Getting Your Overweight Kids Back on Track - 5 Nutrition Tips and Strategies

Kenn Kihiu Health Guide
  • This is a 2 part series. The first part deals with nutrition, the second will be on exercise.


    I remember auditioning to be the Co-host and one of the experts for ABC's Shaquille O'Neal's Big Challenge and even though I did not get the job, I was thrilled that finally a major network was going to shine a light on the serious health problems our overweight kids are facing today. The show is designed to be a wake-up call. It's supposed to motivate us to take action against childhood obesity which in my opinion is the biggest challenge our country is facing at the moment.


    Currently 1 out of 3 of our kids is overweight and it's growing exponentially. It's estimated in just a couple of years 2010 50% of all our kids will be overweight and we will see unprecedented health complications as a result. I don't know about you, but in my opinion, our kids are not supposed to be suffering from high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Remember the old days when type-2 diabetes used to called adult on-set diabetes? I have a friend who is a pediatrician and he had never seen a case of type 2 diabetes in a preteen in the 90's. Today, he might see up to a dozen cases a week with kids as young as eight with type 2 diabetes.

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    This is not just a cosmetic problem, because the number of mood altering drugs for children are increasing at an alarming rate and this has everything to do with poor health choices. Studies show that depression affects over 30% of overweight kids and 1 out of every 4 kids who report being teased about their weight has considered suicide. They are not just sad; they have contemplated ending their life! I just need you to understand how serious this is, so when I ask you to be tough, you know it's because of love and even though you are saying no to them at the moment, you are saying yes to life and their future.


    I know how hard it can be to get our kids to eat right and eat the foods we know they should be eating. Parents have to fight the media and billions of dollars marketing executives throw at advertising; their goal is to fatten your kids and the wallets of the stockholders, but we need to take control of our kids eating habits and encourage healthy nutrition, because if we don't we will pay a much bigger price later. So here are 6 ways to get your overweight kids back on track with nutrition tips and strategies.


    1) Put your foot down because good nutrition is pay now or pay later.

    Most of the time kids have no idea what is good for them. They make decisions based on their senses. If it tastes good, looks good, smells good, they want it and nothing else. You foot the bill, so you can most certainly dictate what should be eaten. Make sure they must eat their vegetables and fruits and this is not a negotiation. One of my clients had such a hard time with "putting her foot down" because she thought she was being a bad mother. Her kid would cry and whine about eating her greens and she would give in and make her eat the cookies instead. Eventually she did put her foot down and she even let her daughter go to bed hungry a few times if she did not eat her vegetables. She was in anguish. Can you imagine sending your kid to sleep on an empty stomach with food in the house? This mother lost sleep over this and just prayed about how bad she felt. Fast forward a month later, her daughter now loves spinach and peas! You are the parent, say no and mean it, because if you don't you will most certainly pay the price later.


    2) Start the day right

    The mornings are such a rush for most households and healthy breakfasts have suffered as a result. Sending your kid to school without eating a healthy breakfast is like driving on the interstate without any fuel in your tank. The brain is an energy hog and can consume 20 -30% of the energy in food that we eat. We have to remember the brain does not store any energy, so it needs a constant supply of energy for it to function. Many kids' behavioral problems are attributed to starting the day with a poor breakfast. If you want your kid to have a healthy weight, be well behaved and do well in school, start the day right with a good healthy breakfast.

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    3) Let kids serve themselves

    We want to encourage our kids to be grazers because when kids serve themselves they will more often put smaller portions on their plates. Parents tend to serve bigger portions. Quick note, even though you should not make a habit of wasting food especially after you labored in the kitchen, its okay to leave some food on the plate if they are satisfied. Don't force the issue of eating until your kids are full.


    4) Take the grocery shopping, but make it interesting.

    It's all about getting your kids involved, not just in cleaning the dishes but in the entire food making process from shopping to cooking. The supermarket can be a fantastic class room. Have your kids write a preliminary shopping list. One of the tips I give my clients is going to the bread aisle and asking them to feel the difference between the white bread and whole grain bread. Usually the white bread is lighter and mushier than the whole grain and the question you pose to the kids is "Do you want your muscles to be small and mushy like the white bread or nice and strong like the whole grain bread?" Another one is having them read labels with you and having them look out for Trans fats, high sodium content, high fructose corn syrup, MSG and artificial flavorings and colorings.


    5) Give them names

    Thank goodness smoking in our teens is on the decline this is because of strategies such as calling cigarettes cancer sticks. Names play a huge role in the choices our kids make. So look for some benefit laden names, such as calling fruits and vegetables with words such as "grow foods" Or serving fish and saying it's "brain food" The trick is to attach the benefit to the foods they eat and make it relevant to them. Mangoes and avocados have been shown to be good for the skin, so you can tell your kids, Hey make sure you eat your "Face Food" or "Skin Food" or whatever cool name you can come up with. This will encourage them to eat this food without hesitation and it becomes an inside family joke that they will pass on to the next generation.


    6) Soda POP is not cool anymore

    We have a drinking problem in this country and its drinking soft drinks. The most beneficial thing you can do for your kids is to have the stop drinking Sodas are responsible for the majority weight problems our kids are facing right now. A can of soda will have an equivalent of almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. That much sugar in your kids growing body reeks havoc every time they drink it. Here is a list of possible health risks associated with soft drinks. Diabetes, obesity, blood sugar disorders, tooth decay, osteoporosis, heart disease, addictions, neurotransmitter dysfunction from artificial chemical sweeteners, and neurological disorders from excessive caffeine. It's not a pretty picture.


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    Okay, so that we are clear, I'm not asking you to be a tyrant, because it's not how miserable you can make your kids. The occasional junk food is okay, the operative word is occasional. I remember when chocolates were a treat and not a main dish. So make occasional really occasional.



    Move Your Body, Move Your Life

    Kenn Kihiu


Published On: January 23, 2008