Helping Children Get Thin (cont.)

Losing the Right Way

If your child needs to tighten his belt, keep these guidelines in mind when choosing a diet plan:

  • Set modest goals. "A growing child shouldn't lose more than one pound a week," says Eden. So go slow, and avoid diets that are overly restrictive.
  • Reduce saturated fat. More foods should come from the fruit, vegetable, and grain groups, and less from sugar-rich foods and high-fat meats and dairy products.
  • Limit portion sizes. To help reduce the intake of calories, don't weigh down your child's plate with food. "With the availability of 'super-sizing' at fast-food restaurants, you can get 500 extra calories for a few more pennies, which isn't the bargain that some kids think it is," says Bruner.
  • Get the family involved. Parents should adopt healthy eating habits themselves, advises Bruner. "Not only will they become role models, but their overweight children won't feel singled out for attention about their weight."
  • Make exercise a daily activity. Get your youngster involved in family activities such as biking, swimming, and hiking. "Children can't lose weight with only diet or only exercise," says Eden. "They must do both."
  • Reduce TV time. When kids are watching TV, they're not exercising and they might be eating. A study at Stanford University concluded that children who limit their time in front of the tube tend to be thinner than youngsters who are glued to the screen.

No matter what your child weighs, make sure he understands that he's OK. A sensible weight-loss program can help children feel better about themselves. "It's an important step in helping them take charge and build up their self-esteem," says Rarback.

Originally published May 6, 2002.

Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005 10:41:09 PM