Young black girl making a healthy salad.

The New Year brings new opportunities for changing bad eating habits. As many of us embark on new resolutions to improve our diet, it is just as important to teach your child healthy eating habits.

Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in the past three decades and more than one third of children and adolescents in the United States are now considered overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity are the result of a caloric imbalance; meaning too few calories are expended for the amount of calories consumed. Conversely, we know that diet is not the only factor affecting weight: age, environment, psychology and, of course, genetics also play a large role. However diet is much more adaptable than genetics, and therefore should be the focus of managing a healthy weight.

Children are unique in that weight loss is rarely the goal to achieve a healthy body. Instead, children should aim to maintain their weight, while allowing their body to grow taller and stronger. This can be achieved by eating a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins and unsaturated fat, and limiting sugar and saturated fat. Simply reducing caloric intake may not be beneficial if your child does not learn healthy nutrition habits. It is also important to teach youth the importance of an active lifestyle, suggesting that kids should be active for more than 60 minutes everyday.

As a parent it is difficult to see your child struggle with weight. Unfortunately, it is often more difficult to confront the issue. Below is a list of tips to help address the issue of a healthy lifestyle for a healthy weight.

Tips for parents

  • Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns regarding your child’s weight. Ask for a referral to see a Registered Dietitian who can meet with your child.
  • Approach the topic of weight gently. Many children are very sensitive and even parents with the best of intentions can upset their child. Focus on the importance of overall health, or ask a professional to help you discuss the issue.
  • Don’t be food police! Let children make their own food choices, but monitor portion sizes.
  • Be a good role model. Studies show that parents who eat healthy foods, have children who maintain a healthier body weight and eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Stock up on healthy options. Limit the amount of sugary snacks available, but keep a supply of fruits, nuts and whole grains to serve as after school snacks.
  • Avoid using food as a reward. Rewarding your child with sweets for good grades, or punishing them with peas for bad behavior, provides unhealthy associations with food.

If you’d like help planning a healthier diet or talking to your child about better eating, contact Capital EAP and speak with our Registered Dietitian.