For the past two decades in the U.S., an increasing number of children have been grappling with the problem of obesity. Overweight and obese children are more likely to develop chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, in the future.
If your child is overweight, you likely want to help them get healthy. Work with your pediatrician to make sure they are losing weight in a safe way. Since children shouldn’t be shedding pounds the way an adult would, it’s important to make sure you get your pediatrician to figure out how much weight your child should be losing and how quickly.
7 tips to help your child lose weight safely
1. Avoid diets and weight loss supplements
Diets that work for you may not work for your child, and putting your child on a calorie-cutting diet could mean they’re losing out on important nutrients. So don’t put your child on some fad diet unless your pediatrician recommends it.
Also, if you are thinking of starting your kid on weight loss supplements, make sure to only do so if their doctor has prescribed them. Many weight loss supplements lack enough supporting research and may cause irreversible organ damage.
2. Cut back on processed and fast foods
Processed and fast foods make kids lose interest in healthier foods. They’re high in sugar and salt and contain tons of calories without providing adequate nutrition.
Replace processed foods (pizza, cakes, pastries) with healthy options (brown bread and fruit salads).
3. Stock your kitchen with nutritious foods
Keep packaged and fast food away from your children. Instead, make nutritious foods easily accessible, such as vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products (milk and yogurt).
Make sure your child has 1-3 cups of vegetables and 1-2 cups of fruit each day. Start with small servings first and then gradually increase the portions over time.
4. Use smaller plates
Don’t serve food on adult-sized plates for your child, and instead use small plates so that your child is getting smaller portions. Ask your child to finish everything on their plates. If they want more, they will ask.
5. Limit TV and and screen time
Your child may develop a sedentary lifestyle by sitting for long stretches of time watching TV, playing video games, and scrolling through their smartphones. Reserve only a small part of the day for screen time, and encourage them to play outside the rest of the time.
6. Encourage your child to be physically active
Encourage your child to get moving. While they need at least an hour of physical activity a day, they don’t have to do it all in one go.
Even short bursts (10 to 15 minutes) of activities spread throughout the day may help. These can include skateboarding, cycling, walking to school, dancing, etc. Identify activities your child seems to be interested in and encourage them to spend more time doing them.
7. Ensure your child gets adequate sleep
Children need about 9-14 hours of sleep a day, although the duration varies by age. Toddlers need to sleep for 11-14 hours each day, while school-aged children need 9-12 hours a day.
Sleeping for less than the recommended hours for several days a week increases your child’s odds of developing obesity. Try strategies to get them to bed early every night. Keep blue-light emitting devices (TV, laptop, smartphone) away from them while you prepare them for bedtime.
When to talk to a doctor
Making your kids adopt a healthy lifestyle may take time. Be patient with them. Eventually, you will thank yourself for making your child lose weight.
If you are still not getting results, discuss it with your child’s pediatrician. They may order a few tests to check if your child has an underlying condition that’s interfering with your efforts to reduce your child's weight.
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National Health Service. What Can I Do if My Child Is Overweight? https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/overweight-children-advice-for-parents/
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