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Parents Can Help Overweight Children

Having trouble talking with your child about a weight problem? About 17% of 6-11 year olds and 17.6% of adolescents are overweight or obese — more than ever before. And the statistic for adults is even worse — slightly more than 66% of American adults are overweight or obese according to the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Talking with anyone, especially children, about weight-related issues can be touchy. So many emotional, cultural and social aspects are inextricably linked with weight in our society that it’s often difficult to focus on the health-related aspects.

A recent survey of 1,000 members of the American Dietetic Association might give you some guidance. According to respondents, the three top factors in preventing excess weight in children are:

  • Child participation. This includes talking with children about what they eat and addressing the myth that “good for you” means “tastes bad.” Making sure children participate in planning menus, selecting foods and preparing meals also helps. You might even consider encouraging them to grow vegetables in the summer garden.

  • Parental involvement. This includes talking about basic nutrition concepts, such as stopping eating when you feel full and the importance of a balanced diet. These discussions should start when children are very young. Parents also need to role model healthful choices in eating habits and physical activity levels. In the survey, two-thirds of respondents said they believe parents should play the primary role in preventing excess weight in their children.

  • Knowledge of portion sizes. This is a key ingredient in any healthful eating plan, but can be difficult in a world where super-sized fries and 12-ounce steaks are the norm. After boning up on portion size, 2- to 3-ounce portions of meat and half-cup servings of pasta might seem small, but filling up on vegetables, fruits and whole grains is a good habit for anyone.

This article originally appeared in Chow Line 11/02/03 a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2007.

For more information:

Go to the Obesity and Weight Management health topic.