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May 25, 2010 / Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN

Five Tips for Raising Your Child to be a Healthy Weight

The menu looked great at the new Indian restaurant that recently opened in our Long Island town.  So after walking down several blocks bustling with couples and teens with surging hormones my husband and I settled down at an outside table and eagerly ordered dal and curried vegetables.  As the mint tea was served (no liquor license yet!), I overheard the mother at the table behind ours talk to her toddler son.  “You can have ice cream only if you eat some more,”  said the mother.  “But I want ice cream now,” said the precocious boy.  “Just two more bites of chicken and I’ll get you the ice cream,” said the tired mother.  The boy relentlessly took the chicken offered to him and chewed.  “Now just a couple spoons of rice and you can have the ice cream,” his mother said now sounding quite exasperated.  A few minutes later and again the same words repeated, “Just two more bite of chicken and we will get the ice cream..”  Alas I had to bite my tongue and not speak up.  This mother obviously was unaware that she was setting her child up for a potential weight problem.  With a childhood obesity epidemic today in America unlike any other parents need to be made aware of how to feed their children.  The roots of obesity start in childhood.  From continuous snacks of Cheerios and Goldfish crackers while sitting in the stroller to bottles full of juice and sweetened milk to suck on throughout the day we are leading our children on to the path of obesity as well as diabetes (which is another related health crisis I will  discuss in a later blog.)  Here are five things parents can put into practice today to help their child avoid a weight problem in the future:

1.  From two years old and on, water, low fat milk or soy milk are the best beverages to offer your child.  Juice and soda should be avoided.

2.  If a child states that he/she is finished eating that should be the end of the meal.  Never force or entice your child to eat more. They know when they are full.

3.  Don’t use dessert as a reward to get your child to eat more at dinner.  Dessert is not a reward.  Dessert is something to enjoy occasionally  as a sweet ending after a meal.

4.  Provide your child with fresh fruits and cut up vegetables for snacks.  Chips,pretzels, cookies and crackers have poor nutritional value and usually lack in fiber.  They provide mainly calories.

5.  Enjoy meals together as a family.  Be a good role model and provide fruits and/or vegetables at each meal.

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