The dietary goals for children and their families are well-balanced, healthy meals and a healthy approach to eating. These changes should be considered permanent rather than a temporary eating plan for rapid weight loss.
Here are some tips for eating a healthy, well-balanced diet:
- Avoid skipping meals (especially breakfast).
- Try to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein (meat and meat substitutes, dairy products, beans, eggs, or nuts and seeds) in each meal. Plan your meals and snacks so that you choose a variety of nutritious, tasty foods.
- Limit the serving size for snacks (maximum 1 to 2 snacks per day). Choose fresh fruit and yogurt or cheese, muffin or cereal and milk, half a sandwich, or crackers and cheese.
- Allow your child to enjoy favourite foods in moderation without feeling guilty. Choose low-energy treats (maximum 1 to 2 treats per week) such as sugar-free gum, 1 to 2 hard candies, 1 licorice stick, or Gummi Bears.
- Avoid having anything more than fruit after dinner so your child will be hungry for breakfast.
- Choose sugar-free drinks (e.g., sugar-free pop and Kool-Aid®, Crystal Light®, soda water, ice water). Avoid regular soda pop, juice, fruit drinks, regular Kool-Aid®, lemonade, honeydew, and flavoured waters. Remember it is better for your child to eat their calories than to drink them.
Exercise and activity level are just as important as calorie intake. Children (and adults for that matter) should be more active, not only for weight control, but also for general health and well-being. Here are some ways to help your child lead a healthy, active lifestyle:
- Encourage your child to aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity each day. Many different activities count. Bike riding, skating, and going to the playground after school are examples of moderate intensity physical activities. More intense or vigorous-type activities, like running, swimming, or rollerblading, should be done at least 3 days per week (after consultation with your child's doctor).
- Choose a variety of activities your child enjoys.
- Choose some activities that can be done from home, like walking, bike riding, dancing to music, and playing games outside.
- Limit screen time to 1 to 2 hours per day. Most doctors recommend less than 2 hours per day.
- If applicable, take the television out of your child's bedroom to limit viewing. One research study showed that children with a television set in their bedroom watched nearly 5 hours per week more than those without a bedroom television.
- Be a good role model – exercise with your child.
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