Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents and Caretakers

Updated:Feb 5,2014

Asian Family Holding Hands OutdoorsBalance is key in helping your child maintain a healthy weight. Balance the calories your child eats and drinks with the calories used through physical activity and normal growth.

Overweight and obese children and teens should reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development. Don’t put your child on a weight-reduction diet without talking to your health care provider.

Balancing calories: Help Kids Develop Healthy Eating Habits
Offer your kids nutritious meals and snacks with an appropriate number of calories. You can help them develop healthy eating habits by making favorite dishes healthier and by reducing calorie-rich temptations.

  1. Encourage healthy eating habits. Small changes can lead to a recipe for success!
    • Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products.
    • Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
    • Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein.
    • Serve reasonably sized portions.
    • Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
    • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
       
  2. Make favorite dishes healthier. Some of your favorite recipes can be healthier with a few changes. You can alsotry some new healthy dishes that might just become favorites too!
     
  3. Remove calorie-rich temptations. Treats are OK in moderation, but limiting high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks can also help your children develop healthy eating habits. Here are examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar treats that are 100 calories or less:
    • A medium-size apple
    • A medium-size banana
    • 1 cup blueberries
    • 1 cup grapes
    • 1 cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tbsp. hummus
       
  4. Help your kids understand the benefits of being physically active. Teach them that physical activity has great health benefits like:
    • Strengthening bone
    • Decreasing blood pressure
    • Reducing stress and anxiety
    • Increasing self-esteem
    • Helping with weight management
       
  5. Help kids stay active.
    Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week, and every day if possible. You can set a great example! Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you. Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include:
    • Brisk walking
    • Playing tag
    • Jumping rope
    • Playing soccer
    • Swimming
    • Dancing
       
  6. Reduce sedentary time. Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit “screen time” (TV, video games, Internet) to no more than two hours a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend TV for kids age 2 or younger.12 Encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity.
Reaching and maintaining an appropriate body weight is important.
That's why recommendations that focus on small but permanent changes in eating may work better than a series of short-term changes that can't be sustained. In treating most overweight children, the main emphasis should be to prevent weight gain above what's appropriate for expected increases in height. For many children this may mean limited or no weight gain while they grow taller.

Factors predicting success are:

  • including parents in the dietary treatment program
  • strong social support of dietary intervention from others involved in preparing food
  • regular physical activity prescription including social support
The importance of continuing these lifestyle changes well past the initial treatment period should be emphasized to the entire family. The healthiest way to change weight is gradually.

Learn more:

Healthier Kids

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