National Childhood Obesity Month is in September. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 5 children in the US have obesity. It’s a serious problem that can put children and adolescents at risk for other health conditions. That’s why we have put together these 6 tips for weight management to keep your child healthy and happy.

1. Make Smart Food Choices

Healthy eating habits are the biggest part of weight management. Whether you are trying to be proactive about weight management or your child is overweight, you should focus on providing them with balanced meals made up of healthy foods. Your child’s pediatrician can give you more specific guidance if needed but these basic guidelines can help:

  • Offer plenty of fruits and vegetables at meals and for snacks
  • Choose whole-grain products rather than foods made with processed white flour
  • Include low-fat or non-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Encourage everyone to drink lots of water
  • Limit sugary foods & drinks (rare treats only)
  • Limit foods with saturated fat (rare treats only)

2. Adopt Healthy Eating Habits as a Family

If your child is overweight or you are trying to be proactive about weight management, you need to make changes to your eating habits as a family. If your child is eating differently than the rest of the family, they may feel like they are being punished for their weight.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests the following tips for practicing healthy eating as a family.

  • Eat a healthy breakfast
  • Always have healthy snacks available
  • Watch your portions
  • Eat together as a family
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV or another screen

3. Encourage Physical Activity

Physical activity can help with weight management. Younger children should be active throughout the day while older kids should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Help your child get to and maintain a healthy weight with the following types of exercise:

  • Aerobic/cardiovascular activities that get the heart pumping faster
  • Bone-strengthening activities (running and jumping)
  • Muscle-strengthening activities

Just like you need to adopt healthy eating habits to provide an example for kids, make sure you’re active as well.

4. Limit Screen Time

Limiting screen time is important for many reasons, and helping with weight management is one. The less time kids spend in front of screens, the more opportunity they have for physical activities and other play.

Also, eating in front of a screen can lead to mindless eating that results in overeating. Snacks and meals should be eating away from TVs, computers, tablets, and other screens. And food shouldn’t be part of their allotted screen time.

5. Make Sure They Get Enough Sleep

Most people know that diet and exercise are the keys to weight management. However, some people don’t realize that sleep can play a big role in maintaining a healthy weight. Lack of sleep is often linked to obesity for several reasons. It can alter hormones and it makes you want to eat more and be less active.

Your child needs more sleep than the typical adult. How much they need depends on their age. The CDC has sleep recommendations for children and adults broken down by age. Preschool children (ages 3-5) need 10-13 hours of sleep including naps. School-age children (ages 6-12) need 9-12 hours of sleep per night. Teens need about 8-10 hours of sleep each night.

6. Focus on Health, Not the Scale or Appearance

When helping your child with weight management, it’s really important to focus on health rather than how they look or the numbers on the scale. If a child is overweight, losing weight can reduce their risk of health problems. However, you don’t want to create another problem with self-image or self-esteem while trying to improve their health.

As a parent, you want to make sure they feel loved and important no matter what. How a child feels about themselves is often strongly connected to how they think their parents feel about them. When you work on weight management, keep things positive and supportive. Congratulate them and praise them as they make progress, but don’t make weight loss the center of their world.

Consult a Pediatrician

If your child is overweight and needs help with weight management, their pediatrician needs to be part of the conversation. The team at Carithers Pediatric Group is here to provide comprehensive care for your children at all stages of life and can help you with issues like childhood obesity. That includes providing pediatric weight management services and nutrition counseling to our patients.

During this time, the safety of your family and our team members is of the utmost importance. Please read the Carithers Coronavirus Emergency Action Plan to stay up-to-date on our policies. If you have questions or want to make an appointment, call our Riverside office at (904) 387-6200 or our Southside office at (904) 997-0023.