Is it OK to put my Kid on a Diet?
By Marjorie Nolan, MS, RD, CPT
Many concerned parents often ask me "Is it OK to put my kid on a diet?" My answer is always a quick and firm "NO". The word diet is defined as 'A food regimen designed to promote weight loss in a person.' To lose weight, keep it off and live a long healthy life an overall healthy lifestyle is essential.
Here is a list of 5 most common Questions and their answers that I am asked by parents when working with kids.
1) Are weight loss diets bad for kids?
Often diets don't include a variety of nutritious foods and/or have too few calories. Growing kids need a variety of all the food groups and enough calories every day because they are still growing and developing. Too few nutrients and calories will cause side effects in children such as fatigue, constipation, nausea, diarrhea, poor concentration, mood swings or even stunted growth.
Another major risk of diets is the high risk of gaining the weight back once 'normal eating' resumes because lifestyle changes we not put in place. YO-YO dieting has proven to be more dangerous to health than being overweight.
2) What can overweight kids do to lose weight?
The first question I ask when a parent asks me this is "How old is your child and what is his/her weight and height?" I ask this because if a child is at a critical growth period then weight loss is not recommended at all. What is recommended is for your child is to gain weight at a slower pace or maintain current weight and let your child grow into their weight.
If your child is at a weight that is heavier that an adult weight and weight loss is necessary it should be gradual. Overall lifestyle changes need to be made such as increased activity and healthy eating.
3) Should I talk to my kid about trying to lose weight?
This is a tricky one, if your child is very sensitive then telling them that you want them to lose weight might be a bit harsh, even if the intention is good. Often the best approach is to be subtle. Talk to your child about improving your health or the health of the entire family. Always use the word "health", don't focus on losing weight and don't be the food police.
You can buy fruits, vegetables and lower calorie snacks, by eliminating 'junk food' choices in the home also promote a healthier lifestyle for the entire family. Incorporate exercise into family activities or have healthy dinner night where the entire family prepares and dines together.
4) How can I tell if my kid is developing a weight problem or if he/she is just going through a growth spurt?
Our country is so weight conscious that this question comes up often. Is this a potential "problem" or just a normal part of growing? It is very normal for kids to have an increased appetite and gain weight just before a growth spurt. And in these common situations the best thing to do is let it happen. However there are a few questions that you can ask yourself to help determine if the weight gain could spiral into a full-blown weight problem or if it is simply a normal growth period.
- What has your child's weight history looked like? If he/she has gained weight before only to grow 3 inches two months later then you know that it is probably happening again.
- What are your kid's current eating and exercise habits? If you kid got a new computer for his/her birthday and has been sitting in front of it for hours every day and snacking on high calorie foods then this is an indicator that a weight problem is developing.
5) How much should my kid weigh?
It is impossible to put an exact number, for any individual, as a weight goal. Kids are growing and their bodies are changing not only in size but also in composition. At best we can estimate a weight range that is considered healthy for any kid at a certain age, height and gender.
Some ways that you can figure out what would be a healthy weight range can be to ask you doctor what would be an acceptable weight range for your kid. Look at your family history. If Dad is 6'4" and a solid 230 pounds then genetically Susan is predisposed to being tall and possibly larger than her classmates, this does not mean that she is unhealthy. You also have to look at the composition of your kid's weight, if he/she is very active in sports they probably have a higher composition of muscle and therefore weigh more.
About the Author
Marjorie E. Nolan is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer. Marjorie offers expertise advice and counseling on child and adolescent weight loss and healthy lifestyle coaching for the entire family. For free tips to learn how you and your family can lose weight and keep it off visit Marjorie at http://www.NoDiet4Kids.com or email her at Marjorie@NoDiet4Kids.com
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