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So you have a chubby child. How do you know if it is time for you to worry?
Should you start using the dreaded “d-word” or will dieting cause more harm than good?
Keep reading to learn whether putting your child on a diet is a good or harmful idea.
Should You Put Your Child on a Diet?
This is a matter that is entirely dependent upon your doctor’s orders. If your doctor notes that your child’s health is faltering due to a lack of nutrition or excessive weight, a new food plan is in order. If your pediatrician says that weight isn’t a concern, do not place your child on a traditional diet.
What is a Health Weight for a Child?
This is a fantastic question that almost no one, including trained medical professionals, can answer.
In previous years, the body mass index, or BMI was used to determine if an individual was underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese or morbidly obese. It was used for adults as well as children.
The BMI index has come under fire in recent years for being inaccurate.
For example, muscle weighs more than fat, which means a professional bodybuilder might be considered obese even if they have a very low body fat percentage.
Likewise, it is thought that bodies can have a set weight that is the natural, healthy weight for that particular person.
What you might view as too thin or too heavy may be just right for your child.
It is also important to note that what you view as overweight may not be the actual case.
Body dysmorphic disorder can cause a person to view their body differently than it actually is. A person with BDD may view these flaws in others as well, including their own children.
What is a Diet?
Dieting is commonly viewed as restricting fat and/or calories until a specific goal is achieved. Dieting doesn’t work in the long term for people of any age.
A short-term diet can be seen as a bandaid. Your child might quickly lose weight, but they will also quickly gain the weight back. In some cases, they may suffer from changes in metabolism from these diets.
This can cause them to gain additional weight and have difficulty taking it off if that becomes necessary. In addition, putting a child on a diet may cause some psychological damage.
Children can develop eating disorders and other long-term mental health issues when they perceive that there is something wrong with the way their body functions.
The Right Way to Lose Weight
The right way to achieve health and wellness through nutrition is to make permanent changes.
This includes focusing on fresh fruit and vegetables, limiting foods that are high in starch and keeping sweet treats to a minimum. Making healthy food choices is not the same as dieting.
It is possible that you already eat healthy foods and limit in-between meal snacking.
There are areas that you might still be able to curb in order to help your child have a healthier body. An easy place to make changes is with drinks.
Children need milk for strong bones, but skim milk is just as healthy as whole milk with about half the calories and almost no fat. Water is also a good, healthy choice for drinks.
Children should only drink sodas on special occasions. Even juice, which is high in sugar, should be limited to no more often than one glass per day.
Better Food Choices
Growing children need to eat. While it is wise to limit in-between meal snacking, it may not always be the right choice.
A hungry child should be allowed to listen to their body. If it is telling them to eat, they should eat. However, what they eat is vital to living a healthy life.
Snacks should not consist of starchy foods that are filling but offer little nutrition. Likewise, children should not be given sweet treats as a replacement for healthy snacks.
This includes protein bars, which are often marketed as health food but contain as much sugar and fat as an average candy bar.
Good choices for in-between meal snacks are fresh fruit like bananas, apples, grapes and berries.
A handful of nuts offers a great amount of protein along with the healthy fats that your child needs for a strong heart.
Cheese sticks have both protein and calcium, which is vital for childhood growth. You can also cut up some celery or carrots for children to grab as they need snacks to tide them over until dinner.
If this still isn’t enough, air-popped popcorn offers little nutrition but can be filling without adding too many unnecessary calories.
What is a Good Alternative to Dieting?
Exercise is always a good idea. Your child will only benefit from additional exercise as long as it is carried out in a fun and mentally healthy way.
Riding bikes, swimming, playing sports, doing gymnastics and running are all great exercises that are fun for most kids.
Do you have some difficulty encouraging your child to be active? It could be that you just haven’t found that activity that gets them excited.
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Buy a basketball hoop, take them roller skating or go for hikes.
Eventually, you will find a way to combine exercise with recreation that helps your child be healthier. It will be a bonus if it is an activity you can do together.
Your child might seem to be overweight, but that is no reason to diet. Only put your child on a diet if it is recommended by a doctor.
Otherwise, serve healthy meals, encourage exercise and stop worrying. Do you agree or disagree? Tell us in the comments!