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
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