Tips for Families

If you’re worried about a child’s weight…

While adults often succeed at weight loss by counting calories, children do better in an environment that supports overall health. As you set lifetime patterns for your child, avoid the numbers. Focus instead on being a healthy example.

  • Manage weight concerns without using a scale.  It’s best to create a healthy, happy atmosphere that is not too restrictive.
  • Narrow the battleground by not buying junk food.  When the options are all healthy, that’s what your child will eat!
  • Avoid being too controlling–that may foster an eating disorder. “We don’t want kids obsessing about weight,” said Dr. John Edwards of ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics. “We want a focus on health.”

Parents lead the way

To develop lifelong healthy eating habits, check out these ideas for families. They’re from Dr. John Edwards, a ThedaCare pediatrician, and his wife, Jill, also a physician. The Edwards have plenty of experience testing these ideas on their own family of seven. They note that trying to do the whole list at once is too much. Pick two or three ideas, and start there!

  • Grocery shop differently.  Avoid bread that isn't 100% whole wheat,breakfast cereal that isn't 100% whole grain, crackers, chips, coffee cakes, mayonaise-based salads and dressings, soda, fruit drinks, processed lunch meats and dairy products that are more than 2% milk fat.
  • When buying big…Avoid buying large sizes of less healthy foods, even if it’s more economical. Do you really want that much of it around?
  • Be mindful of snacking.  If you’re hungry, or a child is hungry, sit down at a table with a piece of fruit or veggies, and a glass of water. Walking around with anything–even veggies –is an unhealthy habit (especially for toddlers).
  • Look for ways to connect food with nutrition and satisfying hunger–not as a reward, to feel better or reduce stress. Eating healthfully means making unconscious eating behaviors obvious, so we can change them.
  • Control the “see food.”Keep healthy options convenient, easily in view and ready to eat in the refrigerator.
  • Pre-portion snacks. Portion out large bags of snack foods into small plastic bags. We’re less tempted to overeat when we eat from a smaller bag, rather than the large bag.
  • Nix the short-order chef approach to meals.  Everybody eats the same thing, including kids.
  • Serve the salad or some fruit first, about 20 minutes before the meal.
  • Eat all meals at the table, as a family if possible.
  • Turn off the TV or other electronics while eating.
  • Slow down while eating, take your time, talk together, laugh and refresh.
  • Start with small portions.
  • No seconds until you’ve had a glass of water and another serving of fruit or vegetables.
  • Sack the clean-plate club. Not finishing every morsel teaches children to stop when they're full.
  • Drink water with dinner – Everyone who’s 2 and older.  Skim milk is play at breakfast and lunch.
  • Exercise together at least 30 minutes, three days a week.  Find a recreational activity you all enjoy – make it fun, and gradually increase the amount of time.