With the raging childhood obesity epidemic in the United States, our first response may be to want to put every child that is clinically overweight on a strict, calorie restricted diet.
But, as we know, that isn't always the most effective solution for children who need to lose weight.
Make Family Changes
If your child is struggling with a weight issue, chances are, he is already sensitive about it . Instead of singling him out and tasking him with losing weight on his own, which risks hurting his self-esteem, make some solid healthy changes as a family. Since the goal of losing weight isn't to be thin, but to healthy, approaching weight loss by making healthy changes can be effective in helping kids to lose weight. Things like committing to serving healthy snacks and meals, going for walks as a family, parking in the spot that is furthest away from the store door and limiting screen time to less than two hours per day can all naturally reduce calorie intake and increase physical activity. The bottom line is that if you want a child who embraces making healthy choices and being physically active, you'll need to make healthy choices and be physically active yourself.
Offer Healthy Foods
Children can only eat what is available or served to them. If you have a child that is overweight, you have to seriously step back and evaluate what you are feeding him over the course of the week. Consider the types and portion sizes of foods that are served for snacks and meals, if fruits and vegetables are part of his daily diet and just how much processed and junk food he typically consumes. If you dine out frequently, beware that restaurant meals are often loaded with hidden calories. What he drinks is also important. Soda and juice are laden with nonnutritive calories, so increasing water consumption and decreasing soda and juice consumption can help shed pounds. If you are unsure about what and how much your child should be eating each day, consult with your child's pediatrician or ask for a referral to a pediatric nutritionist.
Incorporate Activity into the Day
Today's kids spend more time in front of the television, computer and video game consoles than ever before. Children should spend between 30 to 60 minutes being moderately active each day. Limiting screen time and encouraging active play can boost your child's activity level. Encourage your child to participate in intramural or competitive sports or to find a physical activity he really enjoys.
Talk to Your Child's Doctor
If you are concerned about your child's weight, talk to his doctor. Your child's doctor may want to rule out any metabolic or thyroid conditions that can cause weight gain or make it difficult for your child to lose weight.