How to help your overweight child

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Marc Jacobson, who practices pediatric and adolescent medicine in Great Neck, N.Y., and is a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), acknowledges the challenges parents face in helping their kids maintain a healthful weight.

"Parents have to think about this before their kids become teenagers," Jacobson says. "They should engage in an active lifestyle as a family so it becomes a habit." But, he allows, "Thinking ahead is very hard. As a country, we don't do it so well."

Here are some ideas for helping your child get a handle on his or her weight:

-- Encourage them to find a physical activity they enjoy, one that doesn't depend on their joining a team. Dancing is a great example, Jacobson says. "Kids like it, and they don't think of it as exercise."

-- Make small changes that add up to extra movement. Park in the space farthest from the mall entrance. Take stairs instead of the elevator.

-- Involve everybody in the family, no matter what their size and shape. "Don't focus on the one kid who currently is overweight," he suggests.

-- "Try not to discuss weight or shape," he says. "Instead, talk about healthy, active living."

-- Follow the AAP-recommended "5-2-1-0" formula: 5 servings of fruit/vegetables per day, less than 2 hours of screen time, 1 hour of physical activity and no sweetened beverages. Recent research shows that girls who drank two or more sweetened beverages daily at age 5 were more likely to be overweight at age 15 than girls who drank less.

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