10 Ways to Help Kids Lose Weight

Parents can help control their children's weight by fixing their lunches as often as possible and keeping tabs on their eating habits at school, nutritionists say.

In fact, kids who have lunches prepared by their parents are 25 percent less likely to be overweight than children whose lunches aren't prepared at home.

"If we can empower parents to make small but significant changes in their children's lunches, we can help turn the tide on the childhood obesity epidemic," says Dr. Rallie McAllister, author of Healthy Lunchbox: A Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim. "If your kids eat ham sandwiches with mayonnaise three times a week, and you simply replaced the mayonnaise with a healthy condiment like mustard, your kids could expect to lose about four pounds each year doing nothing else.

Making it easier for kids to succeed

McAllister, a nationally known nutritionist, explain is that the level of awareness between parents of overweight and non-overweight children raises hope that solving childhood obesity lies in educating parents on getting more involved in their children's nutrition.

"When it comes to helping children stay healthy, our job as parents is to make it easier for our children to succeed," she says.

McAllister says her own children will eat vegetables if she gives them cut-up broccoli, grape tomatoes or baby carrots along with packaged dip. She alsomakes homemade trail mix with dried fruits, raisins and nuts, but refuses to pack in her children's lunches potato chips and other high-fat, salty snacks, soda and candy.

Her research shows:

  • Parents prepare lunch for their children an average of 3.6 times per week, with a decreasing frequency as children approach ages 10-12.
  • Parents of overweight children prepare 15 percent fewer lunches than parents of non-overweight children, leaving caloric intake to kids or schools.
  • Over half of the parents were willing to make a small change in their children's diet to reduce fat.
  • More than 36 percent of parents use mayonnaise in their children's lunches - more than all other condiments combined.
  • Parents of overweight children are less aware of what their children eat for lunch than parents of their non-overweight counterparts.

10 tips for helping kids lose weight


McAllister, who operates a family practice specializing in nutrition, wellness, and weight loss, offers these 10 tips for children and families who want to lose weight without dieting:

  • Plan healthy meals for the whole family. This will result in less eating out and less fast-food calories and sodium.
  • Watch what you buy. Food that you bring home from the grocery store determines what the family will end up eating. Before you head out to the supermarket, spend a few minutes taking an inventory of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Jot down items and ingredients that you will need for your meals and recipes.
  • Snack smart. Think fast but good. Proper snacking contributes to weight loss.
  • Use various condiments to add extra flavors to your meals. Leaving off the mayo can save 9 grams of fat and 100 calories per teaspoon. Mustards are generally fat free, low fat and low- carb.
  • Set a good example of eating and exercise. Make sure you sit down and eat together as a family to show you believe that nutrition and exercise are important.
  • Plan at least two family fitness outings for the week, such as a picnic, nature walk, bike ride or trip to the community swimming pool.
  • Create an after-school plan. The "four-hour danger zone" - after school until dinnertime - is when kids typically consume a third of their daily calories and are least active. Help kids create a schedule for the hours after school and check to see how closely it is followed.
  • Eat home more often. People are less likely to overeat when eating at home.
  • Resist the temptation to "super-size it."
  • Choose grilled chicken sandwiches. Grilled chicken offers a lot less fat and fewer calories than beef or deep-fried fish.