Ben, at 11, joined Slimming World, read about his journey here. Myself and Stuart then focussed much more on his eating and food habits. He has grown and lost weight and now looks a lot better for his height. I won’t say he was fat because I truly don’t believe children should ever be referred to as fat. If they are a little overweight it is just that they need to adjust their habits as they grow to become an adult of a healthy size. Here are my top tips for helping your child to be a healthy weight.

Make no food off limits entirely

Children will grow into adults. Human instinct is that if you are told you can’t have something you want it all the more so why ban anything. Instead maybe say they can only have fast food (McDonald’s, KFC etc) once per month. Which things do you want them to cut down to nearer zero?

Set limits on these. 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. A great way to help your child be a healthy weight

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. Though they are less likely to eat for the sake of it.

Introduce new foods one at a time

If you fill the plate with mostly foods they like this works the best. Give them something new to try on their plate too. 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 you want them to eat. This could easily spark the conversation of why haven’t I got that, its not fair. Then you can give them some and of course because it didn’t seem fair they will be determined to eat it!

Don’t use foods as a reward to help your child be a healthy weight

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?

Watch their portions

If your child is rarely clearing their plate then you could well be giving them too much. Give them the amount they will eat but ensure there are vegetables on there. When 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 will be left uneaten!

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! You could 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!

Involve children in shopping and cooking

The way you do this can vary on their age. Seeing how many vegetables they can have different colours in a stir fry is a great plan. Alternatively snapping their baby corn into a salad can make them much more inclined to eat it! With shopping, I find suggesting we try something new and getting Ben to chose which one he likes the look of works well. He feels some ownership over his choice. This makes him want to discover what it tastes like. Now he is a little older this doesn’t always work, but it can at times!

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. Especially if you are weighing them regularly. One way to avoid this is to discuss that you think they have grown so you are checking. 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. It reduces the chance of obsessions developing.

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 to buy custard one day so they just have a banana. Adding a bit of yoghurt to some strawberries can make a great dessert. If you put it in a sundae dish so they think you are being all fancy!

Buy healthier options of their favourite foods

Some foods aimed at children are so high in sugar it is scary. By swapping for example a chocolate yoghurt type dessert for a low fat yoghurt you could be saving them so many unnecessary sugars. They may well still enjoy the new choice. If this seems a big step then what about downsizing those they do have. So try smaller packets of crisps or fun size bars of chocolate rather than full size?

Spend family time being healthy

Children always enjoy their parent’s attention. Taking them for a walk to feed the ducks or to the park to play will be appreciated just as much as a meal out. Cooking at home is usually much healthier and a great family activity too.

Never draw attention to their weight as a bad thing

I found when encouraging Ben to embrace healthy eating. Getting him to eat more vegetables was so he can get the best possible muscles when he grows up. Saying these vegetables are 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!

Don’t forget

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 nutrients your child needs speak to their school nurse, health visitor or family doctor.

Children are growing they have different dietary requirements to adults. As such they should never follow an adults diet. Instead, they should just eat healthy wholesome foods when possible. This way, you can help your child be a healthy weight.

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