Since Ben joined Slimming World (you can read about his journey here) and myself and Stuart have focussed much more on his eating and food habits he has grown and lost weight and now looks a lot better for his height than he did previously. I wont say he was fat because I truly don’t believe children should ever be referred to as fat because if they are a little overweight it is just that they need to adjust their habits as they grow in order to become an adult of a healthy size. So here are my top tips for helping your child to be a healthy weight.
1. Make no food off limits entirely
Children will grow into adults and human instinct is that if you are told you cant have something you want it all the more so why ban anything. Instead maybe say they can only have fast food (McDonalds, KFC etc) once per month. Which things do you want them to cut down to nearer zero? Set limits on these so maybe they are only allowed sweets on a Friday for example. By doing this they don’t feel deprived as they are still allowed it and in time they will accept the new routine/rules.
2. Don’t punish hunger
It is ok to be hungry between meals, we all have days where we just never feel full and children are the same. Instead of telling them off when they are feeling this have a set list of items they are allowed if hungry between meals, so maybe an apple, some carrot sticks or whatever suits your food goals for them. This way if they genuinely are feeling hungry they have an option but they are less likely to eat for the sake of it.
3. Introduce new foods one at a time
If you fill the plate with mostly foods they like but give them something new to try on there also they are much more likely to try it than a plate full of something they have never seen before. Another tip is to give yourself what they want and not them, this could easily spark the conversation of why haven’t I got that, its not fair, so then you can give them some and of course because it didn’t seem fair that they didn’t have it they will be determined to eat it!
4. Don’t use foods as a reward
If they tidy their room or do well in a school report then do they really need a packet of sweets or would an extra bedtime story or staying up five minutes longer be just as appealing and much healthier for them?
5. Watch their portions
If your child is rarely clearing their plate then you could well be giving them too much, if you give them the amount they will eat but ensure there are vegetables on there then because the amount is right they are more likely to eat it all. If you give them too much then of course their least favourite part is likely to be the bit left uneaten!
6. Have vegetables on every meal and make them fun!
I wrote an entire post about this here, one idea is to make carrot chips instead of boiled carrots, they taste so different and the term chips makes so many kids think oooh! Even miss out the word carrot and just call them orange chips? If it becomes normal to them that you put a vegetable on every meal they will soon know no difference!
7. Involve children in shopping and cooking
The way you do this can vary on their age however seeing how many vegetables they can have of different colours in a stir fry or snapping their baby corn into a salad can make them much more inclined to eat it because they have made it! With shopping I find suggesting we try something new and getting Ben to chose which one he likes the look of helps because he feels some ownership over his choice and wants to discover what it tastes like. Now he is a little older this doesn’t always work but it can at times!
8. Don’t make the scales the only measure
I think it is easy for children like adults to get obsessed with the numbers on the scales if you are weighing them to see how they are doing regularly. One way to avoid this is to discuss that you think they have grown so you are checking if that is right and doing their height, weight, checking their feet in their shoes etc. Making it into a game like this draws the attention away from their weight being an issue and reduces the chance of obsessions developing.
9. Fruit as a dessert
If your child is used to always having a dessert you don’t have to cut this out completely you can swap it most days for fruit. This can be done gradually for example by having banana and custard some days then conveniently forgetting the custard one day when you go shopping so they just have banana. Also adding a bit of yoghurt to some strawberries can make a great dessert, especially if you put it in a sundae dish so they think you are being all fancy and giving them a cool dessert!
10. Buy healthier options of their favourite foods
Some foods aimed at children are so high in sugar it is really scary. By swapping for example a chocolate yoghurt type dessert for a low fat yoghurt you could be saving them so many unnecessary sugars and calories and they may well still enjoy the new choice. If this seems a big step then what about downsizing those they do have, so smaller packets of crisps or fun size bars of chocolate rather than full size?
11. Spend family time being healthy
Children always enjoy their parents attention however that may be so taking them for a walk to feed the ducks, to the park to play or out on their bike will be appreciated by them just as much as a meal out but could well be healthier as cooking at home is usually much healthier and the exercise is a bonus too!
12. Never draw attention to their weight as a bad thing
I found when encouraging Ben to embrace healthy eating and eat more vegetables that it was so much more productive to say we were helping him to have healthier food so he can get the best possible muscles when he grows up and so that he can get really tall rather than saying we wanted him to lose weight. Thinking of positive ways that this will benefit them in terms that they understand makes the whole thing so much easier!
These tips are based on my experiences only, please remember I am not a dietician and all children are different. If you are unsure of the amount of different things your child needs see their school nurse, health visitor or family doctor because children are growing they have different dietary requirements to adults, as such they should never follow an adults diet and just eat healthy wholesome foods when possible.
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