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Tackling Childhood Obesity

What you can do to help your child


Updated April 17, 2012

Changing your child's eating and exercise habits means changing your own as well. After all, you're in charge of what your child eats at home and how much exercise he gets when he gets home from school. Plus, you're a role model. If you exercise and eat healthy, your child will see that and follow suit.

Your first order of business is finding out if your child is overweight or obese. Your doctor should be the one to make this diagnosis, so make an appointment to have your child checked out by a professional. For information on how your doctor will figure this out, visit Kid's Health.

Most experts agree that helping your child lose weight is a family affair. Everyone should be involved in planning meals, buying food and coming up with ways to be active together. Some tips offered by the NIH include:

  • Don't keep junk food in the house. If it's not there, they can't eat it and neither can you.
  • Get rid of sodas and other sugary drinks.
  • Plan healthy meals and eat together as a family.
  • If you do eat fast food, educate yourself about the healthy choices available. Many restaurants have nutritional information available at their websites or in the restaurant.
  • Don't worry if your child won't eat healthy foods at first. It takes time to change how we eat, so be patient and keep trying.
  • Don't use food as a reward for good behavior.
  • Don't control the amount of food your child eats. Once you provide healthy foods, leave it up to her to decide how much she'll eat.

When it comes to exercise, what you do depends on your child's age. If he's young, you don't need to set him up on a structured routine. The name of the game is FUN. Go to the park or the zoo, walk the dog, play ball in the back yard. Make it a habit to take a walk before dinner or do some other activity that doesn't involve sitting around watching TV. Find out about any sports your child is interested in and encourage her to participate.

If you don't know where to start, there are many resources available for you. ACE (the American Council on Exercise) has loads of information at their Youth Fitness Website, encouraging healthy kids and providing lots of resources for exercise, fitness and health.

You should also talk to your doctor about what you can do about your child's health as well as educate yourself about healthy eating and exercise (the library is a great place to start). Use available resources. Your community may have parks, trails, wildlife areas, playgrounds, pools and more that can offer fun ways to stay active for your kids.


Wang et al. Increasing caloric contribution from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices among US children and adolescents, 1988-2004. Pediatrics. 2008 Jun;121(6):e1604-14).

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