As your children grow, their bodies and nutritional needs change! The rates their bodies are growing change, and this correlates to their hunger and nutritional needs. After about two years old, a slowing down in the rate of physical growth comes with a reduced appetite. Each child is different and needs different amounts of nutrients to keep them healthy. How much they need to eat also depends on their level of physical activity and their metabolic rate.
In the past few years, the number of overweight children has increased. The most recent data from 2016 states that 26% of children 2-5 years old were overweight and 14% were considered obese. Recent studies have found that if a child is overweight in preschool, chances are they are going to stay that way into adulthood. There are many factors that play into childhood obesity, but ultimately is does come down to diet and exercise.
In order to take steps to help your children be at a healthy weight and learn healthy habits you can:
Know if your child is at a healthy weight. You can calculate your child Body Mass Index (BMI) by either going to your doctor, or using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculator on their website.
If your child is overweight, don’t ignore it. Make changes and stick with them. Never make your child feel bad for being overweight or put them on a strict diet unless your doctor tells you to. You can make simple changes like: cutting out juice or soda, eating more fruits and veggies, and limiting junk food and sweets.
Make sure your child is active. Habits learned in childhood last a lifetime, and making exercise and being active a normal part of life, will carry on through your child’s adult years! You can simply just switch out an hour of screen time for an hour of exercise.
Choose whole, minimally-processed foods most of the time. Read labels- look out for hidden sugars, oils and other unwanted junk.
Incorporate more fruits and veggies. Try to get 3-5 cups in everyday. Try making veggies or fruits a different way like sneaking them into soup, into a smoothie, or even have fun and make characters out of them! It may take ten or more exposures to a new food before a kid will like it, so keep trying!
Help your kids eat the right amount. Kids are natural intuitive eaters. Their body cues tell them how much they need. Remember that some days they will eat more, and some days they will eat less. Try not to enforce strict rules, like never eating “bad” foods or insisting that your child eat everything on their plate or use foods as rewards or bribes. These strategies can often make your child’s relationship with food worse. Let your kid be involved in shopping and meal planning!
Take the Lead. It’s your job to provide food for you kiddos. It’s also your job to be an example! They look at your actions about how to act more than they listen to what you say. So, adopt the healthy habits yourself!
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