Is your child overweight? A UK research that studied 370,000 children of ages between 2 to 15 years established that overweight children are four times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than their normal-weight peers [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov].
Moreover, obese children have higher chances of growing into obese adults. This increases the risk of developing health conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, breathing disorders such as asthma and sleep apnea, musculoskeletal discomfort and joint problems, fatty liver disease, heartburn, gallstones and some cancers.
Overweight children often have psychological problems, such as low self-esteem and depression because they are often bullied and teased about their weight.
Just as anyone can guess, encouraging the child to shed some weight is the obvious fix; however, this is easier said than done. To effectively and safely achieve weight loss for overweight kids, parents need to understand what this journey entails.
What Causes Children to Become Overweight?
Children inherit their body shape and type from their parents. Though these factors cannot be changed, it is possible to control their body weight by influencing their physical activity patterns and eating habits.
Just like in adults, obesity is as a result of taking in more energy (through food and drinks) than the energy they use (through exercise and any other physical activity). As such, a taking of high energy and fatty foods, coupled with minimal exercise and physical activity is the perfect recipe for obesity among children and adults as well. [cdc.gov/healthyweight]
Helping Your Overweight Child to Lose Weight
As much as children and adults gain weight in a similar way, adult diet plans do not work for children. According to Melton, a dietitian and a health instructor at Georgia State University, children have unique nutrition needs for both mental and physical development.
Thus, dieting may cause nutritional deficiencies that may impair their growth and development. For those who are clueless on how to go about this, consult a pediatrician besides reading the following tips on weight loss for overweight kids.
Set Realistic Goals
To be able to set realistic weight loss goals, parents need to understand what the right goal is. Unlike adults and teenagers who can lose up to 2 pounds in a week, this is not the case among children. Children need to lose weight at a slower rate because their bodies are growing. It is even better to help them maintain their weight because as they grow, they will naturally get leaner.
Focus on making small changes over time; do not overhaul your child’s diet all at once. Small, manageable diet changes are likely to last a lifetime, and you are likely to get less resistance from the child.
Implement one or two of the following habits each week:
- Replace sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soda and juice with low-fat milk and water.
- Ensure the kid takes a healthy breakfast. This meal should consist of proteins and whole grains such as brown bread spread with peanut butter to keep him full throughout the day.
- Opt for grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread to prepare his meals.
- Check on portion sizes; use smaller plates and glasses to discourage overeating.
Make Drinking Water a Habit
Kids often mistake thirst for hunger and thus end up eating when they are supposed to take a drink. Ensure they take water throughout the day to stay hydrated. This will also reduce the craving for sugary drinks high in calories.
Don’t Cut on Desserts Completely
As much as we are trying to cut back on sugary treats and junk food, we should not eliminate them completely because it can result in cravings. All you need to do is to progressively reduce the portion sizes, while you allow the child to have a treat once or twice a week. Also encourage them to take whole fruits, which often have lower calories than the juices and have dietary fiber that keeps them full.
Encourage Physical Activity
Besides taking the right diet, you should encourage your child to boost his physical activity level. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2008), children and teens alike should be physically active at least one hour each day. Learn the kind of physical activity your child enjoys (like playing tag with you, swimming, going for walks or playing with other kids) and expose him more to these activities. It can as well be a good opportunity to forge stronger bonds with your kids when you play with them.
Involve the Entire Family
Instead of singling out the child, involve the entire family in making healthy diet changes. Children pick habits whether good or bad from their parents. Do not expect your kid to eat carrots while playing football while you spend you an entire evening, eating fries and drinking beer while watching football. Moreover, eat meals together as a family away from television and other distractions. This will encourage healthier eating habits.
The bottom line is that you should lead by example, and soon enough, the entire family will not only actively help children lose weight but also adopt a healthy lifestyle. Weight loss is most effectively achieved when it’s a group effort. An important thing to note is that these best weight loss diets tips for children do not require you to restrict the calorie intake for the overweight child. We recommend on encouraging your child to eat a variety of healthy foods throughout the day so that he can gradually achieve healthier weight as he grows.