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Saturday, March 18, 2006

10 Tips for Parents Concerned About Childhood Obesity

  1. Try a healthy focus on reducing sugar and increasing calcium with non- or low-fat dairy products. (Not only is getting plenty of calcium important to growing kids' development, it's also been shown in recent years to help in weight management.)
  2. It's no easier for kids to make the right choices than adults. Commercials tout the latest sugar-laden treats; any student with a little change in her pocket is at the mercy of al smorgasbord of snacks via on-campus vending machines. The best thing you can do is instill healthier eating habits at home from the start. Long held-to habits will stick with her when she walks out the door.
  3. Family participation is crucial so that your child doesn't feel singled out or deprived. When you first begin making changes (e.g. allowing two small cookies instead of three large ones), it's important to show you can do the same thing by keeping tabs on your own portions as well as food choices. How would you feel if someone at work ate your favorite sweet treat in front of you the day you started your new diet? Nothing's worse than seeing someone else eat foods you enjoy when you can't have them! So, for example, the whole clan can switch to sherbet for dessert instead of ice cream.
  4. One of the easiest ways for the whole family to watch their portions is to banish serving dishes for the kitchen. By having them on the table, you're virtually inviting everyone to give in to seconds whether they're still hungry or not. (Who can say no when that second dollop of mashed potatoes is so easily within reach?)
  5. A fun way for children to get involved in eating more healthfully is to browse the produce aisle with you. A star fruit looks awfully interesting if you've never seen one before; a kiwi fruit has fur! A visit to the grocer may prompt your child to try new healthy foods without your even asking and with any luck, they'll become a favorite.
  6. There are some sneaky ways to decrease the fat and sugar children consume. Examples? Many cereal brands now offer reduced-sugar versions; you can "water down" fruit juice with seltzer; and low-fat cheese is much more palatable than it used to be as are other reduced-fat products like mayo.
  7. Soup is always a kid favorite and it can be employed to help curb your child's appetite if she tends to eat too much. A cup of broth-based soup makes a great afternoon snack or appetizer and will help her not overeat at mealtime.
  8. Limit the areas in the house where food is allowed. When snack foods walk away to the bedroom, the computer, or in front of the television, portions can all to easily multiply. Make a new rule that anyone eating in the house needs to stay in the kitchen.
  9. Mini goals are ideal for children -- and adults, for that matter -- who want to lose weight. For instance, instead of forbidding sweets after school entirely, ask your child if she will eat fruit instead of a cookie just one day a week to start with. Small changes will add up in time and are much easier to adjust to (and stick to) than more drastic ones.
  10. Be sure to ask your pediatrician about your child's weight before you significantly modify her diet. He can tell you if she truly is overweight and what her healthy weight is. If you need a little help, don't be afraid to ask. There may be a dietitian, nutritionist or counselor available to provide additional advice and plan meals. There are also specially-designed weight loss programs for kids, such as The Shapedown Program (shapedown.com). By Jennifer R. Scott At

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