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The Eight Ways We Are Making Our Children Fat

Tim Boyer's picture
Healthy vegetables

TODAY Show nutrition expert Joy Bauer lists the eight ways we as parents are making our children fat through well-meaning—but faulted—attempts to get our children to eat in conjunction with habits that are detrimental to a healthy lifestyle. A summary of Ms. Bauer’s list will show you some of the more common mistakes we make and how to fight the war against fat in our children as well as in ourselves.

Mistake 1: Telling kids to clean their plate
Current health and diet views are that our bodies will tell us when we are full and that we should listen to our stomachs. Ms. Bauer points out that a common mistake is to make our children finish all the food on their plates, even when they feel that they have had enough. She suggests one way to avoid this mistake is to provide only small to moderate portions at meals and to teach your child to stop when they feel full. Another bit of current dieting advice is to give your body time to keep up with your consumption. Eat slowly to avoid that over-full feeling when your eating outpaces your body’s reaction to the food.

Mistake 2: Offering sweet rewards
Bribing your children to eat their veggies with a reward of dessert is a common mistake parents likely learned from their parents. According to Ms. Bauer, doing so teaches your child that veggies are unappealing and less important than desserts. She advises parents to keep the issue of dishes separate from each other.

Mistake 3: Serving up too many snacks
Excessive snacking leads to accumulating calories that not only adds fat, but prevents children from eating a healthy meal at normal mealtimes. Three limits to keep in mind will take care of this common eating problem:
• Stick to a consistent meal and snack schedule
• Allow at least 2 hours between snacks and meals
• No more than 2-3 snacks a day, and limit them to about 150 calories each

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Mistake 4: Filling up on empty liquid calories
Sodas, sport drinks and fruit juices account for 10 to 15 percent of a child’s daily calories tallying at nearly an extra 300 empty, non-nutritional calories per day. Tips toward avoiding these sugar-powered drinks today are as follows:
• Limit beverage choices to water, low-fat milk and an occasional diluted 100 percent fruit juice
• Don’t introduce young kids to sugary waters, juice drinks or soda at a young age
• Set a good example by not drinking sugary beverages in front of your child

Mistake 5: Giving in to kids’ dinner demands
You’re the cook, so you are the boss. Take charge and don’t cave-in toward demands, pleas, whines, etc. for that grease burger with fries or chicken flavored nugget of fried lard and patented mystery ingredient. However, rather than rule with an iron spatula make an effort to find substitutions that will keep everyone happy in your kingdom. Ms. Bauer offers the following substitution recommendations:
• Lean meats like ground turkey in place of fatty ground chuck
• Low-fat dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt) in place of full-fat varieties
• Develop lighter versions of condiments—if they clamor for chicken nuggets and fries, prepare “baked” nuggets with “oven roasted” potato fries and a green vegetable
• Try whole-wheat pasta with marinara and turkey meatballs in place of heavier pasta dishes

Mistake 6: Letting kids overdose on screen time
According to Ms. Bauer, kids are exposed to a constant barrage of electronic media that can lead toward excessive weight in 3 ways:
1. Parked in front of the tube, children are totally sedentary when they could otherwise be occupied with active outdoor play or moving around.
2. Parked in front of the tube, children are likely mindlessly snacking on junk food while watching their shows.
3. Parked in front of the tube, children are being bombarded by unhealthy food ads.

To avoid this excess time in front of the tube and exposure to unhealthy diet habits, she suggests that the following measures will decrease their exposure to too much electronic distraction:
• Limit your kids to their favorite shows
• Don’t keep the TV on as background noise all day long
• Don’t allow the TV to be on during mealtimes
• Keep TVs and video game systems out of bedrooms and store their electronics—cell phones, video games, iPads, laptops, etc.—in a public space at the end of the day so they’re not staying up late to use them at night

Mistake 7: Letting kids stay up late
Recent studies have shown that constant tiredness from too little sleep or poor sleep can affect how our body registers when it’s hungry and when it’s not hungry. Such hunger miscues from their body can then lead to grazing behavior that can figuratively turn your child into a cow. To avoid this Ms. Bauer says that we must set a sleep routine for our children to ensure that they get enough sleep and to keep the stomach in sync with the body’s nutritional needs.

Mistake 8: Using strollers excessively
Too much stroller time and not enough toddling time can make for a sedentary child. When your child is able to take small steps, try taking ten-minute intervals of toddling and strolling time to get your child into the habit of moving on their own.