips in the wrong direction. Teaching kids proper eating habits and how to make healthy choices NOW will help them through the teenage years. By the time they become adults their good eating habits will be second nature. Even if your child does not lose weight, helping them understand how to make good food choices will ensure that they don’t gain additional weight and more than likely they will grow into the weight they already have.
Before putting your child on a diet you MUST speak to his or her pediatrician. You can ask the doctor for help in developing a plan to help your child lose weight. Or, if you have a plan in mind discuss it with the doctor to see if he or she thinks it’s advisable to try.
Teach your kids healthy eating habits by showing them your good example. If they see you eating chips with dinner, they are going want to eat chips to. There’s no way you can convince a child to eat carrots when you are eating chips.
Teach them about the food pyramid. You can print out kid’s food pyramid guidelines at http://kidshealth.org/kid/nutrition/food/pyramid.html. Take the time to go over it with your child. Teach them that it’s important to eat everything on the pyramid each day. You can make a printable food pyramid chart in any Word program or online to use as a guide for your kids to know what they need to eat each day and to keep track of what they have eaten. You can also teach your child to read labels and learn what serving sizes are. You can let them measure out their portions to help them learn what a serving size is.
Though you can’t control what your children eat when they are not home, you CAN control what they eat when they ARE home. Limit the junk foods you buy, or don’t buy any at all. Buy 100 calorie packs of snack foods so that they can still have an occasional treat, but they are learning portion control. Offer plenty of fruits and vegetables, or yogurt and cheese for snacks. Teach them to make healthy choices. Of course they’d rather eat a cookie than a cheese stick if given the choice. Taking the cookie out of the equation is the easiest way to limit them to healthy choices. Since you are in control of what your kids’ eat for mealtime make sure that you make appropriate choices. Serve lean meats and whole grains with plenty of vegetables. You can cut back on fat intake by replacing salad dressings and mayonnaise with low fat versions. Limit soda and juice intake. Juices and sodas are loaded in sugar and that’s empty calories!. Even kids need to drink water. Have them drink water or low fat milk with meals and limit sodas and juices to once in a while.
No diet would be complete without exercise. The best way to get your son or daughter off the couch and involved in an activity is to do it with them! Go for walks together, or take them to the park and let them play. Let them ride their bikes while you walk or bike ride together! ANY activity they find enjoyable is good for them to do. If they are doing something they enjoy they are more likely to do it.
If your child eats a lot of junk food and drinks a lot of soda or juice, you might want to cut back gradually. One benefit of doing it gradually, rather than cold turkey is that you might get less resistance from them. Talk to them openly about the changes that will be made and how you are going to do it together. Don’t make it seem like a punishment! Show them that you are making lifestyle changes to be more healthy, and show them that you are doing it together!