Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
The cornerstones of a weight-control plan are physical activity and diet management. Old habits and attitudes -- your own and your child's -- must change. The sooner a plan is put in place, the better, because it is much easier to change habits in children or even teenagers than in adults.
The single best thing you can do is restrict the amount of time your child spends watching TV, sitting at the computer, or playing video games. These activities burn few calories and encourage snacking
and drinking. The U.S. Surgeon General
recommends moderate to vigorous physical activity for children and adolescents every day for at least 60 minutes.
Encourage children and teenagers to enjoy physical activities that burn calories and use different muscle groups. These include games which involve running, swimming, skating, or riding a bicycle. The most effective activities raise the heart rate moderately and cause mild sweating. The child should not become exhausted, overheated, or severely short of breath.
Allow each child or teenager to try different activities in order to find those that he or she enjoys.
The goal is to participate in continuous, moderately strenuous activity for at least 30 minutes every day (with total activity for at
least one hour daily).
Be a role model for your children. If they see you
being active and having fun, they are more likely to be active and stay active
Plan family activities so that everyone can get some
exercise and have fun. Walk, dance, or bike together.
Encourage your children to get involved in sports at
school or in the community.
Don't force children to take part in activities they
find uncomfortable or embarrassing.
Whatever activities your children become involved in should be appropriate for their ages and development. Make sure children understand basic safety rules. Make sure they have plenty of water to drink to replace fluid lost by sweating.
First, educate yourself about your child's
nutritional needs. Use what you learn to help your children learn a healthy
attitude about eating.
If you are unsure about selecting and preparing foods for a healthy diet, tell your health care professional. He or she can make recommendations or refer you to a nutritionist.
Involve your children in food shopping and meal
Don't dictate exactly what your children eat. Children
should help choose what they eat and how much.
Offer your children a variety of foods, including natural sweets and snacks (such as fresh fruit). All foods have a place in a healthy diet, even foods high in fat and calories -- as long as they are eaten occasionally and in moderation. Familiarize yourself with appropriate serving sizes. A dietician can help with this training.
Encourage your children to eat slowly. This helps them
recognize the feeling of fullness and stop eating when they are full.
The family should eat together whenever possible. Make
meals a pleasant time for conversation and sharing the events of the day.
Don't forbid snacks. While continuous snacking
contributes to weight gain, planned snacks are part of a healthy diet for
children. A nutritious and tasty snack after school will give children the
energy they need for homework, sports, and play until supper.
Identify high-risk situations such as having too many
high-calorie foods in the house or watching television during meal times. With
the distraction of television, many people overeat.
Don't deprive your child of occasional treats
(like chips, cake, and ice cream), especially at parties and other social events.
Meal and snack suggestions
Most of your diet should be whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Serve a variety
of vegetables (green, red, yellow, brown, and orange), fresh fruits, and
whole-grain breads, pasta, and rice.
Eat two or three servings of
low-fat (1% milk) or nonfat (skim) dairy products every
day. A dietician can help identify healthy portions based on individual physical factors and age.
A healthy diet also includes two to three servings of foods from the
meat and beans group. This group includes
lean meat, poultry, fish, cooked dry beans, eggs, and nuts.
Limit fats to no more than 25%-30% of total calories.
If you now use whole-fat dairy foods, do switch to low-fat (1% milk) or nonfat (skim) dairy products.
Trim all fat off meat and remove skin from