By Elizabeth Quigley, MS, RD, CDE
DHAC Nutritionist and Diabetes Coordinator
These days there is a lot of concern about the health and fitness levels of American children. Legitimately so! The prevalence of overweight children between ages 6 – 11 has nearly tripled in the past 20 years going from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Studies use a measurement called the BMI (Body Mass Index) which is a weight to height index. To classify a child as overweight, their BMI has to be above the 85th percentile for their age.
If your pediatrician has told you that your child is overweight, there are some goals you should strive for:
- Help your child grow into his or her weight, rather than encourage weight loss. Weight loss in a child is not healthy. Your child will continue to grow taller, and if they can keep their weight fairly stable, their body will be more proportionate. If calories are restricted too much, then their growth in height may be stunted.
- Share a family meal at home together. Enjoy conversation – not T.V. Children who eat with their families enjoy more fruits and vegetables, grains and lowfat dairy. If your schedule does not allow for a dinner meal together, then choose a breakfast or lunch.
- Provide structure. Serve meals and snacks approximately every 3 – 4 hours. Do not allow a child to graze without limits. Anticipate your child’s hunger after school or sports activities and have healthy choices available such as fruit, popcorn, crackers and lowfat cheese, yogurt.etc.
- Control the eating environment at home. Don’t buy the chips, soda and candy. Have healthier options available for everyone.
- Practice portion control. Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses to make less food look like more.
- Encourage family exercise. Be a positive role model. Take a walk or bike ride with them. Bring them to the gym when you go. Kids are more likely to be active if their parents are.