According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey the national obesity rate among kids ages 2 to 19 is 18.5% or almost one out of every 5 children.
With overweight and obesity affecting so many kids today, so follows the dilemma for parents who want to help their kids get on the path to a slimmer, healthier life. If your child has been diagnosed as being overweight, what should you do first to make changes that will benefit not only his weight, but also his overall long-term health? Here are some tips to help you get started. You should also talk to your child’s healthcare provider, who can work with you to develop a safe plan based on your child’s age, weight and any health conditions.
First things first
The first step is figuring out how much extra weight your child is gaining each month so that you know how many fewer calories he needs each day. For example, if your child is gaining an extra three pounds a month, and each pound is equal to about 3,500 calories, then he needs to cut back on 10,500 calories each month to stop gaining the extra weight. While that seems like a lot, it works out to only 350 calories each day. If you cut half of the extra calories from your child’s diet each day (175 calories) and encourage extra physical activity to burn the other 175 calories (about 30 minutes of moderate exercise) he’s got it made.
Not gaining is the new losing.
The first goal that most experts recommend for kids who are overweight is not to try to lose a lot of weight. Instead, they recommend a much more modest goal of simply not gaining any more weight. Your child is going to keep getting taller as he nears and reaches puberty, so it follows that simply not gaining weight can be helpful. Even if your overweight child isn’t losing weight, as long as he isn’t gaining weight or at least isn’t gaining weight at an unhealthy rate, he can slim out and reach a healthy BMI as he gets taller.
Good nutrition vs. “dieting”
The best chance you have to help your child be successful in attaining a healthy weight is to make it a family exercise. Healthy weight starts with healthy eating and activity. The changes to diet and exercise that will most benefit your overweight child will also benefit the whole family. Here are some steps that will help the whole family eat and live healthier.
Kick the fast food and processed food habits. These foods are generally higher in calories and fat. Instead, concentrate on fruits and vegetables, and swap white bread, rice, and pasta for their whole-grain versions. They are more nutritious and have fiber, which can help your child feel full for longer. If your child doesn’t go for these changes at first, don’t give up. Research shows that kids are more likely to eat something after they’ve seen it on their plates a few times.
Avoid sugary drinks. Swap sugary soda, juice, and sports drinks for water and skim or low-fat milk.
Encourage good eating habits. Three meals and two snacks a day can keep your child from getting too hungry, and less likely to overeat.
Remove temptation. Make healthy choices easier for them by keeping junk food out of the house.
Make small changes. Instead of overhauling your family’s diet all at once, make a few changes each week.
Get them moving. All kids, tweens and teens need an hour of physical activity every day. They don’t have to tackle it all at once – shorter sessions throughout the day work just as well. There are a lot of ways to get that active time in. For younger kids running around the backyard or playground, combined with physical activities at school will probably meet that goal. For older kids, activities like team sports, dance, gymnastics, and swimming are all ways for them to log in the time they need moving each day to attain and maintain a healthy weight.
Screen the screen time. Help your child or teen keep his screen use to a minimum. Set an example. Put your own devices away and get active together. The good news is that the more time you all spend moving will probably mean less time with video games or smartphones.
Sobering Facts about Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity has immediate and long-term effects on physical, social, and emotional health. For example:
Children that are overweight or obese are at higher risk of having other chronic health conditions and diseases that influence physical health. These include asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors for heart disease.
They are bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem.
In the long term, a child who is overweight or obese is more likely to be obese as an adult. An adult with obesity has a higher risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and many types of cancer.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Healthy Recipes Kids will Eat & Love
Half the battle of helping your kids maintain healthy weight is having foods on hand that they will eat and enjoy when the “HUNGRIES” strike. Here are two healthy snacks that they will enjoy and ask for again and again.
Nutty, Fruity Popcorn Mix
Serving Size: About 1-1/2 cups (serve in individual bowls)
1 package (6 to 7 cup yield) plain microwave popcorn
Nonstick butter-flavored cooking spray
2 – 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups peanuts or almonds
1 cup mixed dried fruit
1. Pop popcorn according to package directions. Pour popcorn into a very large bowl; coat lightly with cooking spray.
2. Sprinkle popcorn with Parmesan cheese; toss gently to coat. Stir in nuts, and dried fruit.
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mild or sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups finely chopped, frozen broccoli, thawed and drained
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and lightly flour twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin cups.
2. Wisk evaporated milk, eggs, flour, salt and black pepper in medium bowl until blended. Stir in cheese, broccoli and bell pepper.
3. Spoon 1/4 to 1/3 cup of mixture into each prepared muffin cup, filling almost to rim.
4. Stir mixture frequently to evenly distribute ingredients.
5. Bake for 23 to 28 minutes or until knife inserted near centers comes out clean and tops are lightly browned. Cool in pans for 15 minutes. Run knife or small, flat spatula around inside edges of muffin cups. Carefully remove.
TIPS: Tassies can be made ahead and frozen. To reheat, place on baking sheet and bake in preheated 325° F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes or, place 2 to 4 quiches on microwave-safe plate and microwave on MEDIUM-HIGH (70%) power for 2 1/2 to 5 minutes or until hot.