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How To Help Your Overweight Child

With the rise of obesity and the increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes occurring in children, many parents are now faced with helping an overweight child. This may not be a daunting as first seems and here are some simple, but effective steps to take to help your child develop eating habits and active lifestyle that will assist improve their health.

Be supportive

- Tell your child that he or she is loved, is special, and is important. Children's feelings about themselves often are based on their parents' feelings about them.

- Accept your child at any weight. Children will be more likely to accept and feel good about themselves when their parents accept them.

- Listen to your child's concerns about his or her weight. Overweight children probably know better than anyone else that they have a weight problem. They need support, understanding, and encouragement from parents.

Encourage healthy eating habits

- Buy and serve more fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned). Let your child choose them at the store.

- Buy fewer soft drinks and high fat/high calorie snack foods like chips, cookies, and candy. These snacks are OK once in a while, but keep healthy snack foods on hand too and offer them to your child more often.

- Eat breakfast every day. Skipping breakfast can leave your child hungry, tired, and looking for less healthy foods later in the day.

- Plan healthy meals and eat together as a family. Eating together at meal times helps children learn to enjoy a variety of foods.

- Eat fast food less often. When you visit a fast food restaurant, try the healthful options offered.

- Offer your child water or low-fat milk more often than fruit juice. Fruit juice is a healthy choice but is high in calories.

- Do not get discouraged if your child will not eat a new food the first time it is served. Some kids will need to have a new food served to them 10 times or more before they will eat it.

- Try not to use food as a reward when encouraging kids to eat. Promising dessert to a child for eating vegetables, for example, sends the message that vegetables are less valuable than dessert. Kids learn to dislike foods they think are less valuable.

- Start with small servings and let your child ask for more if he or she is still hungry. It is up to you to provide your child with healthy meals and snacks, but your child should be allowed to choose how much food he or she will eat.

Healthy snack foods for your child to try:

o Fresh fruit

o Fruit canned in juice or light syrup

o Small amounts of dried fruits such as raisins, apple rings, or apricots

o Fresh vegetables such as baby carrots, cucumber, zucchini, or tomatoes

o Reduced fat cheese or a small amount of peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers

o Low-fat yogurt with fruit

Foods that are small, round, sticky, or hard to chew, such as raisins, whole grapes, hard vegetables, hard chunks of cheese, nuts, seeds, and popcorn can cause choking in children under age 4. You can still prepare some of these foods for young children, for example, by cutting grapes into small pieces and cooking and cutting up vegetables. Always watch your toddler during meals and snacks.

Encourage daily physical activity

Like adults, kids need daily physical activity. Here are some ways to help your child move every day:

- Set a good example. If your children see that you are physically active and have fun, they are more likely to be active and stay active throughout their lives.

- Encourage your child to join a sports team or class, such as soccer, dance, basketball, or gymnastics at school or at your local community or recreation center.

- Be sensitive to your child's needs. If your child feels uncomfortable participating in activities like sports, help him or her find physical activities that are fun and not embarrassing.

- Be active together as a family. Assign active chores such as making the beds, washing the car, or vacuuming. Plan active outings such as a trip to the zoo or a walk through a local park.

- Because his or her body is not ready yet, do not encourage your pre-adolescent child to participate in adult-style physical activity such as long jogs, using an exercise bike or treadmill, or lifting heavy weights. FUN physical activities are best for kids.

- Kids need a total of about 60 minutes of physical activity a day, but this does not have to be all at one time. Short 10- or even 5-minute bouts of activity throughout the day are just as good. If your children are not used to being active, encourage them to start with what they can do and build up to 60 minutes a day.

About the Author

Kim Beardsmore is a weight loss consultant. Tons of recipes, articles, free ezine, meal plans and resources to help you lose weight through excellence in nutrition. Estimate your healthy weight, free newsletter and more at


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