Many parents view their children as adorable and perfect the way they are, and so it can be difficult to acknowledge that your 4-year-old needs to lose weight. However, overweight and obese children face increased risk of elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and joint problems, reports Kids Health. In addition, overweight kids face the possibility of being mocked and ostracized by their peers. Because kids have different nutritional needs than adults, you shouldn't put your 4-year-old on a strict diet. But you can foster healthier eating and exercise habits to help him lose weight.
Lead by example. The best way to help your 4-year-old lose weight is by demonstrating a healthy eating program, according to Kids Health. By making healthy eating and exercise a shared family undertaking, you also avoid singling your child out in an embarrassing way.
Encourage healthy food choices. Medline Plus recommends that 2- to 4-year-old kids eat six servings of grains, three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day. Also, this age group should consume two servings of meat/beans and two servings of dairy per day. Medline Plus recommends that 2- to 4-year-olds eat about 1,300 calories per day.
Keep healthy snacks available. As a parent of a 4-year-old, you have a great deal of power over what foods are accessible to your child. Keep plenty of fresh or frozen fruits, yogurt, dried fruits, whole grain crackers and low-fat frozen confections available for your child. Restrict fatty snacks such as potato chips, french fries, and sugary cakes and soft drinks. However, you can allow these on special occasions so your child doesn't feel deprived.
Turn off the TV and turn on exercise. According to Kids Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than one to two hours of TV per day for kids age 2 and up. Again, you can model this behavior by restricting your own TV time. Instead, play a game of whiffle ball in the back yard, ride bikes as a family or go swimming.
Avoid using food as a reward. This will lead your child to fixate unhealthily on food as the pleasant end-result of any achievement. In particular, don't offer your child a "fun food" if they eat their vegetables, Medline Plus suggests. This makes vegetables seem like a food to be endured so they can "earn" the snack. Similarly, refrain from taking away food for bad behavior.
Tips and Warnings
- Reduce fat. One useful way to reduce overall calories is by cutting unnecessary fat in your family's diet, Medline Plus notes. This can be done by selecting leaner meats, not eating skin on poultry and introducing low-fat versions of snacks.