My 6-year-old son is getting chubby, and I’m getting worried. What can I do to prevent him from becoming obese?
You’re right to be concerned. Overweight children are developing diabetes and even heart disease in increasing numbers. While kids should never be put on extreme diets, there’s plenty that parents can do to help them slim down and get healthy.
First of all, know when to take action. Of course, growing kids are supposed to gain weight. But if yours puts on more than 5 pounds each year between the ages of 4 and 10, see your pediatrician. Ask how many calories your child needs each day, or use Baylor College of Medicine’s online calculator to figure it out yourself. Then write down what your child actually consumes and use a calorie-counting guide to add it all up. You might be shocked -- many kids eat twice the calories they should.
Help your child cut calories painlessly by making smart substitutions. Reduce the amount of fatty meats and cheese in dishes while increasing the number of vegetables. Learn to read labels and serve low-fat versions of their favorites so they don’t feel deprived. But don’t try to change your child’s eating behavior all at once. Starting just one healthy new habit each week will give him a better chance of sticking to it.
Finally, remember that kids need to move to lose. One way to make it more fun: Give your child a pedometer, an inexpensive gadget (available at sporting goods stores) that will track the number of steps he takes. His eventual goal: 10,000 steps each day.
Dr. Naomi Neufeld is the founder of the KidShape weight loss program for families.