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How To Control Your Child's Weight

According to the Centers For Disease Control, 15 percent of American children and adolescents are overweight. One of the biggest reasons for this growing epidemic is a poor diet.

Doctors are seeing a huge increase in the number of overweight children, including infants and toddlers. As a result, says Saturday Early Show's Dr. Mallika Marshall, they're also seeing a number of childhood cases of conditions that used to strike only adults. These include Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Obese kids are at higher risk for asthma and premature puberty. And people who were overweight as children are more likely to be overweight adults and with that, comes a huge list of related health problems. So it's important to establish healthy eating habits when children are very young, even in infancy.

As for the number of calories children should consume a day, Marshall says it depends on the age. For example, children between the ages of one and two should consume about a 1000 calories a day, but a recent study found that many children in this age range are eating 30 percent more calories than they should. So Marshall advises that parents to talk to their pediatricians about how much their children should be eating and stick to those guidelines.

Marshall offers a few tips on how to get your children to eat better:

  • Lead By Example: Children mimic their parents' behavior, so if you eat a lot of junk food or overeat at meals, your child's going to do the same. So make sure your kids see you eating lots of fruits and vegetables and reasonable portion sizes.
  • Serve Healthful Snacks: Kids are bombarded with advertisement for junk food so when they go shopping, they naturally beg their parents for those foods. But you should really try to reserve the cookies, chips and candy for special occasions, and serve healthy snacks, such as yogurt, fruit or trail mix, on a daily basis.
  • Eat As A Family: When you sit down and eat as a family, you establish a good routine for your children and you're able to keep a close eye on what they're eating and how much they're eating. Try to make mealtimes a pleasant experience. Don't do your disciplining at the dinner table or your children will associate eating with stress.
  • Don't Use Food To Punish Or Reward:
    You never want to deny a child food because they've been bad. It sends the wrong messages about food. And you don't want to promise your children that they can have dessert if they eat all their vegetables, because then they'll think of eating vegetables as a chore.
  • Don't Mix Food And TV:
    It's better to have your children eat in designated areas, such as the kitchen or dining room, not in front of the TV, because studies have shown that kids usually overeat when watching TV. They're more focused on the program and less on whether they feel full.
  • Don't Ban Sweets:
    You don't want to deny your children sweets all together, because then they will be thought of as "forbidden fruit" and your child will crave what they can't have. And they're likely to overindulge when you're not watching. So again, save sweets for special occasions so they know when they can expect them.
  • Encourage Eating Slowly:
    Kids are usually in a rush to leave the table, but when kids eat too quickly, they are less likely to notice when they are full. So encourage your children to slow down the pace and enjoy the food they're eating.
  • Discourage Sweet Drinks:
    A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that by the age of 2, about 25 percent of kids drink sweet sugary drinks every single day. Sweet drinks are loaded with empty calories and kids can easily drink too much of them. Juice (100 percent) is better than soda, but is also loaded with sugar. So limit the fruit juice to one serving a day.
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