8412940480_cdbde0a65e_zObesity in children and adolescents is becoming a cause of serious concern in our country and though we are aware of how badly it can affect the physical and mental health of our children, we aren’t doing enough to keep them away from it. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise are the leading causes of obesity. It’s also proven that talking to children about their weight and dieting is unhealthy as well and could lead to other psychological problems such as eating disorders. So how do you work effectively with children and help them eat better without nagging or pestering them?

Start Healthy Habits Young
If your child falls in love with fruits and vegetables at an early age, they are more likely to keep that love going throughout their lives.

  • Avoid negative ideas about “healthy foods” and “unhealthy foods.”
  • Offer your children plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains when you are still making their meals and they might find themselves making good choices later on.

Don’t Keep Treats In The House
Even though it’s not ideal to label food items as “healthy” or “unhealthy,” excess sugar has shown to affect childhood weight gain. It is therefore best not to bring sugary drinks and sweets home.

  • As an alternate, offer dried fruit instead of candy, yogurt instead of ice cream, and carrots instead of chips.
  • Then, if you are out for a special occasion and your child wants a candy bar or an ice cream cone, you can happily offer it and let your children indulge once a while.

Cook More At Home And Eat Out Less
Yes, fast food is easy. But it is also fattening and addictive.

  • Try and figure out a way to cook dinner at home as much as possible.
  • These dinners do not need to be gourmet.
  • Make simple meals that are high in nutrition and low in fat.
  • There are plenty of great recipes for healthy dinners that can be made in 30 minutes or less. Avoid pre-packaged meals since they are high in sodium and preservatives.

Of course, everything is good in moderation. The occasional frozen pizza or hamburger isn’t going to hurt anyone, but the more you can eat home-cooked meals, the better it is for you and your kids.

Set a Good Example
It’s hard to talk to your child about nutrition when you are struggling yourself.

  • Try to change your habits to better reflect what you want for your children.
  • Don’t hide ice cream and treats (kids always find them anyway). Instead, offer them dried fruits, yogurt and carrots.
  • Have fun trying out new recipes and working towards a healthier lifestyle.

If your child sees you making good choices in terms of nutritious and fresh home cooked food, they won’t think twice about adopting these habits themselves.

Understand Any Underlying Problem
Many times, children who eat a lot aren’t just hungry. There may be something else going on.

  • Is your child snacking because he or she is bored? If so, find an activity for them to enjoy and pass their time in a better way.
  • Could they possibly be using food to mask deeper emotional issues? Talk to your child to try and understand why they may be struggling with nutrition.

If necessary, have your child talk to a therapist to combat any underlying problems causing them to overeat and become obese.

Don’t Speak Negatively About Their Weight
Even if you are concerned about your child putting on a few pounds, don’t say anything that may hurt the child.

  • Negative comments from family hurt just as bad, if not worse, as negative comments from bullies.
  • Instead of talking to your child about their excessive weight, talk to them about making healthy choices and exercising.
  • Show by example and try to help them. For example, you could plan a daily physical activity that both you and your child enjoy, like swimming or cycling.
  • Discussing their weight could very well do more harm than good. If you think they might have a medical problem, talk to a pediatrician.

Health advice from a doctor sometimes may work better for children.

Combating childhood obesity is becoming harder and harder with a fast paced lifestyle and lack of parental involvement in their child’s growing up years. Bad eating habits and little physical activity are causing problems for children. But by following the tips in this article, you can definitely help your children make better choices in terms of food and lifestyle.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michele Holincheck, FNP

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