To help an overweight child, you can begin with small changes to your family’s diet and lifestyle to make it healthier for everyone.

Start by choosing one or two steps and working your way gradually into a healthier lifestyle.

For younger kids and kids who still have a lot of growing to do, aim to maintain your child’s weight rather than lose weight.

This will allow your young overweight child to grow into her weight. Cutting back calories in growing children in order to drop pounds is not a good idea unless advised by your child’s health care provider.

Help the whole family embrace a healthier lifestyle.

Keep it fun, enjoyable, and positive. You can provide valuable positive energy on your own, but the more the merrier.

Eat at the table.

Although it’s tempting to eat in front of the TV or have family members eat on their own schedule, try to carve out time to eat together at the table at least five or six times per week. A study showed that kids who ate most of their meals with their family were less likely to be overweight.

Focus on vegetables and fruits.

Track how many servings of veggies and fruits your overweight child eats. Your ultimate goal should be your child eating five or more servings a day. An easy way to encourage your child to eat vegetables and fruits is to make them more visible. Put apples and oranges in a bowl on the table. Or put washed, cut, bite-sized veggies with a healthy dip on a plate covered with clear plastic wrap in the fridge.

Eliminate sugared beverages such as soda, sports drinks, and fruit punch.

To help your family make this transition, have each family member start every meal with a glass of water. It may take time to get out of the habit of having sugary drinks every day. If they normally drink four sugary drinks a day, try switching to three a day for a week. Then cut back to two drinks a day the next week, and so on.

Limit how often your family drinks 100% fruit juice.

Fruit juice has more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients than sugary sodas or fruit juice drinks, like punch. But 100% fruit juices also have a lot of sugar and often just as many calories as sodas. Plus, it’s easy to drink way more calories than you realize. Limit 100% juice to no more than a single serving per day — 8 ounces for you and older kids, only 6 ounces for young kids.

Make sure your child eats breakfast every day.

If time is an issue, choose items to eat on the run, such as peanut butter on toast. If your child doesn’t like the taste of foods usually served at breakfast, any healthy option will do — it doesn’t have to be a “breakfast food.”

Decrease TV time gradually to less than two hours a day.

And put physical activity in its place. To help motivate your overweight child, have her make a list of activities she enjoys and can do instead of screen time.

Increase your child’s daily physical activity.

Gradually build up to the goal of having your child be physically active for at least one hour a day. Look for little ways throughout the day to get him moving, such as doing squats or knee raises while brushing his teeth or doing jumping jacks during commercials while watching a morning cartoon.

Prepare more meals at home and become restaurant savvy.

When you cook at home, you can control what you put in food. It is often hard to judge whether meals at restaurants are nutritional gems or calorie — or salt — bombs. At home, you can read labels, use healthier ingredients, and control how much sugar you use.

When you do eat out, help your family make healthy choices: Skip the bread before the meal. Start off with a salad or vegetable appetizer. Choose foods in their most natural states, such as grilled chicken instead of chicken nuggets. And if you’re having dessert, share it.


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