Obesity in Children Health (cont.)

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Parents need to develop good habits of their own to help their children maintain a healthy weight.

  • Don't make your child eat when he or she isn't hungry.
  • Don't insist that your child finish a meal.
  • Don't rush meal time. In general, you eat more when you eat quickly.
  • Don't use food to comfort or reward.
  • Don't offer dessert as a reward for finishing a meal.
  • Offer your child a healthy, balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. No more than 30% of calories should come from fats. The American Heart Association guidelines (see below) are appropriate for most children.
  • Switch your child from whole milk to 2% milk at age two years. If she or he is overweight, switch to 1% milk. In early childhood, skim milk should only be substituted following a doctor's recommendation.
  • Don't eat at fast-food restaurants more than once a week.
  • Make sure meals eaten outside the home, such as school lunches, are balanced.
  • Offer your child water to quench thirst. Avoid soda, "power" or energy drinks, sports drinks, cola, and other sugary or caffeinated drinks and teas.
  • Limit your child's time spent watching television or playing computer and video games.
  • Encourage your child to do something active, like riding a bicycle, jumping rope, or playing ball. Better yet, bicycle or play ball with your child.
  • Teach your child good eating and exercise habits now.

American Heart Association Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Children and Families

  • Achieve adequate nutrition by eating a wide variety of foods.
  • Eat adequate energy (calories) to support growth and development and reach a healthy body weight.
  • Recommended average daily fat intake
    • Saturated fat: 7%-10% of total calories
    • Total fat: limited to 25%-30% of total calories
    • Cholesterol: less than 300 mg per day

These guidelines apply to adults and children older than 2 years of age.

These measures should be applied to everyone in the family, not just children who are already overweight or obese.

Parents should focus on building self-esteem and coping with emotional distress.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/11/2012

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