National Childhood Obesity Month is in September. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 5 children in the US have obesity. It’s a serious problem that can put children and adolescents at risk for other health conditions. That’s why we have put together these 6 tips for weight management to keep your child healthy and happy.
1. Make Smart Food Choices
Healthy eating habits are the biggest part of weight management. You should focus on providing them with balanced meals made up of healthy foods. Your child’s pediatrician can give you more specific guidance if needed but these basic guidelines can help:
- Offer plenty of fruits and vegetables at meals and for snacks
- Choose whole-grain products over foods made with processed white flour
- Include low-fat or non-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Encourage water (and plenty of it) over other beverages
- Limit sugary foods and drinks so that they are rare treats
- Foods with saturated fat should also be limited to rare treats
2. Adopt Healthy Eating Habits as a Family
For weight management to succeed, you need to make changes to your eating habits as a family. If your child is eating differently than the rest of the family, they may feel like they are being punished for their weight. And that’s not helpful on any level.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests the following tips for practicing healthy eating as a family.
- Eat a healthy breakfast
- Always have healthy snacks available
- Serve healthy portions
- Eat meals together as a family when possible
- Don’t eat in front of the TV or another screen (more on that later)
3. Encourage Physical Activity for Weight Management
Physical activity can help with weight management. Younger children should be active throughout the day while older kids should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Help your child get to and maintain a healthy weight with the following types of exercise:
- Aerobic/cardiovascular activities that get the heart pumping faster
- Bone-strengthening activities (running and jumping)
- Muscle-strengthening activities
Just like you need to adopt healthy eating habits to provide an example for kids, make sure you’re active as well.
5. Limit Screen Time
Limiting screen time is important for many reasons, and helping with weight management is one. Children have more opportunity and motivation to participate in physical activity if they are unable to spend that time in front of a screen.
Also, eating in front of screens can lead to mindless eating that results in overeating. Snacks and meals should be eaten away from TVs, computers, tablets, and other screens. And food shouldn’t be part of their allotted screen time.
6. Make Sure They Get Enough Sleep
Most people know that diet and exercise are the keys to weight management. However, some people don’t realize that sleep can play a big role in maintaining a healthy weight. Lack of sleep is often linked to obesity for several reasons. It can alter hormones and it makes you want to eat more and be less active.
Your child needs more sleep than the typical adult. How much they need depends on their age. The CDC has sleep recommendations for children and adults broken down by age. Preschool children (ages 3-5) need 10-13 hours of sleep including naps. School-age children (ages 6-12) need 9-12 hours of sleep per night. Teens need about 8-10 hours of sleep each night.
6. Focus Weight Management on Health, Not the Scale or Appearance
When helping your child with weight management, it’s really important to focus on health rather than how they look or the numbers on the scale. If a child is overweight, losing weight can reduce their risk of health problems. However, you don’t want to create another problem with self-image or self-esteem while trying to improve their health.
As a parent, you want to make sure they feel loved and important no matter what. How a child feels about themselves is often strongly connected to how they think their parents feel about them. When you work on weight management, keep things positive and supportive. Congratulate them and praise them as they make progress, but don’t make weight loss the center of their world.
Consult a Pediatrician
If your child needs help with weight management, their pediatrician absolutely needs to be part of the conversation. They can help guide you when making a safe and healthy plan to help your child be the healthiest versions of themselves. The team at Wake Forest Pediatrics is here to provide comprehensive care for your children at all stages of life and can help you with issues like childhood obesity. To make an appointment call our Wake Forest office at 919-556-4779 or our Knightdale office at 919-266-5059 to make an appointment.