January 26, 2008

Children and Television - Helping Your Child Lose Weight

Television, children, burgers and French friesChildren and Television - Helping Your Child Lose Weight: According to US researchers who followed 550 children aged 11 to 13 over a period of 20 months, for each hour they spent watching television, their food intake was found at the end of the period to have increased by 167 calories a day. The study was published in the Archives of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Help Your Child Lose Weight - K-State Nutrition Expert Offers Advice to Parents.

Greasy burgers and French fries, video games and lack of exercise are just a few reasons for the increasing number of overweight children. Recent studies show that children are more overweight today than children 20 years ago.

A Kansas State University expert on child nutrition says that children have poor eating habits, watch more television and are less physically active.

"Children are exercising a lot less," says Paula Peters. "They are less active in school with less physical education being offered, plus when they come home from school they may be sitting down in front of the television.

"We know that kids are watching more television than they used to, or playing video games rather than going outside to play, which could be the result of a lot of things," Peters added.

Many kids are at home alone after school, and many parents don't want their kids outside playing for safety reasons, so they sit in front of the TV instead, said Peters. It's society in general that is causing a lot of problems with our exercise, as well as our eating habits.

"If you look at data from 20 years ago, a lot of us are eating a little bit better than we did 20 years ago, even children," said Peters. "The amount of fat in our diets has gone down in the last 20 years, and the number of calories we're eating is probably not too much different than it was 20 years ago.

"But yet on the whole, we are becoming more and more overweight," Peters added. So we have to really think about what we might be doing that is causing us to be heavier."

According to Peters, parents influence what children eat, and they will eat what the parents eat even though a lot of parents think that the children don't pay attention to what they do and what they tell them to do.

Peters encourages healthy eating habits for the entire family, but she offers advice to parents who are concerned about their children being overweight:

* Parents should check with the family physician to make sure that their child really is overweight because people sometimes forget that humans come in all shapes and sizes, and we can look at a child and what looks overweight to us, may not be.

* We really don't want to put children on weight loss diets. Kids are growing very rapidly and if we limit the amount of energy, the amount of calories they take in, we could be limiting the amount of nutrients that they can get. And they need the nutrients to grow properly.

* Children need to trust their own body signals of hunger. When a parent limits food and a child is made to go hungry, they may become preoccupied with food. When food is available, they may overeat out of fear of going hungry again. Encourage children to eat until satisfied and then stop.

* If the child is overweight, teach them healthy eating habits. Rather than restricting the amount of calories they take in, or restricting a food group or a favorite food, it's better to help them develop some sound eating habits with a balanced diet.

* Families don't eat together often and they tend to snack constantly. We don't need to cut out snacks completely but have scheduled times when the snacks will be available, and then have some healthy foods for the children to choose from at those times. Parents should establish regular meals and snacks for the whole family.

* Exercise is also very important. Try spending more time playing with your child. This could include bike riding, walking, jumping rope or participating in an organized sport.

* It's really important to be careful what we say to children with regard to weight. Children can interpret a negative comment from a parent to mean the parent doesn't really love them, or doesn't accept them for how they look. It is important for their self-esteem to feel loved and accepted for who they are, not how they look.

"By following these guidelines and explaining to children that people are different and not everyone will be thin, we will promote healthy eating and exercise habits," said Peters. "This will go a long way toward decreasing the risk for overweight."

For questions, contact Paula Peters at 785-532-1666.
Source: K-State Media Relations, K-State's news service. Used with permission.

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