Helping children’s weight management – The overweight child
It's all over the newspapers - our children are getting bigger. Even the fifth National Child's Measurements Programme (NCMP) has recently revealed that: Obesity prevalence is decreasing for boys in Reception, and rising for girls in Year 6 and that prevalence of both obesity and excess weight remains higher for boys than for girls in all ages measured.
Obesity in children is on the increase and, as parents, we have a duty to help our children normalise their weight and teach them good, sound eating habits for life.
Weight management for children is easier said than done. Children cannot be put on a “diet” as they are growing and developing. They should not be image conscious and watching what they eat and so it is down to parents to guide them in a subtle way to make better food choices which will provide them with nutrient rich foods for their developing bodies with fewer calories to store.
Weight management is not a quick fix for children. For many, the aim would be to stop weight gain and allow the child to “grow into” their current weight. Others may have very different needs.
Below are some tips for helping to manage a child who is overweight:
- Put your child on a “diet” without seeking professional advice.
- Make a big thing about healthy foods and bad foods, measuring or weighing – this may make your child obsessive about foods and contribute to eating disorders in later life.
- Cut the portion size for your child which can leave them hungry.
- Allow your child to eat in front of the television - numerous studies have shown that people eat more when watching TV as they ignore brain signals to say they are full.
- Never use food as treats - instead treat with toys or trips to a park or a magazine.
- Encourage daily exercise: try trampolining, dancing, swimming, walking to school, scooter races, bike rides, high rope climbing, football, walks in the country and skipping.
- Change the dynamic of the meal to decrease carbohydrates, increase lean protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Aim for 1/4 plate of carbohydrate (pasta/potatoes/rice/root vegetables), 1/4 plate of protein (meat/fish/eggs/beans) and half the plate of different coloured vegetables (tomatoes/broccoli/peppers/peas).
- Cook from scratch - processed foods contain so many nasties and a lot less nutrients.
- Offer healthier snacks such as veggie sticks with hummus, homemade flapjacks, yoghurt with strawberries, banana bread etc.
- Pack up a lunch box for school filled with healthy foods and not crisps, juices, cake or chocolate – try crackers and cream cheese, vegetable sticks and yoghurt with fruit or a pasta salad
- Eat at the dinner table together so make eating a sociable event and slow down meal times
- Go through this journey as a family – eating healthier as a family and exercising more is no bad thing and will make it less obvious that you are trying to manage your child’s weight.