How to Talk to Your Kids about Weight and Healthy Eating

We all want our kids to be the healthiest they can be. In recent years, we are seeing serious health problems presenting in young kids and adolescents. An unhealthy diet and lifestyle affects kids’ quality of life, and this is often what hurts them most. Kids with weight issues may get teased at school or start to withdraw from activities that were once a big part of their life, such as sports. This can make the weight issues even worse for them.

If you find yourself in a position of having to talk to your child about his or her weight, consider some of the points below. These tips apply to both overweight and underweight issues.

Explain BMI and the importance of being in a healthy range.

BMI stands for body mass index. Your child’s pediatrician should be measuring your child at well checkups and plotting their BMI on a growth chart. You can explain BMI to kids by saying, “BMI is a measurement of how much weight is on your body for how tall you are.” For older kids, you can tell them it’s a proportion of weight to height. If your weight is much more or much less than what is appropriate for your height, the proportion is unbalanced. A BMI that is too low or too high is a red flag that diet and lifestyle changes need to be made. Also, kids with BMIs that fall under or over the healthy range are at risk for health problems. Underweight and undernourished bodies may have weakened immune systems, less tolerance to cold, inadequate hormone levels (loss of menstruation in females), lower energy, mood swings, and bones that are more susceptible to fractures. Overweight and obese bodies may develop diabetes, high blood pressure, liver problems, joint problems, and sleep apnea, among other things.

Eating well means feeling good.

Make consistent connections between eating a healthy diet and being happy, strong, smart, etc. Eating well is not about improving appearance. Use analogies like putting mucky sludge in car’s gas tank instead of clean fuel to make it run well. Or use their favorite athlete as an example of someone who has to prioritize health in order to do what they do best.

Lead by example.

Eat meals as a family, and provide a variety of healthy foods at the table. Talk about foods in a positive way. Fruits and vegetables are colorful and refreshing. Protein is filling and makes us strong. Whole grains are tasty and are richer in nutrients than their white counterparts. Keep conversation positive and engaging at mealtimes. More importantly, be sure to eat the way you want your kids to eat.

If you need to make major diet and lifestyle changes in order to improve your child’s life, have a conversation with your child about it first. Make sure that the changes will be something the whole family is participating in- not just the one child. One of the best predictors of positive outcomes in pediatric weight management is a family who is on board and involved in making the changes together. One of the best resources for making diet changes is a registered dietitian, who is trained to work with families to improve health. Call 877-486-4140 to make an appointment with a dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

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