Creative Ways to Encourage Weight Loss for Children
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years—18% of children aged 6 to 11 years in the U.S. are considered obese, while nearly one in three children are overweight. In contrast, only 7% of children in 1980 were considered obese. Today, weight loss for children is an important topic for discussion among parents, schools, and health professionals.
Obesity is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, and a combination of other factors. Obesity can be measured using the Body Mass Index (BMI) by dividing body weight by height squared. Under this measurement, a BMI of greater than thirty is considered obese. While measuring your child’s BMI is a good indication of how healthy they are, it’s always a good idea to check in with a doctor.
Measuring Healthy Weight
Healthy weight for children cannot simply be measured by using Body Mass Index. It must be measured using BMI-for-Age Percentiles—it calculates a child’s weight according to their height and is much more accurate. Please remember to consult with your child’s pediatrician if you have any concerns about their weight, health, or other factors regarding weight loss for children.
A Change in Lifestyle
Today, 8 to 18-year old adolescents spend an average of 7.5 hours a day on entertainment, including TV, computers, cell phones, and video games. This shift towards a sedentary lifestyle is a major contributor to obesity.
In past years, most people have led active lifestyles that contributed to a healthy weight; they walked more and played outside. Up to even a few years ago, when videogames and computers were not readily available, kids entertained themselves with neighborhood friends while playing tag, hide and seek, riding bicycles, and building forts. Impromptu games of street hockey, basketball, and baseball were a lot more common.
In addition to a shift in interests, children have also become affected by their parents’ schedules. In today’s busy world, parents have less time to cook wholesome meals and instead turn to pre-cooked options that are loaded with salts and other unhealthy preservatives. Though parents strive towards providing their children with the best options, premade, refrigerated, and microwaved meals are still a major asset that contributes to childhood obesity. In this light, it’s important to prepare meals that focus on health and promote weight loss for children that are overweight.
While many people already consume large amounts of sodium, fat, and preservative-laden meals, the average American child consumes even more—eating up to three snacks daily, which yield more than 200 needless calories per day. Even more so, one in five children consume up to six snacks daily. Today’s children are consuming 31% more calories than kids forty years ago, including 56% more fats and oils. As a countermeasure, there are many healthy snack options to consider and encourage towards children.
Some great snack options include balanced and wholesome choices like:
- Veggies with hummus
- Turkey and lettuce roll-ups
- Sugar-free Greek yogurt smoothies with fresh pineapple, orange, and banana
- Fresh fruit
- Whole grain bread with nut butters (cashew, almond, or peanut butter)
- Homemade granola with oats, nuts, seeds, and sugar-free dried fruits
- Water with lemon slices, mango, cucumbers, or other fruit
Use your imagination and provide options that will promote weight loss for children. Take some time to create healthy meals together and provide kids with fun, healthy choices.
Early Health Risks
Childhood obesity is a huge problem, and if children continue to develop bad habits, the number of overweight children will continue to rise. These children could potentially suffer from many of health issues that follow obesity, such as asthma and high-blood pressure. They are also more likely to develop serious conditions like cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and cancer, among other chronic obesity-related health problems. Overweight children are also apt to experience bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social psychological problems, such as poor self-esteem.
Parents Are Important Role Models
Let’s help our children prevent chronic ailments and instead promote healthy, active lifestyles. As parents, set positive examples and serve as role models to your children. Teach them how to cook healthy meals, exercise together, and provide support for weight loss for children. Take the initiative to help your children, even if it means putting in extra effort at the end of a long work day by buying some vegetables and taking a few minutes to prepare a balanced meal. The slightest action can influence your children’s path to a healthier future.
Encourage A Lifestyle Change
As a parent, it is important to encourage healthy lifestyle change in a sensitive way. SInce it can be difficult to directly address weight loss for children, it is crucial to do so in a manner that won’t let them feel threatened or self conscious. Be sensitive and always remain positive. Remind them that being healthy is a fun and rewarding! Get creative and help your children to build confidence and self esteem.
Here are some tips to encourage healthy eating:
- Refrain from buying processed snacks and sugar-loaded foods.
- Substitute potato chips with homemade, oven-roasted kale or veggie chips.
- Try low-fat oils like coconut, grapeseed, olive, or sunflower oils in place of butter.
- Have meatless Mondays and fresh fruit Fridays.
- Incorporate more vegetables into the family diet.
- Try pasta alternatives like whole wheat, kamut, jerusalem artichoke, black bean, spelt, quinoa, brown rice pasta, or zoodles (zucchini noodles).
- Replace soda with organic, fresh squeezed juice.
Implementing these changes reduces the amount of free radicals that affect your family and increases vitamin intake for a healthier body.
Though adapting to many of these changes will be difficult, looking up new recipes online together, cooking as a family, and exploring healthier options as a team will make being healthy a more enjoyable experience for both you and your children.
Imagine how much fun it could be trying different recipes or juice mixes together! Make a night out of juicing pineapple slices, green apple, ginger, celery, kale, and kiwi for a great green juice, or dedicate a part of your Saturday lunch with beets, carrot, red apple, orange, ginger, and raspberries to create a flavorful red drink.
Make Mealtime Into Family Time
Often times parents spend long days at work while kids spend equally long days at school. Mealtime, then, is the perfect opportunity to have precious family time together! Cooking and preparing meals together is a great bonding experience—and when everyone shares stories and events from their day, both kids and parents can stay connected.
Make the most of meals together with these guidelines:
- Refrain from watching TV or using cell phones while eating.
- Maintain a strict eating schedule—12:00 for lunch, 3:30 for a snack, 6:00 for dinner.
- Talk about food as a family. Where does it come from? How does it grow?
- Get help growing veggies and herbs from your kids and integrate them into meals.
- Talk about the health benefits of certain foods—and the disadvantages of others!
- Consciously eat healthier in front of your kids and ask if they’d like to try your snack.
- Enjoy fresh fruits as a dessert.
- Diminish serving size and portions over time.
At first, your children may complain about these changes. How will they ever survive for an hour without their phones? Perhaps fresh fruit isn’t as sweet as Oreos and talking about healthy food is boring, but as you change their lifestyle, their attitudes will change as well.
One of the most important things on this list is reducing portion sizes. It’s a key aspect in weight loss for children. Restaurants tend to serve portions that can be up to three times the recommended serving size and kids get used to seeing and eating heaping plates of food. Teaching kids to stop eating when they are full, to drink more water, and to eat slowly will create lifelong habits to help them maintain a healthier weight and lifestyle.
Encourage Physical Activities
It may be difficult to encourage sports and obvious weight loss exercises at first, so start slowly with subtle physical participation and fun activities.
Check out these tips to make your child’s everyday activities more physical and promote weight loss for children:
- Park far away from a store and walk.
- Avoid escalators and elevators in favor for stairs.
- Go for early evening strolls and have skipping races.
- Explore the local farmer’s market weekly.
- Have a family “Active Time.”
- Go to a playground, dog park, or indoor trampoline park.
- Test out different activities such as yoga, swimming, gymnastics, horseback riding, and indoor rock climbing.
- Get a Super Spinner swing set.
- Hike on the weekends.
- Visit museums or amusement parks.
- Go for bike rides, scooter rides, or rollerblade through the neighborhood.
- Have GPS scavenger hunts.
- Try geocaching (check out online communities or contact your local park).
- Host neighborhood water balloon and water gun fights.
A School’s Role In Encouraging Healthy Choices
Schools also play a very important role in educating children about maintaining healthy bodies, healthy habits, and weight loss for children. Schools have a responsibility to establish safe and supportive environments that reinforce healthy behaviors. They can teach kids about healthy choices by providing wholesome choices at lunch time, as well as physical activities during recess, gym class, and after school activities.
Become your child’s voice at school. Attend PTA meetings and become an advocate for healthier meals and more activity options at school. Inform other parents if your school is not providing children with the best options possible and encourage them to join your quest for healthy changes. You’ll be influencing more than just your own children, but helping hundreds of children get healthy.
Building Healthy Habits for a Healthy Lifestyle
Weight loss is just the start when it comes to making sure your child is healthy. Invest in a well-rounded regimen to promote your child’s health and don’t just focus on weight loss. Being creative when it comes to inspiring your kids to be healthy will be rewarding with a number of positive changes, including higher self-esteem, healthier bodies, and quality bonding time. Stay persistent and watch as new lifestyles and habits take form.