Healthy Diet for an Overweight Child

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One in three children in the United States are overweight, as of 2010, according to the HelpGuide website. It is not, however, always clear-cut whether your child is overweight. Children grow at different rates and at different times, making it sometimes difficult to tell. It is best to have your child evaluated by a doctor to know whether your child has a weight problem. In any event, you can set an example by eating healthy foods and leading an active lifestyle.

Health Risks

You don’t want your child to be overweight because that puts your child at greater risk for developing a myriad of health problems, such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease. In addition, children at school tend to pick on overweight kids, and this often leads to low self-esteem and a negative body image.

Evaluate Your Lifestyle

Help your child eat a healthier diet by first evaluating your lifestyle. People tend to put on weight if they eat out all the time, for example. Cooking meals at home is usually better because you control the ingredients and the portion size. Restaurant portions are typically too big. If your child eats everything at a restaurant and eats the same amount at home, he is getting too many calories. Portion sizes should be about the size of your fist. Also, if your child eats a lot of high-calorie junk food or fast food, that leads to weight gain.

Eat the Rainbow

Your child should eat the rainbow, suggests the HelpGuide website. Serve a variety of colored foods that corresponds to the colors of the rainbow, such as red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow bananas, green peas, blue blueberries and purple plums.

Don’t Skip Breakfast

Give your child a healthy breakfast. Otherwise, she will probably be hungry the rest of the day and want to snack. You can serve a variety of healthy breakfast items, such as whole grain cereal with low-fat milk, oatmeal, fresh fruit and the occasional egg.

Snack Rules

You probably know that sugary snacks are bad for any child, especially one with a weight problem. But, if you ban sweets completely, your child may find a chance to get them and, when he does, he will probably overindulge. Let your child have sugary snacks occasionally to keep him from binging. Snacks should be no more than 150 calories. Limit the sugary sodas or fruit juice with added sugar. You should limit juice that is 100 percent fruit juice to one small glass a day. Get your child into the habit of drinking water. You can make fruit into an attractive snack by offering frozen juice bars, smoothies, strawberries with whipped cream or apples with peanut butter.

Calculating Body Mass Index

Your health care provider determines whether your child is overweight using body mass index, or BMI, a number calculated using your child’s height, weight and sex. Your doctor can plot your child’s BMI on a growth chart. If she is less than the fifth percentile, she is underweight. If she is in the fifth percentile to less than the 85th percentile, she is a healthy weight. If she is in the 85th to the 95th percentile, she is overweight. The 95th percentile or more means she is obese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, provides an online “Child and Teen BMI Calculator” that you can use to get an idea of your child’s BMI.

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