Seeing a child experience the anguish of being overweight in our bodily obsessed society, is hard.
It's not just the health risks that come with being overweight. Often children above a healthy weight range can experience teasing, bullying or social exclusion.
This can lead to a severe loss of confidence, poor posture from trying to hide their bodies, a hesitancy to try physical activity and ultimately, an unhappy child.
So, as parents only wanting the best for our kids, what key things can we be doing to support our child to move into a healthy weight range?
Parents Guide Illawarra turned to the expertise of Danielle Louis, a University Qualified Exercise Physiologist and Health Promotion Officer at Go4Fun, a FREE healthy lifestyle program run for primary school aged kids in NSW and across the Illawarra each school term (click here for Go4Fun details).
Danielle is one of the trained health professionals who run the FREE Go4Fun programs which focuses on improving children's:
- Eating habits
Danielle loves being part of each child's transformation on the Go4Fun program.
Go4Fun takes place after school in locations across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, running parallel with school terms. Term 1 programs are running in Wollongong, Lake Illawarra and Nowra. Go4Fun tracks and measures how the children and their families who attend, have fun and become fitter, healthier and happier.
So, we asked Danielle to share her from her rich experience, what top 3 things parents can do to help their child have a better relationship with food,
fitness, activity and as a result of that, to have a better and healthier relationship with themselves.
1. Include your children in food prep, cooking and food shopping...
The benefits of doing this are surprisingly diverse! Children get more exposed to fruit and vegetables as meals are made together from scratch, so less processed food is purchased from the shops and children feel invested in what they are eating - so they are more likely to actually eat what is on their plate!
Here are Danielle's top tips to get your child interested in cooking, as it really can pay off:
- Let younger kids get their hands dirty in the kitchen
- Use cookie cutters or make shapes from food on the plate
- Hook your child into cooking what they enjoy eating
- Get your child to choose the ingredients, e.g. which shape of pasta shells or their fave veggies to go in a pasta sauce
- Get kids to share their cooking with others to encourage a sense of pride in their creations!
- Make healthy versions of what they love, e.g. veggie and cheese muffins
2. Avoid sugary drinks - get creative with fruit and veg instead!
Firstly fizzy drinks...
Kids are targeted by advertising, see their friends or older kids with fizzy drinks and cajole parents into letting them drink them too.
Parents stand your ground and feel great about it! Fizzy drinks have no nutritional value, they are teeth rotting and pile on the calories. There is simply no benefit in allowing your child to drink them.
As a parent, we know just how HARD it is to say no consistently and to stand your ground in the face of on-going demands. BUT, this is one instance where you can feel great about saying no. Water and the occasional glass of milk is all your child needs to stay hydrated... Get fun with slicing fresh lemon, limes, oranges, berries or add ice cubes to spice water up instead!
Ah, vegetables and kids - this could warrant an entire book on how to get kids embracing veggies! Here are Danielle's top tips to help your child consume the recommended serves of veggies across a week (only 5% of kids do in NSW - eek!):
- Keep trying to offer veggies, it can take 15 exposures before a child will even try it or decide they like it (familiarity helps)
- Get creative, cut veggies into funny shapes, grate to hide them in sauces or hide them in muffins
- Experiment with raw and cooked veggies
- Try BBQ'ing veggies or try them in different forms, eg mash pumpkin with potatoes or roast veggies taste sweeter, try veggie balls with cheese and breadcrumbs on the outside...
- Depending on age, choose a role model your child looks up to and explain how they couldn't be fit and strong without veggies in their diet, tell them carrots help them see in the dark, spinach makes their muscles strong etc.
- Chop up a range of veggies and fruits and keep them in the fridge for quick snacks for when your child says they are hungry
- Chop veggies for crunch and sip at school the night before while you are cutting up veggies for dinner, then store them in the fridge as it saves time and effort on busy school mornings
- Make sure you always offer fruit and veg in meals and as snacks, offer them with hummus or a tzatziki that your child enjoys, dips make all veggies tasty!
3. Managing binge eating opportunities like parties
This is a toughie! Many parents are upping the healthy options on offer at parties but Danielle's Go4Fun proven strategies below will help you manage the opportunities when unhealthy choices like chips, cake, lollies and soft drinks are abundant!
- Fill them up on healthy food before they go, e.g. wholemeal sandwich with ham, cheese and lettuce with carrot sticks and apple, so they don't arrive hungry!
- Talk through sometimes foods and get them to manage their choices before they arrive, for example, they can save room for cake or just have two, max three sometimes food choices across the party.
- Set a good example yourself by not going hard on the sometimes foods! Or bring a healthy plate to contribute and fill up your child's plate with healthy options, plus don't overfill your plate, or only offer small plates...
- Talk to your child about being mindful of their bodies cues, like being satisfied and what that feels like, what happens when they eat more after they feel satisfied?
- Engage kids in games and play to keep them busy and active and not wandering back to the buffet table of treats!
- Get creative to make water interesting at parties you are hosting, or bring a water bottle for your child to sip on
- Keep having the conversations before and after parties to reinforce awareness and great choices, the change will slowly happen with ongoing reminders! For MORE great advice click here www.healthykidsnsw.com.au
If you are worried by your child's weight and food / activity choices, Go4Fun courses are FREE and are run by highly qualified, passionate individuals like Danielle, who love seeing children blossom each term as they become healthier, fitter and much more confident!
With our huge thanks to Danielle Louis from Go4Fun for sharing her expertise with Parents Guide and for the Go4Fun sponsorship of this article!
If you have a child above a healthy weight range and want to educate and inspire them, plus help change the family habits so you all benefit, please visit https://go4fun.com.au/ and enquire about Term 1 availability! Or call 1800 780 900, or SMS for a call back on 0409 745 645.