Summer Weight Loss Tips for Kids
With 1/3 of American children struggling with obesity, we decided that it was finally time to put together a formal weight loss program for kids. Weight loss for children must involve a family approach, and summer provides the perfect opportunity to see less of each other. (Get it, “see less!” – nevermind. ) Moods are generally lighter, fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful, and there are fewer barriers to activity as the warm weather has finally returned. Weight loss for children in the summer time can also be more discreet: there are fewer chances for schoolmates to undermine a child’s efforts, and more time for parents to focus on a child’s specific eating patterns and levels of activity. I find nothing more rewarding than watching a child discreetly shed 20-30 pounds over the summer and return to school with excitement, a newfound confidence, and enormous pride.
Here are 15 tips to get the family healthier this summer:
- Address the hunger first. If your child is always in the cupboards, hiding food, or seems to have an endless appetite, he or she could be suffering from insulin resistance. If you are concerned, have your physician test your child for fasting insulin. A simple medication, called Metformin, can reverse this easily and jump start the weight loss for your child.
- Group Hug. Have a family meeting, and vow to get healthy as a household this summer. You can even hold a “biggest loser” contest for the family (use % of weight loss to make it fair). Make graphs and charts, have prizes for best effort, most exercise- whatever it takes to make sure the family is engaged. (Even the skinny ones can eat healthier, by the way).
- Fire up the grill and push the protein! We have become a carbohydrate obsessed society- and our children have become quite protein deficient. Protein feeds muscles and makes them full for longer. It also helps stabilize glucose and churns metabolism, burning fat longer. Chose turkey dogs or light hot dogs, and lean beef (90%) for burgers. Chicken is always a plus- watch the skin if you BBQ. If your children enjoy fish- lucky you! It provides another awesome alternative.
- Vow to be “Oven Free”- Go oven- free this summer! This will prevent the quick fixes of processed foods (you know the ones: frozen chicken tenders, French fries, mac and cheese, etc.) If you grill it, chances are it will be fresh and healthier for you.
- Get a tan! As you enjoy the sun, darken your foods as well. Get rid of white bread, white pasta, white rice and white potatoes. Chose white wheat bread (they will never know), whole wheat or vegetable based pasta (there are many varieties available now), and whole grain rice. Sweet potatoes should replace white potatoes- which your family will grow to love.).
- Practice Mindful Eating- Display positive food queues (such as a bowl of fresh fruit) in the center of the table. Have cut up veggies in glasses of water in the fridge to keep the message going wherever they travel on their quest for food.
- Phase out the junk food- Discard junk food over the course of a week or two, and they will never miss it. If you choose to have treats around, divide the bags or packages into measured quantities and make your own 100 calorie packs. Put the packs in a special bin in the cupboard so they can be carefully monitored.
- Avoid Freezer Frenzy- Avoid the urge to get gallons of ice cream, which will equate to thousands of extra calories that nobody needs. Instead, get fruit and juice bars, 100 calorie Klondikes, Italian Ice, Fudgesickles and Creamsicles. They will cool you off with fewer calories, and you won’t feel deprived.
- Adhere to the Video Game Rule – With the exception of Wii Fit, there should be no video games without exercise. Want 1 hour on the X-Box or Play station? Give me an hour of exercise. It’s a good exchange. (This includes television time as well.)
- Plant a garden-. This is good exercise, plus you are adding healthy foods. Have the kids help you chose the veggies! If you can’t plant, eat local and eat in season. If your child hates veggies- keep trying! Their tastes change over time, and it takes multiple exposures to get them to stick.
- Lose the juice and soda- With the exception of pulpy OJ (which most children don’t drink), fruit juices are of no nutritional value for your child. Instead, encourage water all day long. If they don’t like plain water, make flavored waters by adding fruit to a pitcher of water (strawberries or melon work great).
- Smooth away the pounds- fruits and veggies should be limitless for your child. The minimal calories acquired by these foods are well balanced by the energy needed to break them apart for energy. If you can’t get your child to eat fruit, sneak it to them in a smoothie. Use fruit, ice, vanilla protein powder or skim milk and flavorings.
- Go take a hike! Or ride bikes, play basketball or walk together. During these stressful economic times, one activity that is free as well as physically and emotionally beneficial is exercise. Make it good family time.
- Always eat breakfast- one of the most common habits of school-aged children is skipping breakfast. Start your child’s day with protein to get the metabolism going: eggs with Canadian bacon and light toast, steel cut oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder, Greek yogurt with fruit, or it you are in a rush, try a protein breakfast bar (chose one that has 200 or fewer calories and at least 12 grams of protein).
- Stay positive- Never criticize your child’s efforts. It is important to stay positive and make weight loss fun, and not a chore. Children will be successful if their hunger is addressed, and the appropriate environment is provided. Acknowledge their weight loss with positive reinforcement (perhaps a trip to the sporting goods store or a new (and smaller) outfit. Lead by example, and be careful not to transfer your weight issues (if you have them) to your child. This is their battle to win! You are there to enjoy the ride.