Lifestyle and home remediesBy Mayo Clinic staff
Because medications and surgeries aren't recommended for children age 7 and younger, and aren't often recommended for children older than 7, lifestyle changes are usually the best childhood obesity treatment. Your child's best chance to get to a healthy weight is to start eating a healthy diet and exercising more.
Parents are the ones who buy the food, cook the food and decide where the food is eaten. Even small changes can make a big difference in your child's health.
- When buying groceries, choose fruits and vegetables. Convenience foods, such as cookies, crackers and prepared meals, are high in sugar and fat. Always have healthy snacks available. And never use food as a reward or punishment.
- Limit sweetened beverages, including those containing fruit juice. These drinks provide little nutritional value in exchange for their high calories. They also can make your child feel too full to eat healthier foods.
- Sit down together for family meals. Make it an event — a time to share news and tell stories. Discourage eating in front of a screen, such as a television, computer or video game. This leads to fast eating and lowered awareness of how much you're eating.
- Limit the number of times you eat out, especially at fast-food restaurants. Many of the menu options are high in fat and calories.
A critical part of weight loss, especially for children, is physical activity. It not only burns calories but also builds strong bones and muscles and helps children sleep well at night and stay alert during the day. Such habits established in childhood help adolescents maintain healthy weight despite the hormonal changes, rapid growth and social influences that often lead to overeating. And active children are more likely to become fit adults.
To increase your child's activity level:
- Limit recreational computer and TV time to no more than 2 hours a day. A surefire way to increase your child's activity levels is to limit the number of hours he or she is allowed to watch television each day. Other sedentary activities — playing video and computer games or talking on the phone — also should be limited.
- Emphasize activity, not exercise. Your child's activity doesn't have to be a structured exercise program — the object is just to get him or her moving. Free-play activities, such as playing hide-and-seek, tag or jump-rope, can be great for burning calories and improving fitness.
- Find activities your child likes to do. For instance, if your child is artistically inclined, go on a nature hike to collect leaves and rocks that your child can use to make a collage. If your child likes to climb, head for the nearest neighborhood jungle gym or climbing wall. If your child likes to read, then walk or bike to the neighborhood library for a book.
- If you want an active child, be active yourself. Find fun activities that the whole family can do together. Never make exercise seem a punishment or a chore.
- Vary the activities. Let each child take a turn choosing the activity of the day or week. Batting practice, bowling and swimming all count. What matters is that you're doing something active.
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