When Your Child Is Overweight: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

If your child is overweight, your doctor may recommend that you make changes in your family's eating and exercise habits. A child who weighs too much may develop serious health problems. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet and more exercise can help your child have better health and more energy so that he or she can do better at school and enjoy more activities.

It may help to know that you do not have to make huge changes at once. Change takes time. Start by making small changes in eating habits and exercise as a family. Weight loss diets are not recommended for most children. The best way to help your child stay at a healthy weight is to increase his or her activity level.

If you have questions about how to make changes to your family's eating habits, ask your doctor about seeing a registered dietitian. A dietitian can help you and your child develop healthier eating habits.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Eat as a family as often as possible. Keep family meals fun and positive.
  • Serve regularly scheduled meals and snacks.
    • You are responsible for planning what foods will be served and when mealtimes will be held. Your child is responsible for deciding how much he or she will eat.
    • Limit soda pop and other sweetened drinks. Have your child drink water when he or she is thirsty. Serve low-fat or skim milk with meals.
    • Keep lots of fruits and vegetables in the house. Offer healthy snacks, such as vegetables with low-fat dip, string cheese and a piece of fruit, or low-fat popcorn.
  • Make physical activity a part of your family's daily life. Experts recommend that teens and children are active at least 1 hour every day. They can be active in smaller blocks of time that add up to 1 hour or more each day.
    • Walk with your child to do errands or to the bus stop or school.
    • Take bike rides as a family.
    • Give every family member daily, weekly, or monthly chores, such as housecleaning, weeding the garden, or washing the car.
  • Help your child choose exercises that on 3 days of the week:
    • Make them breathe harder and make the heart beat much faster.
    • Make their muscles stronger. For example, they could play on playground equipment or lift weights.
    • Make their bones stronger. For example, they could run, jump rope, or play basketball.
  • Limit TV, video games, or computer time to 2 hours a day or less (not including time for schoolwork). Sit down with your child and plan out how he or she will use this time.
  • Do not put a TV in your child's room.
  • Be a good role model. Practice the eating and exercise habits that you want your child to have.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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