One of the best things we can do to promote a healthy weight for our kids is to teach them good, healthful eating habits. Unless recommended for medical reasons, dieting is not a good idea, because it actually tends to slow metabolism in the long run as the body tries to protect itself from starvation.
Instead, try to incorporate these ten tips for the whole family:
- Eat three regular meals a day, with healthy snacks as needed, depending on your schedule.
- Teach kids to eat slowly, giving the brain enough time to recognize when the stomach has reached fullness. If they’ve eaten a lot and are asking for more, have them take a break for a while. Keep in mind that it takes 20 minutes for fullness signals to register in the brain.
- Introduce a variety of fruits and vegetables. Try making them the center of some of your meals — instead of meat.
- Whenever possible (or acceptable), use whole grain foods. These tend to be more filling than refined and processed products, and also help keep blood sugars steady.
- Never require kids to clean their plates. Doing so teaches them to ignore the body’s fullness signals. Be willing to refrigerate leftovers, and bring home doggie bags from restaurants.
- Be mindful of portion sizes. For most Americans, the portions we’re served have increased considerably in size over the years. Make an effort to return to more modest portions, especially when it comes to starches and desserts.
- Build in treats. Perhaps on weekends or once a week in lunches, incorporate a favorite fun food. Totally banning certain foods tends to lead to cravings and even binges. Teach your child to take small bites and savor treats, in modest amounts.
- Beware of beverages. Calories can add up quickly and when in the form of a drink, they often don’t register as filling. Drink plenty of water. Choose skim or low-fat milk (even with a little flavored syrup), and pure fruit juices (not sugary fruit drinks) as a rule.
- Be sure your child is getting plenty of rest. Recent studies have shown a link between lack of sleep and increased cravings that result in overeating and unhealthy weight gain.
- Be sure your child is getting plenty of calcium in his/her diet to build strong bones.
A few other thoughts…
Teach your children to appreciate the wonderful diversity of bodies — each one amazing and uniquely crafted. In doing so, you will help them appreciate and accept their own bodies. Keep in mind that body frame, shape, and height are genetically preprogrammed; proper diet and exercise will strengthen and tone your child’s body, but won’t change it into a completely different form.
Some researchers estimate that heredity accounts for about 25%-40% of body size, indicating that some people do put on weight more easily than others. But this also means that the choices we make have a greater influence on body size — 60%-75%! Instead of putting undo emphasis on your child’s weight, focus on living a healthy lifestyle. Teach them to eat well and stay active, in order to be at the healthiest weight for their particular body type.