As obesity among children reaches epidemic proportions, it's important to understand the appropriate way to help your child lose weight. Children's diets, like adults' eating plans, should be balanced and avoid sources of empty calories and fat, such as sodas and fried foods. And the emphasis should be on long-term diet and lifestyle modification, not on food fads that promise quick results.
Dietitians usually discourage restrictive diets in overweight children because of the risk of nutrient deficiencies that may affect growth and development. In many cases, children can grow into their proper weight.
Diet pills and weight loss supplements are not appropriate to give to children. If you believe that your child has risks and concerns that warrant aggressive weight-loss intervention, discuss this with your child's pediatrician, who can provide the appropriate referrals.
Instead of restricting a child's nutritional intake, approach weight control in children as a lifestyle modification effort for the whole family. This will benefit everyone and not single out a child who may be struggling with his or her weight.
Here are some tips to encourage long-term, healthy diets in children:
- Avoid high-calorie, sugary beverages. Offer your child diluted juices or water instead of concentrated juices or sodas throughout the day.
- Give your children fresh fruit and vegetables as snacks instead of chips and junk food. Look for fruit that is canned in light syrup or with no sugar added.
- Don't force children to clean their plates. You may be encouraging them to overeat when they are older.
- Be active with your children. Encourage outside play and physical activity by planning a visit to the park, taking a bike ride, or walking the family dog.
- Encourage family mealtimes. In an earlier posting, I wrote about the importance of sitting down as a family for meals and not eating in front of the TV or on the run.
- Avoid fast food restaurants. Save trips to fast food restaurants for when they are most needed, no more than once a week. And avoid the supersize pitfall.