There are things that each and every parent and caregiver can do to help children get to and stay at a healthy weight, such as:
- Practice “responsive feeding”with infants and children. Learn their hunger cues, and only feed them when they are hungry — and only until they are full. Many children are overfed because their parents respond to all fussiness with food, and because they think that eating more is better than eating less.
- Serve a healthy diet.“Healthy” means lots of fruits and vegetables (which should be half of their plate, and the only thing they get for seconds), whole grains, lean protein, and minimal junk food, processed food, and fast foods. You should avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and juices, too. Water and unsweetened milk are all a child needs. Occasional sweets are fine, but they should truly be occasional, and the serving should be small. Speaking of servings…
- Give healthy portion sizes.A child should eat a child-sized portion, not an adult-sized one. Using smaller plates is one way to make this easier.
- Limit snacking.Having a healthy snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon is fine, but children shouldn’t be munching all day. Many children ask for food out of boredom or habit rather than hunger. Try not to let that happen.
- Make sure children are active for at least an hour every day.That doesn’t have to be a sports practice, although sports are great. It could be going for a walk, playing outside, riding a bike, taking a dance or martial arts class, even dancing in the living room… really, anything that gets them moving (preferably vigorously, at least for some part of the hour) is fine. Be mindful of how much time your child is spending using screens, as screens have a way of eating into active time.
- Know if your child’s weight is healthy.There are BMI calculators you can use, but your best bet is to talk to your doctor. Together you can look at your child’s weight and make the best plan.