How to Help Your Child Lose Weight Safely
How many fast food restaurants have you driven through at 6 p.m. on a work night, with a hungry child in the back seat? Many of us have, and as parents we likely feel guilty. Childhood obesity is rapidly on the rise in this country. A recent study published in the Wall Street Journal sites the obesity epidemic is global: 2.1 billion people, or about 29 percent of the world's population, were either overweight or obese in 2013. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) define obesity as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water or combination of those factors. They state that being overweight or obese are a result of “caloric imbalance,” which means the amount of calories consumed is larger than calories burned.
It is important for your child to maintain a healthy weight because obesity can increase their risk factors for developing:
- Cardiovascular disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
As a parent that struggles with this condition with my son, I want to help parents understand how to safely and effectively help your child lose weight. I partnered with a number of experts at CHLA to help provide you with some simple dietary changes you can make, easy ways to keep your child active and great mealtime make-overs! “The best way to achieve long term healthy weight is to make small, positive changes over time, like decreasing portion size, going on family walks and eating out less often. These small changes can add up to big results, “shares Steven Mittleman, MD, PhD, director, Diabetes and Obesity Program at CHLA.
Make small changes toward a healthy weight
When trying to improve your child’s eating habits, slow and steady wins the race! Megan Lipton, MA, CRP, director, Kids N Fitness© at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles recommends starting slowly with small changes, like the ones listed here:
- Dilute juice with water,
- Add more vegetables to family meals
- Switch from three sodas a day to two sodas to diet soda to water etc.
- Reducing or eliminate sweetened beverages including juice; drink water instead.
- Make sure your family is getting a diet high in fiber—whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and will aid in helping your child feel full, longer.
- Make sure the child is getting enough sleep.
- Eat together as a family whenever possible.
- Be a good role model. Let your child see you eating and enjoying healthy food.
Help your child be more active
One of the best ways to encourage your child to be more active is by setting a good example. Ask your child if he wants to join a sports team or class, such as basketball, swimming or dance. Many schools and community centers offer sports and performing arts classes for children. If your child feels uncomfortable participating in activities like sports, help him find physical activities that are fun and not competitive like dancing to music, playing tag, jumping rope or riding a bike. Be active as a family, for example assign active chores such as making the bed, sweeping the floor, raking leaves or vacuuming—do it together. Why not plan active outings such as a walk through a local park too?
Children spend a lot of time sitting down watching television, playing video games and using the computer. The following tips may help cut back on some of this inactive time:
- Limit screen time to no more than two hours per day
- Help your child find fun things to do like acting out favorite books or stories, or doing a family art project
- Encourage your child to get up and move during TV commercials and discourage snacking when sitting in front of a screen
Healthy meal time for your family
I mentioned mealtime make-overs above and couldn’t wait to get to this part. Revising a recipe to be healthier is not that difficult, especially with the online resource, ChooseMyPlate.gov and others which are listed below. Here is one of my favorite mealtime make-overs, which your whole family will love—and it has protein.
Chicken Fingers (Source: KidsHealth.org)
Use boneless, skinless chicken with high-fiber cereal and an egg substitute to make a healthier version of this favorite kids' meal. You can make it in batches and freeze it for reheating for future meals. It goes great with a cup of skim milk and cut-up veggies.
- 1 4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, rinsed, patted dry and sliced into strips OR 4 1-oz. boneless, skinless chicken tenders
- 1/4 c. egg substitute or skim milk
- 1/3 c. flaked, high-fiber cereal, crushed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius)
- Dip chicken strips into egg substitute or skim milk. Roll dipped chicken in high-fiber cereal to coat. Place coated strips on non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, turning after 9 minutes, until chicken is done (white, not pink, inside).
This is a great meal because it contains protein, it made with healthy ingredients, takes less than 30 minutes to make and tastes just like chicken fingers from the local fast food restaurant.
Childhood obesity is a condition that we can fight if armed with the proper tools. There is no greater advocate for your child than you! Don’t forget to make small, consistent changes, lead by example and most importantly have fun!
For more resources for healthy meals and nutrition tips check out the following websites, which have been suggested by a CHLA Registered Dieticians, Melissa Morales, RD and Stephanie Sanborn, RD. Weight Control Information Network Kids Health Choose My Plate