By Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD | @NutritionalaNat
Losing weight is a family affair. That’s right, even if only one person has weight to lose, research has shown that children have the most success losing weight when the entire family is involved. It’s important to remember that, especially since obesity rates have doubled in the last ten years. Take a look at these statistics:
- More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
- More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
- About one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese.
While these stats are sobering, there are definitely ways to reverse them. Losing weight successfully should involve the entire family, and these 5 tips will make losing weight as a family a reality.
Set a good example
A 2013 study found that when parents model healthy behaviors, like eating right and exercising, children are more likely to follow suit. It sounds like common sense, but parents don’t always realize the impact that their behavior has on the child. Although you may think your child isn’t listening to you, they are watching, observing and mimicking your behavior. For the child and parents to lose weight together, it must be a joint effort of healthy eating and exercise from both parties. If the parent wants the child to stop drinking soda or cut back on sugary desserts, the parent needs to do the same.
Focus on Health, Not Weight
Focusing on weight as a number can be very difficult for the child and parent. Weight has a negative stigma associated with it, and numbers on a scale don’t always tell the whole story. The best way to approach weight loss as a family is to focus on eating right and being active in order to be healthy. When the entire family gets involved, it signifies that eating healthy foods is not part of a “diet”, but rather it’s about being strong, fit and healthy. If the entire family commits to making lifelong behavior changes, it demonstrates that this is not about short-term changes or quick solutions. Instead, it creates lifelong habits that will help build a happier, healthier family.
In general, children love carbohydrate-heavy foods, like mac & cheese, pizza, french fries and ice cream. A diet rich in refined carbohydrates has been linked to higher weights. Therefore, it’s really imperative for the family to start including protein at every meal. Make sure you do this as a family and don’t just force it on the child without modeling the behavior yourself (see tip #1). Here’s an example of a typical day of eating with protein included:
- Breakfast: Low-sugar cereal with milk or yogurt smoothie
- Lunch: Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with piece of fruit
- Snack: Cheese stick with apple slices or carrots with 2 tablespoons of hummus
- Dinner: Chicken stir fry or turkey burgers
Protein helps keep you feeling full long after a meal. Therefore, adding protein to meals will prevent you from overeating later in the day.
This may also seem like a no-brainer, but both adults and children need to get exercise every day to maintain a healthy weight. Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise, like a brisk walk, on all or most days. Children need to be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day, and it’s okay if that 60 minutes is spread throughout the course of the day. To encourage physical activity within the family, incorporate enjoyable indoor and outdoor activities into your daily routine. Jump rope, play basketball, walk the dog, visit batting cages, listen to music, take a martial arts class, listen to music and dance or play a game of tag in the year. The best way to encourage physical activity is to limit TV and screen time to no more than one hour per day.
Involve your children
Losing weight doesn’t happen overnight–it requires planning. You must spend time and effort going grocery shopping and planning healthy meals. It’s vital to include children in this planning process. Bring children to the supermarket and let them pick out anything they want from the produce section. Challenge them to buy at least 3 different colored fruits and veggies. At home, have children help you search the internet or cookbooks for recipes using those ingredients. Lastly, involve children in the cooking process. Whereas adults think of cooking as work, children love to get involved in the kitchen. Have them help measure, stir, and mix ingredients to make a healthy dish. They are much more likely to try something healthy if they helped make it!