How to Help Your Overweight Child at Home and School

The week of August 10 is Healthy Back to School Week at

school girlWendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RD is director of wellness for the International Food Information Council (IFIC). Her work includes conducting consumer and health professional research, developing communication workshops for opinion leaders, speaking at conferences and workshops, and communicating with journalists and the media. Wendy is a certified fitness instructor and has also had a private practice specializing in weight management. She lives in St. Louis with her husband Dan and two sons, Drew and Evan.

For many parents, dealing with an overweight child can be a delicate issue. When it’s time to go back to school, the challenge of balancing healthy eating habits and exercise while building their self esteem can often seem overwhelming. Here are a few steps parents can take at home to get their kids off to a great start at school.

1. Be a role model: Children learn by what they see and observe, so set a good example. Plan family time that focuses on fun while enjoying food and exercise/physical activity together.

2. Be supportive: Listen to your child’s concerns about their weight. Overweight children probably know better than anyone else that they have a weight issue, and their attitude about it can often be reflective of your attitude. For that reason, they need your support, acceptance, and encouragement.

mom cooking with daughters3. Encourage healthy eating habits throughout the day: A healthy diet starts with the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Research consistently shows that breakfast helps give your child more energy for the day ahead and also reduces the likelihood of cravings later. You and your family can prepare fun meals at home or if they’re eating a school lunch, discuss the next day’s menu with them so they know how to make healthy choices.

4. Get them moving: When I was a kid, we always spent time playing sports, dancing, or riding bikes after school. Be creative! Find things that your child enjoys that makes them sweat a little. Better yet – get in on the action yourself!

These are just a few steps to take. It’s important that you don’t just focus on your overweight child or children in general. Make a healthy lifestyle be a family affair!

What kind of activities do you and your family do together?

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