Newshub headline with Children's Wisconsin logo
Mother and daughter in kitchen

Healthy weight management: How to help children be the healthiest they can be

Weight. You (and your child) probably hear about it at home, school, and so very often in the media. With the rise in the overweight population and obesity, there are many prevention and intervention programs to help us lose extra pounds, along with an entire industry of products aimed at helping you track your food intake, exercise and other health information.

Watching one’s weight, at any age, can be an admirable goal, but there comes a point when it can become harmful. Unfortunately, I’m seeing many cases these days where patients come in for an eating disorder assessment after having restricted their intake so much that they are dangerously underweight or are at a normal weight but not healthy. And what’s driven them? Usually it’s a body mass index (BMI) reading that classified them as overweight.

So, where does the balance come in? How do we allow our children to be the healthiest they can be, no matter what size they are?

Healthy tips for any size

Eat three meals per day: Aim for meals to be about 4-6 hours apart, and snack between meals if hungry.

Offer a variety of foods: Include choices from all of the food groups, and aim for half of your plate to consist of fruits and vegetables. Pair new foods with foods that are familiar that you know your kids will enjoy. When introducing new foods, don’t give up after one try. It can take up to 10-15 attempts for a new food to be accepted. Do not use food as a reward.

Establish healthy eating habits: Sit at the table during meals, and make sure there are no distractions (turn off the TV, remove phones, tablets and computers).

Limit sweetened drinks: Instead of soda, Kool-Aid and Gatorade, offer water, milk and only small amounts of 100 percent juice.

Get your child involved: Kids are more likely to engage in healthy behavior if they can take ownership in the process. Let them help pick out food at the grocery store, and have them help prepare meals by peeling fruit, washing vegetables or setting the table.

Believe it or not, weight is just a number, and by no means the only way to define your child’s health.