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How Can I Help My Overweight Child?

How Can I Help My Overweight Child?
How Can I Help My Overweight Child?
Elizabeth Hilliard, M.S., R.D., L.R.D., Assistant Professor of Practice Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Many parents struggle with how to help their overweight child. In fact, a study sponsored by WebMd and Sanford Health in 2011 found that parents were more comfortable talking to their kids about teen sex than the risks of being overweight. So, when a child mentions that he or she is fat, parents often do not know what to say. Understanding the reason your child has
these feelings can help you decide what to do.

If your child has been teased by a classmate, relative or friend, address the bullying issue first. If your child is feeling insecure about his or her weight because of bullying or something he or she saw on TV or the Internet, reassure him or her of your love and acceptance. Focus on being healthy, not the number on the scale or the size of his or her clothing. Avoid punishing, threatening or coercing your child regarding weight or eating habits. The shame and anger these tactics cause can lead to your child having an eating disorder.

If you have your own concerns about your child’s weight, have a private conversation with your child’s health-care provider. Openly discuss your concerns about your child’s weight and health, and identify resources that can help your family make positive changes. Some resources that can help are a registered dietitian who has experience working with children, and community programs that focus on getting kids active and teaching healthy lifestyles.

If you feel your child is at risk for health problems related to being overweight, then you can take action. Talk with other family members about supporting healthy changes that need to be made. Remember, healthy eating is good for everyone.

Here are some healthy changes you can make:

  • Use low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt instead of whole milk or regular yogurt.
  • Use whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta and rice instead of refined or enriched grains.
  • Use fruits as desserts in place of cookies, cake or ice cream.
  • Encourage raw vegetables with low-fat dip, fruit, nuts or low-fat cheese for snacks instead of snack crackers, chips or sweets.
  • Make more colorful vegetables as side dishes with meals and less potatoes, rice, pasta or bread.
  • Drink more water and less sugar-sweetened drinks such as juice and soda.
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat and try baking, broiling or pan frying with less oil or with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Find a good cookbook with lower-calorie, lower-fat recipes.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new foods.
  • Get your family moving. Take family outings to parks, go for walks, have a family bike riding day, play charades, play ball in the yard, sign everyone up for karate or swimming, or do any other activity that your family enjoys. Remember, activity is good for you, too.
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