By: Mubarakah Ibrahim CPT
Dealing with an overweight child can be a very delicate situation. We do not want to damage their self esteem by telling them they are fat or lazy, yet at the same time they must be conscious that they have to be more aware of their weight and eating habits for them to be healthy. Parents have a significant influence over the situation. Consequently, most of the effort will have to come from the parents. Try these tips for getting kids to eat healthier.
#1 Kids listen to what you do not what you say.
Parents must be an example to their children. Children watch you even when you don’t know they are. If you are sitting in front of the TV with a bowl of ice cream and a bag of chips you are sending the wrong message to them. They don’t know you have PMS or you had a hard day or even you’ve been good on your diet for a month and this isn’t so bad. They are seeing lounge and eat. Nothing more or less. Make a salad in the middle of the day and offer them some. Have a piece of fruit as you go out the door and give them permission to go grab themselves a piece to take with them. This changes the message from snack and snack healthy.
#2 Encourage healthier eating habits by cooking healthier meals.
You don’t have to announce “we are all going to eat healthier so we can lose weight”. Cook a healthier recipe that you think your family will like. When they complain or ask “what’s this”, simply tell them you thought you’d try a new recipe. Don’t be disappointed or discouraged if they won’t eat it, or don’t like it. Simply offer them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in its place. Most importantly do not go back and cook again trying to give them what they want. When given a choice they will most likely choose their “regular” less healthy meal.
#3 Implement house rules that require healthy eating.
If you have a child who loves juice tell them they can only have juice if they drink and equivalent amount of water first. If you have a child who’s used to grabbing a handful of cookies when they get home, instead of taking the cookies away, which is sure to give you a “health witch” title, simply state “you can have cookies, after you eat a piece of fresh fruit first”. This will not only increase the amount of healthy foods and drink they eat, but also fill them with whole foods which leaves less room for junk.
#4 Be like your mother.
Remember when you had to eat all your vegetables? Offer (healthier) desserts after dinner to those who eat their vegetables. You may be in a situation of one child having dessert and the other not, however that’s a great learning experience for everyone, “You get what you earn”, a life lesson at the dinner table. And no it’s not unfair. Kids understand immediate reward/punishment better than speeches. Keep the talking to a minimum, state the rule then stick to it.
#5 Be firm and be consistent.
Kids will push to test your limit. When you decide to implement a healthy habit, stick to it. No matter how much a child cries, whines, or sneaks (and they will). Stay firm that this is the rule. Discuss the rule with your spouse so you can have a united front. If your children are used to free range in the kitchen, and eating whatever they want, implementing all these tips at once will be too drastic a change for them. Try implementing one rule a week or even every two weeks. Remember healthy eating is a process and slow and steady wins the race. Not only will the new “house rules” be a change for your children but it will be a change for you as well, requiring more monitoring and more planning (making healthy snacks and ingredients always available).
About the author
Mubarakah Ibrahim CPT is an AFAA certified personal trainer and owner of BALANCE fitness, a personal training service for women in CT that offers in-home personal training, on-line personal training, outdoor boot camps, and outdoor adventure club for women. She also lectures, promotes and conducts workshops on health and fitness through out the northeast. She can be contacted by visiting her website www.balanceCT.com or e-mailed atbalanceCT@hotmail.com © BALANCE fitness.