Kids who are clinically obese are self- diagnosable and self-treatable if the entire family is dedicated to living healthier lifestyles. Here are 8 ways to prevent weight gain and improve your family’s relationship with food.

8 Ways To Prevent Childhood Obesity

1. Everyone eats the same food, no exceptions!

This makes an already self-conscious child feel worse about himself. And, it doesn’t work. If the child diets, then the whole family diets. Every member should sit down and eat the same meal. Offer your kids balanced meals three times a day and if a member of the family doesn’t eat, don’t feel guilty and never offer compensatory foods. If one child is thin and needs to gain weight, he can eat a second helping, but all the food must be the same. If you’re craving late night fast food, then go when the kids are asleep everyone eats the same!

2. NO talk about diets.

The majority of girls, especially, in America feel insecure about their weight. So don’t make weight the issue. Strength, good nutrition and health are the issues, NOT vanity.  Make healthy eating a discipline that everyone in your family should have because being disciplined is part of life.

3. Keep your family moving and outdoors.

Kids who sit too much gain weight more easily.

So, turn off the TV, take a family dictated screen break and make your child go outside. The fresh air will help your kids move more, guaranteed.

4. Two or three times per week, offer small, bite-sized snacks that are sweet or salty.

You can buy 100 calorie snacks that will satisfy your child’s sweet tooth or junk food craving and this is fine. Just don’t give in to giving them 10 or 12. The truth is 1 bag of chips is still too many when you’re a family recovering from junk.

5. Buy foods on the outside of the grocery store.

Do not bring packaged foods, soda, cookies, chips, etc in the house. Stick to fresh veggies and dairy, and keep fruit out on the table for snack cravings. I don’t care if Dad needs chips in a bowl when football comes on, or you need an 11 pm Ghirardelli fix. If either of you needs these, go to 7-11 and eat them in the car!

6. Help shrink your child’s stomach AND respect food in the process.

The best way to do this is to make your child go four to five hours without eating. Kids who snack all the time are hungry all the time. The refrigerator should be off limits except at meal times. We have trained our kids to be grazers because we don’t want to be over controlling when it comes to food. We want them to have freedom, but the problem is, their stomachs are in control, they aren’t. When we teach them to stay away from the refrigerator except at meal times, we teach them to respect food.

7. Stay Positive.

Kids who see their parents being encouraging and positive are more likely to succeed at losing weight. So, if you feel discouraged, give yourself a serious pep-talk. You may just realize you’ve got some unhealthy habits you need to change too. Getting healthy as a family is a rewarding experience. You can schedule family workouts, create new dinner recipes together as a family, and there are tons of fun fit resources available for everyone!

8. Recognize that eating is deeply emotional at times.

When you understand that there is an emotional factor you can teach your children to not use food as a band aid for pain. Many parents overeat because of psychological reasons and pass these eating habits onto children. This is the greatest hindrance I personally confront most frequently in my patient population. In order to really pass on healthy habits to our kids we need to model them ourselves which is tough but absolutely life changing. I know you can give the gift of health to not only your kids but yourself.

Here are some healthy eating resources I love!

Remember, food exists to keep fuel in their bodies so they can reach adulthood. No more, no less. Let’s keep it that way! Happy eating.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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