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Slim Down Your Overweight Child

Childhood obesity is becoming more and more common in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over the past 30 years, the number of overweight children ages 6 to 11 years has more than doubled.

There are numerous health reasons -- both physical and psychological -- why overweight children should try to slim down. A parent's help is essential in achieving this goal. But what can you do to help your child shed unwanted pounds? Here are some dos and don'ts for your child's weight-loss success:

  • Do say "no" to fad diets. Unless your pediatrician recommends it, don't put your child on a restrictive diet. Children have specific nutritional needs, so limiting what your child eats can interfere with healthy growth and development.
  • Do encourage children to eat slowly. Eating at a slower pace makes it easier for children to recognize when they're full.
  • Do eat meals as a family. Whenever possible, have a sit-down dinner with the whole family. Use this time to enjoy your meal and learn about your child's day.
  • Do plan snacks. Planned, portion-controlled, low-fat snacks can help keep kids satisfied between meals and stave off binge eating.
  • Do get to know the school lunches. Be aware of what's served at school, or pack a nutritious lunch for your child.
  • Don't stigmatize foods. Instead of eliminating treats such as cookies and candy, let everyone in the family enjoy them in moderation.
  • Don't make television your meal companion. Designate specific areas for eating such as the kitchen table or dining room -- not the TV room.
  • Don't use food as a punishment or a reward. Parents send the wrong message about food when they use treats like candy to reward achievement or withhold them as punishment.

Reviewed 2/02 by Jane Forester, MD

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's health.