Just like adults, the obesity epidemic is hitting teens hard. But if they're trying to lose belly fat, teens should not follow a restrictive fad diet that promises quick weight loss. For a teen, it's more about creating healthy habits so his middle trims down as he slowly grows into his weight. Skipping meals, eliminating food groups or not getting enough calories can seriously affect a teen's health. Talk to your teen's doctor before making any changes to diet or activity.
Teens Need to Turn Off the TV
According to a 2015 review study published in the European Journal of Public Health, TV time is directly associated with obesity, with a 13 percent increase in risk for every hour of TV watched. The American Academy of Pediatrics says teens should watch no more than one to two hours of TV a day. Instead of watching TV -- or other screen time with computers, cellphones and video games -- encourage your teen to read a book, work on an art project or listen to music and dance. Better yet, spend time with your child enjoying an active hobby such as gardening, flying kites or hiking.
Drink More Water
Sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soda and juice, are also a major cause of belly fat gain in teens. A 2013 review article published in Obesity Reviews reports that teens who omit these drinks from their diet gain less weight. Diet soda is also linked to weight gain. If your teen is trying to lose belly fat, water is the healthiest choice. Jazz up a glass of water with fruit such as sliced strawberries or oranges. Seltzer water also makes a good drink choice for teens trying to trim their middles.
Eat a Healthy Breakfast
A 2012 review study published in Obesity found that teens who eat breakfast are thinner than teens who skip it. Breakfast should be a priority when your teen is trying to get to a healthier weight and lose belly fat. A bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk is an easy breakfast choice for teens. If time is an issue, make a healthy smoothie to drink on-the-go: blend nonfat Greek yogurt, a banana, blueberries and a tablespoon of peanut butter and enjoy.
Fill Up With Fiber
Encourage your teen to eat more fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that teens who eat more fiber have less belly fat. Up your teen's fiber intake by offering fruits and vegetables at meals and snacks, switching from refined grain foods such as white bread to more whole grains and adding beans to soups, grain dishes and salads.
Eat Smaller, Frequent Meals
Your teen may have an easier time slimming her mid-section if she eats more often, says TeensHealth. Offer three regular meals with smaller portions and two to three healthy snacks such as fruits, cut vegetables or air-popped popcorn in between meals. Use a smaller plate to make it look full while keeping portions under control.
Tune Into Hunger
Encourage your teen to eat only when hungry and stop when he feels full. Remind him to eat slowly and wait at least 20 minutes before going for a second helping. These skills may take time to master. Have your teen keep a food journal to help monitor food intake, especially as it relates to feelings he's having when he wants to eat. Writing down his feelings may help identify patterns, such as wanting to eat when he's bored or upset.
Lose Belly Weight With Activity
Teens can lose their belly fat by being more active. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism found that teens could lose belly fat with 60 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week. Beneficial activities include walking briskly, riding a bike or taking an aerobics class.
There is a strong association between sugar intake and belly fat, according to Rush University Medical Center. Sugar is in a lot of foods, from salad dressing to ketchup to candy and other sweet treats. It's never a good idea to totally eliminate foods from a teen's diet because it may make her want them more. To help limit temptation, keep your kitchen stocked with healthier options. But if your teen wants a treat once in a while, such as a piece of cake, it's OK.
The teen years can be a stressful period of time because of peer pressure and school. Teens that report higher levels of stress may have more belly fat, according to a 2009 study published in Obesity. Help your teen manage stress by finding healthy outlets such as exercise, positive peer support or engaging in a creative activity.
Get Family Support
For your teen lose belly fat and get to a healthier weight, he needs support from the entire family. Everyone should be eating healthy and finding time to be more active. Have your teen help with meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking in the kitchen. Make plans to go on a family hike or play a game of basketball, and turn off the TV and enjoy conversation around the dinner table.
- Paediatric Child Health: Dieting: Information for Teens
- European Journal of Public Health: Television Watching and Risk of Childhood Obesity: A Meta-Analysis
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Media and Children
- Obesity Review: Resolved: There is Sufficient Scientific Evidence that Decreasing Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Will Reduce the Prevalence of Obesity and Obesity-Related Diseases
- Obesity: Longitudinal Associations Between Key Dietary Behaviors and Weight Gain Over Time: Transitions Through the Adolescent Years
- HealthyChildren.org: Fiber: An Important Part of Your Teen's Diet
- TeenHealth: How Can I Lose Weight Safely?
- Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism: Adolescent Fiber Consumption Is Associated with Visceral Fat and Inflammatory Markers
- American Journal Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism: Aerobic Exercise But Not Resistance Exercise Reduces Intrahepatic Lipid Content and Visceral Fat and Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Controlled Trial
- Rush University Medical Center: Is There "One Trick" to Losing Belly Fats?