My Child Doesn’t Need a Diet…Or Do They??

By: Alise Barr

Community Development Coordinator from CoventryCares

This can be a tough question parents may ask themselves after a visit to the pediatrician’s office after a wellness visit or a BMI (Body Mass Index) report from their child’s school.

This information can all be very confusing for children and parents alike.  As adults, many of us think “diet” when it comes to getting to a healthy weight.  Instead of a looking at a “diet,” parents should think of family change when it comes to helping a child, and other family members, get to a healthy weight.

Changing patterns and routines is far more effective than getting your child started on a roller coaster of fad diets where you’re cutting out carbs one day and trying weight loss shakes the next. With the support of a family that is working towards healthy change together, your family can have the support he or she needs to achieve healthy behaviors that will last a lifetime.  Here are a few lifestyle changes for families- all of them can be helpful for you and your children (no matter what their weights are) to instill healthy behaviors.

Supportive Food Environment:  Healthy change should be supported by a pantry and refrigerator stocked up with the whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein. More than just the obvious changes, it’s important to identify foods in the house that your child and family may struggle with.  Some favorite snacks, such as potato chips and cookies, may be best if you only purchase them once a month.  When you do purchase these snacks, create appropriate portion sizes so it is easier to identify how much should be eaten. 

Calorie Free Beverages:  Many drinks provide empty calories – and a lot of calories – which can lead to weight gain.  Juice, soda, and other sweetened beverages should be limited, and eventually removed to make way for water, seltzer or low-fat milk.  

Family Dinners: In the hustle and bustle of family schedules it is sometimes a challenge to have a family dinner but studies show that children from families who share a meal together at least three times per week were more likely to be within a normal weight range and have better eating patterns consisting of healthier foods. So it is a healthy pattern to make an effort to gather around the dinner table with your family, without the electronics, and see the benefits of this time around the table together.  

Activity Time:  Most of us are not active enough and getting into a routine of being fit and active early in life is extremely beneficial.  Physical activities such as hiking, bike riding, swimming or even a walk after dinner can be a great way to spend time together and start exercise as a regular part of your family routine. Obviously this can be a challenge when the week gets busy, but even something as simple as an after dinner walk or a quick toss around of the Frisbee can make a difference. Try to work in longer periods of time on weekends for a bigger family activity such as going for a hike or long bike ride.

Healthy changes are important in life and help promote a healthy sense of self.  Let’s not talk “diet,” but let’s think of healthy changes that are small and able to be sustained in our everyday lives.  Give it a try with your family and surprise yourself with the benefits you see!

The Women’s Health Task Force is a small group volunteering their time to educate women and families on important health issues. If you have an interest in health, work in a caring profession, or just want to volunteer with other sincere women, consider attending our monthly planning meetings.

These meetings are held the first Thursday of each month beginning at 12 p.m. The group will not be meeting in March, but the next meeting will be held April 3 at the Penn State Extension Office, located at 511 Spruce St., Suite 4, Clearfield, PA  16830.

All interested persons are encouraged to attend.  Additional information is available by calling Robin Kuleck, Penn State Extension, at 814-765-7878, Ext. 2.  You can find the group on Facebook.

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