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Kids and Weight Control: The Role Of Parents
A Growing Problem
Lack of Exercise
Consuming Too Many Calories
Dos and Don'ts for Parents
- Be supportive. Kids need to know that you love and respect them unconditionally and that their weight does not define their self-worth. Kids who feel loved and confident are more likely to be able to make positive lifestyle changes and feel good about themselves while they are doing it.
- Don't be the "food police." Watching over your kids like a hawk and creating a list of forbidden foods is likely to backfire. Kids whose diets are severely restricted will often resort to sneaking food and even binging in private.
- Teach your children about balanced nutrition. The whole family should have a basic understanding of what makes up a healthful diet. If you need help, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian.
- Involve the children in shopping, menu planning, and cooking. It is helpful for kids to be involved and feel like they have some control over their diet.
- Have several healthy snacks on hand. It is normal for kids to get hungry between meals. Healthful snacks will keep them going throughout the day. Kid-friendly choices include apple slices with peanut butter, yogurt with granola, dried fruit and nuts, and pre-cut vegetable sticks with low-fat dip.
- Don't use food as punishment or reward. Kids should understand that food is fuel for a healthy body, as well as a source of pleasure. Associating food with punishment or reward may distort children's views of the role of food in their lives.
- Have your kids eat their meals and snacks at the table. Kids (and adults) who eat while watching TV or doing other activities are more likely to overeat because they are not paying attention to how much they are eating.
- Encourage physical activity. This may be one of the most important things you can do for your kids. Regular exercise is vital to weight control, as well as to health. While team sports or community activity programs are great, it is also a good idea for parents to exercise with their kids and make it a family activity, such as walks after school or weekend hikes.
- Limit screen time. Set reasonable limits to how long your children can sit in front of the television, game system, or computer.
- Don't give your children any weight-loss remedies or medications. Many are not safe for children and could cause harmful side effects. Talk to the pediatrician before giving any weight-loss medication.
- Encourage your child to get plenty of sleep. Not getting enough sleep may increase your child's risk of obesity. Depending on your child's age, he may need 9-11 hours of sleep each night.
Healthful Habits for Life
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org
Weight-control Information Network http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov
Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Childhood overweight and obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html. Updated August 5, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2014.
NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 12, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2014.
Obesity in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 24, 2014. Accessed May 16, 2014.
Overweight and obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity. Updated April 8, 2014. Accessed May 16, 2014.
Thomas H. Obesity prevention programs for children and youth: Why are their results so modest? Health Educ Res. 2006;21:783-95. Epub 2006 Nov 10.
10/8/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Laurson KR, Eisenmann JC, Welk GJ, Wickel EE, Gentile Da, Walsh DA. Combined influence of physical activity and screen time recommendations on childhood overweight. J Pediatr. 2008;153:209-214.
6/25/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Anderson SE, Whitaker RC. Household routines and obesity in US preschool-aged children. Pediatrics. 2010;125(3):420-428.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 05/2014
- Update Date: 05/20/2014