Help! My Child is Overweight
Posted 6/15/2016 by UHBlog
During the winter months, it’s easy to shrug off any extra rolls and bulges you might see on your child. But summer brings shorts sleeves and a dose of reality for some parents. In the past three decades, the childhood obesity rate has more than tripled. Today, about 17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are obese.
According to pediatrician Marcus Baratian, MD, children are usually considered overweight if their body mass index (BMI) is at or above the 85th percentile. Kids whose BMI is in the 95th percentile or higher are considered obese.
Those extra pounds means your child is at risk of developing “typically adult” health problems, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
The good news is it’s easier to lose weight during the summer – and hot weather may help suppress appetites, too.
“A lot of overeating tends to happen when kids are stuck inside with easy access to food,” says Dr. Baratian. “There are more activities to do when the weather’s nicer. Kids want to be outside running and playing.”
Dr. Baratian offers these five tips to help your child shed extra pounds and layers, while taking ownership of their weight and health:
- Go on a family hike. Your child is much more likely to adopt an active lifestyle if you participate. Hikes are also a great opportunity for you to catch up on each other’s lives.
“Walking has its benefits as well,” Dr. Baratian says. “But hiking up and down hills gets the heart going a little faster and helps burn more calories.”
He suggest scheduling a different excursion every week to help build endurance and routine.
- Take your child to the farmers market. Many local farmers markets have become more than just outdoor grocery stands. Lots of times, they also feature music and entertainment. A trip to the farmers market lets your child see that fruits and vegetables can be an appetizing, lower-calorie alternative to artificially sweetened snacks.
Dr. Baratian suggests introducing your child to the full array of summer fruits and vegetables by wandering around together and letting her pick out the produce that most appeals to her.
“Farmers markets tend to be a little more fun than your typical grocery store trip,” he says. “The produce you get there is going to be fresh and nutrient rich.”
- Encourage your child to drink more water. Staying hydrated can help you avoid overeating. In fact, many people – kids included – confuse thirst with hunger.
“When I have patients who are trying to lose weight, I suggest they have a glass of water with every meal they eat,” Dr. Baratian says. “Every time they take a bite, I tell them they should take a drink of water. It slows down their eating and makes them feel fuller.”
- Teach your child to read and understand food labels. Food labels are a quick tool for assessing how healthy an item is. Teach your child to look closely at details like serving size, calories and sodium levels.
“When you’re in the store, a beneficial activity to do is get your child to compare labels,” he says. He suggests challenging them to find the cereal with the least amount of sugar, or the burritos with the least amount of fat.
- Involve your child in meal planning. According to Dr. Baratian, one of the best ways to teach your children about healthy eating is to involve them in the planning of their meals. Encourage them to search out lower fat and lower calorie options of their favorite foods by visiting sites like ChooseMyPlate.gov. (Try this fun challenge: Get your kids to find new recipes that incorporate the fruit and vegetables you bought together at the farmers market.)
Marcus Baratian, MD is a pediatrician at University Hospitals Healthy Kids Pediatrics in Streetsboro. You can request an appointment with Dr. Baratian or any other University Hospitals doctor online.