PORTLAND - The American Heart Association calls it the number one concern for parents – the weight of their children.
There’s good reason for the worry. In the past 30 years, the number of obese children has doubled.
“Obese is a tough word. Professionals don’t like to talk about it and families don’t like to either,” said Providence Dietitian Connie Warner.
Choosing the right words to discuss weight with kids is important. You risk hurting a child’s feelings and self esteem. In extreme cases, restricting what a child eats can lead to eating disorders.
“You have to approach it from the health issues it presents, “ explained Warner.
She says kids can understand the concept of weight effecting the heart or bones, but the words diet and scale don’t need to be mentioned.
Instead, she suggests talking about changes in behavior promoted by the Providence Healthy N’ Fit program.
“With kids, it’s a very visual thing. If you use a smaller plate they will think there is more food,” Warner remarked.
As for what to put on the plate, the recommendation from Choosemyplate.gov is half fruits and vegetables, a quarter of grains and a quarter of protein.
“Another rule of ours, is that if the food is in the house, everyone can eat it. The whole family has to be on board,” explained Warner. Exercise is also part of the equation.
“Children should be getting 60 minutes of activity a day and it’s a good idea to keep a log, because it can add up quickly,” said Providence Physical Therapist Stephanie Williams.
Nine-year-old Nyah Gannon follows the advice of the experts at the Providence Healthy N’ Fit program.
Her favorite foods and exercise routine are evidence.
“I like tomatoes, pickles and cucumbers and I dance or walk at recess and when I get home. It makes me feel better about myself,” she said.