The No. 1 Reason Why Kids Overeat

Kids are not going to overeat unless you offer them the opportunity. That's the number one reason why they overeat -- because the temptation's there no matter where you go. And so the first thing is to eliminate the temptations at home; clear out the junk food from cupboards and cabinets. And most importantly, kids are going to gain weight if they watch you gain weight.

When you're talking about kids, you're not talking about independent adults. You're talking about little guys and gals who are watching every move you make. So if you're overeating and if you're chomping into bags and boxes, they're gonna think that's an OK thing to do, and therefore you're giving them permission.

So the key with kids is that it's a package deal, meaning that it's got to be about the family. This is a family affair, and so you can't leperize a child, saying "That kid's fat; let's do something." Well, what about you? What do you do? What do you look like? How active are you physically? What's your example? How are you helping your child?

Children don't go to the grocery store. You do. You're the one buying it. So that means that you have to encourage a home environment that promotes healthful eating and physical activities where kids can have fun, have opportunities to be able to engage in cooking together in the kitchen, preparing foods and going to the grocery store together. All of these things are important in order to help kids eliminate junk from their diet and become more engaged in a healthier lifestyle.

So you want to stock up on all those ingredients that you want for nutritious meals. There's nothing wrong with a dessert, but a dessert can be made differently. It can be made more healthfully, and especially if you're eliminating desserts that are processed food type desserts. Make something at home that's real simple. What about a yogurt parfait with lots of fresh berries in it? Kids love to eat that kind of thing.

The other thing, too, is make sure that you're not setting up a real problem by creating a situation with deprivation. Don't tell children, "You can't have this, you can't, you can't." If they keep hearing that, they're going think that they're living in deprivation. It's going to come off really negative, and it'll also encourage sneak eating. Instead: "Yes, you can have that cantaloupe." "Of course you can have those grapes." And make it very positive.

You don't also have to keep saying the word "health" all the time. Sometimes when you say something's healthy, kids run in the opposite direction. I say: Do health in covert operations.

And that is, stick that zucchini in that zucchini bread that you're making. You don't have to tell them that. Just say, "Mmm, isn't that good?" and later on, let them figure it out. Just say, "Wow, this is good. This is fantastic. I love this."

Go out of your way to make things look really appetizing for kids, colorful things so that kids don't see the same old, same old all the time -- you know, the same lump of green beans that you always serve. Be a little bit more creative. Include vibrant-colored vegetables in salads and steamed vegetables. Draw them to it so that it makes it more fun.

Edited September 8, 2010 at 10:35 am

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