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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Children


Should I Put My Child on a Diet?

Jo Britt-Rankin, State Nutrition Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Currently, American children are becoming increasingly more overweight and obese, however, the solution is not to restrict calories. Children are rapidly growing and developing their skeletal structure. By choosing to limit calories, some children may not develop their full bone and muscle mass.

When working with children who are overweight and obese, it is important to remember that children are not young adults. Many parents consider commercial weight loss programs for their children. It is important to remember that most weight loss programs are designed for adults who are not developing their bone mass. Weight loss products and supplements are also not developed for children and may have adverse effects on a child.

For children who may be overweight or obese, a multi-pronged approach is more appropriate. First, children need to have healthy meals and snacks. Ensure that your home has quick, nutrient dense snacks, which are low in calories. Carrot sticks, crackers, fruit, and dry cereal are a few of the low-cost, easy-to-prepare snacks for young children.

Second, children need to be taught how to make healthy choices when they are eating away from home. Whether it is a school setting or in a restaurant, children need to learn how to select healthy alternatives. Try substituting fruit or a small salad for fries. Select sandwiches, which are not deep-fried, battered, or breaded. If you wish to have a sauce, mayo, or dressing, ask for it to be served on the side and add only a modest portion.

Finally, encourage your child to become more active. No, they do not have to be the star athlete to increase their activity level. One easy way to increase the whole family's activity level is to walk together. Also, having your child help in a garden or with yard work is a wonderful source of activity. Children can assist with tasks around the house. The goal is to decrease the time your child spends in sedentary activities, such as sitting, watching TV, or playing computer games.

Children should not be placed on calorie restrictive diets. Educating your child to make wise food choices and to increase their physical activity level will help achieve lifelong health and fitness.






Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009




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