Weight Loss Tips for Children: B is for Behavior

Weight Loss Tips for Children: B is for Behavior

The BOUNCE program begins with behavior modification. In order to successfully maintain diet and lifestyle changes, children and families must adjust the behaviors that lead to overeating and unhealthy meal habits.

Use the following simple child behavior modification techniques to help curb unhealthy eating behavior.

Nutrition Education

Establish life-long healthy habits by teaching nutrition to kids, caretakers and families.

  • Discuss the components of a healthy diet, starting with basics like the food groups.
  • Learn to read food labels.
  • Discuss the importance of dietary fiber.
  • Learn to identify good sources of protein, which keep children full.
  • Teach your children how much sugar is too much (www.mypyramid.gov has some great examples).

Fun Facts

Discuss the following:

  • 3,500 calories equal one pound. By cutting 250 calories a day, (1 soda) you can lose 2 pounds in a month.
  • 25 percent of the energy from carbohydrates is converted and stored as fat in the body.
  • Simple carbohydrates (like starches) give you a burst of energy that disappears quickly and leaves you tired and hungry.
  • Protein (like eggs) releases energy over time, and fills you up longer.
  • Try this experiment: See how you feel if you eat eggs one morning for breakfast and a bagel the next. Do you feel any different? How is your energy? Do you feel hungry or tired soon after, or are you full with more energy.


Teach your child to be aware of habits and eating issues.

  • Encourage your child to keep a food diary.
  • Create a chart together to track physical activity and exercise.
  • Discuss previous eating patterns and habits.
  • Use a pedometer to track your steps in a day and have a family contest.

Stimulus Control

Work together to control mealtime atmosphere and potential causes of overeating and making bad dietary choices.

  • Limit the amount of fattening foods in the house.
  • Eat more meals together at the dinner table at designated times.
  • Serve food only once before storing. Do not offer second helpings.
  • Avoid encouraging the child to eat more or finish an entire meal.
  • Down size your plates and serve family style- away from the eating area. This way, each family member has to make a conscious effort to get up and get more if they desire a second portion.
  • Put positive food queues out- such of bowls of fresh fruit on the table. Eliminate the negative ones (a see through jar of candy or cookies, for example).

Eating Behavior

Help your child modify the way he or she eats. Model these healthy eating habits.

  • Encourage smaller bites.
  • Encourage your child to chew food longer.
  • Put the fork down between bites.
  • Start the meal with fruit or a salad.
  • Eliminate external stimuli (such as the TV or a book or magazine) while eating, and focus on the food itself.

Physical Activity

Work closely with your child to establish and support healthy activity and exercise.

  • Set up a weekly activity goal and have a contest with other family members.
  • Consider “exercising for screen time.”
  • Plan an event that can be done as a family- such as a hike, a bike ride, or a trip to a pool, beach, or skating rink.
  • Use pedometers, stickers, charts, or fun exercise programs (such as Wii Fit) to make it fun.
  • Have a “dance night” at the house, where you turn up the music and hold back the rules.

Attitude Changes

A good attitude goes a long way. Help your child develop positive thinking.

  • Teach your child to turn negative self-statements into positive ones.
  • Be emotionally available to help your child cope with negative remarks from others.
  • Avoid making negative statements about your child’s weight, progress, or appearance. Make, siblings, other family members and friends do the same.

Reinforcements and Rewards

Reward your child for progress and steps in the right direction.

  • Provide verbal praise and encourage family members to do the same.
  • Offer tangible rewards for your child’s dietary, activity, and weight loss goals.
  • Encourage your child to help establish rewards and goals.
  • Choose rewards that encourage physical activity, such as sports equipment, shopping trips for a new, smaller outfit, or outings.