5 Ways to Help Your Kid Kick Excess Weight to the Curb
Did you know that one out of every three children in America is overweight or obese? What’s more, it’s a problem that impacts children of all ages. In fact, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reports that:
- 9.4% of children ages 2 to 5 are obese
- 17.4% of children ages 6 to 11 are obese
- 20.6% of children ages 12 to 19 are obese
The Struggle Is Real… But So Is Your Child’s Ability to Overcome
If your child is struggling with being overweight, the good news is you are not alone in the struggle. But the best news is, there are lots of actions you can take now to help your child reach a healthy weight. However, before we cover the five ways you can help your kid overcome being overweight, let’s define what it means.
What’s the Difference Between Being Overweight and Obese?
Although the terms “overweight” and “obese” both refer to someone with an unhealthy excess of body fat, the key difference between the two is found via a Body Mass Index (BMI). So what is a BMI? A BMI is a measurement of body fat based on weight, height and age. The medical definition of obesity is when a person has a BMI of 30.0 or greater. If a person has a BMI that is 40.0 or greater, that person is considered “morbidly obese,” which means his or her weight will likely lead to a shortened lifespan.
Obesity Is a Disease
In 2004, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) categorized obesity as a chronic illness, which means they will likely cover the cost of:
- BMI Screening
- Waist Measurements
- Dietary Assessments
- Exercise and Activity Plans
- Behavior Modification Therapy
A Disease Disproportionately Harming Minority Children
While obesity does impact children of all ages, it disproportionately impacts minority children. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that when it comes to childhood obesity, Hispanic (25%) and black (22%) children suffer more than white (14%) or Asian (11%) children. The CDC also found a correlation between family incomes and instances of childhood obesity. People in lower (18%) and middle (19%) income brackets are more likely to have obese children; whereas people in high income brackets are only (10%) likely to have obese children.
The Serious Consequences of Childhood Obesity
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “Obesity can harm nearly every system in a child’s body — including heart and lungs, muscles and bones, kidneys and digestive tract, as well as the hormones that control blood sugar and puberty. It can also take a heavy social and emotional toll.” Perhaps even more alarming is the children who are diagnosed as obese are more likely to remain overweight into adulthood, which boosts their risk factors for diseases like Diabetes, Congestive Heart Failure, High Blood Pressure, etc. To give your child a better chance at living a longer and healthier life, here are 5 steps you can take now:
#1: Know Your Child’s BMI
To know for certain whether your child is overweight or obese, you will need to know their height and weight. To accurately measure their height, follow these recommendations:
- Have the child stand barefoot with feet together and back against a wall.
- While the child looks straight ahead, take a flat object, like a ruler, and use it to physically note where the center top of the child’s head is in relation to the wall.
- Use a pencil to mark that spot.
- Use a tape measure to measure from the base of the wall to the pencil mark.
To accurately measure their weight, use a digital scale that is on a hard floor. Be sure the child is not wearing bulky shoes or clothing that will add to their weight. Now that you have both measurements, you can click here to use the CDC’s BMI calculator for kids and teens to measure your child’s BMI.
#2: Help Your Kids Play an Hour a Day
The doctors on WebMD recommend children get a minimum of 60 minutes of active playtime each day in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. One of the easiest ways to help your children do this is to go to a local playground and let them run wild. Whether they play tag, climb the jungle gym or pump their legs to reach new heights on the swings, all of these aerobic activities will help them burn fat and lose weight. If your child is too old for the playground, consider getting them involved in a sport that they are interested in, from swimming at the YMCA, or joining a youth sports league to taking them to the gym with you. Some national gyms chains, like Planet Fitness, regularly host Teen Fitness Challenges, that make exercise both fun and rewarding.
#3: Make Healthy Eating Fun
Many nutritionists maintain that what kids eat is even more important than how often they engage in physical exercise. To help your child begin to realize weight loss goals that will build their enthusiasm and confidence to keep up the good work, start small by replacing sugary drinks, such as juice, sodas and
tea from their diet with water. To make the switch more palatable, consider making it a rewarding
challenge. For example, buy a 32 oz water bottle at your local dollar store and tie your child’s efforts to drink more water with a non-food reward, such as the ability to offload a daily chore, like doing the dishes. As children become accustomed to a new habit, like drinking more water, you can tackle other unhealthy food habits like cutting out fast and processed foods that are high in calories and low in food value.
#4: Hide Healthy Foods in Favorite Dishes
If your children put up a fight when it’s time to eat their vegetables, there are a ton of easy-to-follow cookbooks on the market that show you how to hide vegetables in your kids’ favorite dishes. That’s right, you can get them to love eating their vegetables without even knowing that’s what they are eating. True Story: my sister once followed a healthy brownie recipe that replaced most of the sugar and butter with baby-food prunes and I not only ate it, but loved how moist and delicious the brownie was.
To begin your covert vegetable mission, check out one of these cookbooks:
- Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food
- The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals
- How to Get Your Kids to Beg for Veggies: Quick & Easy Hidden Veggie Recipes the Whole Family Will Love
#5: Pay Attention to Portion Sizes
Most people in America grew up striving to be members of the “clean plate club” by eating everything put before them. However, eating everything on your plate when you’re already full is how both adults and children gain unwanted pounds. Of course, no one wants to waste good food, so the best way to eat everything on your plate without overeating is to only eat the recommended portions. Fortunately, there are easy guidelines to follow for children at every age and stage of growth. Check out the table below to see the amount of each foods your children should be getting at a single meal.
|Food||Recommended Daily Serving||Children 1 to 3 Years||Children 4 to 5 Years||Children 6 to 12 Years||Children 12+ Years|
|Grains, i.e. bread, cereal, pasta, rice||Up to 5||½ Slice or ¼ Cup||½ Slice or ½ Cup||1 Slice or ½ Cup||1 Slice or ½ Cup|
|Vegetables||3 to 5||¼ Cup||1/3 Cup||½ Cup||½ Cup|
|Fruits||2 to 4||¼ Cup||1/3 Cup||½ Cup||½ Cup|
|Dairy, i.e. Milk, cheese, yogurt||2 to 3||1/2 Cup||¾ Cup||1 Cup||1 Cup|
|Protein, i.e. Meat, beans, nuts||2 to 3||¼ Cup||1/3 Cup||½ Cup||½ Cup|
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