The number of overweight and obese children in the United States continues to rise. According to 2008 statistics quoted by the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 years are obese. Obese and overweight children are more likely to develop chronic conditions usually found in much older populations—like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. They suffer social stigma and usually grow into obese adults. Crash dieting is not recommended for anyone, but particularly not for children who need balanced nutrition to support growth. How fast the pounds come off really depends on how drastic these changes are for the child. The primary focus should be on preserving and achieving optimal health--even if that means it takes longer to reach a weight loss goal.
Kids, overweight or not, should be active. This does not mean a child needs a structured exercise program—look for enjoyable ways to get moving. Parents can take their kids to the park, encourage them to play ball or a game of tag outside. The Mayo Clinic also points out that children mirror parent’s actions. If a parent shows that he enjoys and values exercise, the child is more likely to do so as well. If you can get your child to burn an extra 250 calories per day through activity, he can lose a half pound per week.
Limit Media Time
If a child is watching television or playing video games, they are not burning many calories. Television also encourages mindless snacking and advertises unhealthy, tempting foods. The Centers for Disease Control recommend limiting sedentary “media” time to no more than two hours per day. This allows for more time for active play and more calories burned--hastening weight loss.
Cut Out the Junk
No matter the age of the child, parents usually control the types of food available in the home. Instead of giving in to pleas for fast food, try to prepare healthy meals containing lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Low-fat dairy products, lean meats and beans are low-fat protein sources. Look for healthy ways to prepare favorite dishes—make pizza with whole wheat crust and low-fat cheese, enjoy soft tacos with grilled chicken on whole grain tortillas or create your own sloppy joes with low-sodium tomato sauce and lean ground turkey. Clear the pantry of processed snack foods and candy and offer whole grain crackers, low fat string cheese, applesauce, and fresh fruit. If you replace a breakfast donut with a whole wheat english muffin at breakfast, substitute baked chips for for french fries at lunch, cut out a cookie at snack time and serve whole wheat spaghetti with marinara instead of fast food burgers for dinner--you can save a child over 500 calories. Save that many calories every day and your child loses a quick pound per week.
Cut out the juices, energy drinks and sodas. These additions to a child's diet add hundreds of calories, no nutrition and no satiation. Make water the drink of choice for meals with low fat milk as another option. Reserve sugary drinks for special occasions. Giving up 8 oz. of apple juice at breakfast, a soda at lunch and the chocolate milk at dinner saves 400 calories per day--causing almost a pound per week of weight loss.