How can I prevent my child becoming overweight without harming?

We know that discussing weight and body image around children and teens can do more harm than good so often it can be difficult to broach the topic or know how to proceed when we are worried our child is gaining weight without causing body image problems.

Any changes to decide to make to your child’s diet should be done so for the whole family long-term. Often, I hear parents say things such as “Jim’s older brother isn’t overweight, so he can eat anything, but we have been serving Jim mostly fruit for snacks”. This makes your child aware that they are being treated differently because of their size and teaches them that only bigger people should eat healthy foods.

Other Tips:

  • Structured mealtimes in younger children who graze all day or who may use food as a coping mechanism i.e. breakfast, morning-tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
  • Limit high sugar drinks such as soft drinks, cordials and fruit juices to occasional treats and offer water as their main fluid.
  • Limit screen time and encourage more physical activity, go for a walk or a swim as a family, discuss sports your child may like to take up.
  • Avoid diet talk, eat the same food as the rest of your family, avoid negative body comments particularly around your children

  • Have discretionary or less healthy foods sometimes, do not use these as a reward. Explain to your child that because they don’t offer our body much nutrition, so we don’t eat them as often.
  • Don’t try fad diets or eliminate whole food groups with your child, this may lead to a negative relationship with food long-term.

  • Offer vegetables or salad every day with the main meal and a variety of healthier snack options in-between meals.

Throughout childhood and teenage years, children’s bodies are growing and changing constantly. It is the parent’s role to provide nutritious choices and to teach positive eating behaviours by example, look at the stature of yourself and the rest of your family and instead of focusing solely on the health of your child aim to improve the health of the family as a unit.

Written By: Caitlin Mannion

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