What to do when there is only one overweight child in the family

Families come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Usually within a family, adults and children will all come in a similar package, whether that be tall or short, but sometimes one member of the family might struggle with overweight, while the rest of the family are sitting in the healthy weight range.

What to do do when there is only one overweight child in the family

This is a problem that many families coming to visit Child Nutrition report. While being concerned about the health of one child, they worry about the effect making dietary changes will have on siblings.

Unless your child has already achieved their full height potential, it is rarely a goal for your child to lose weight. In childhood, the goal will always be for weight maintenance (weight to remain mostly unchanged) while height continues to track along its percentile curve.

All for one and one for all

The most important factor in ensuring your child is able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is for the whole family to be on the same journey together. This is a crucial time for them to feel united with the family and not singled out as being the only one who needs to ‘watch what they eat’.

A healthy weight is achieved, and maintained, when a diet includes a broad range of foods from all core food groups. Ensuring that there is a good spread of foods from each food group is essential and making sure that there are weekly ‘treat days’ too.

Recommendations made for your overweight child can be carried forward to all healthy-weight members of the family as there are no foods that anyone is not allowed to eat, there are no measuring cups or scales that need to be used. It is about setting up a healthy balance of food and activity as part of the day-to-day family routine.

No one NEEDS junk food

At review appointments, we hear all too often that the overweight child might be “helping themselves to treats in the pantry” or that families are “still getting through the easter eggs or the Halloween haul”. 

Try to minimise these temptations in the house (if these are ‘tempting’). Have a small share of these treats and then take them into the workplace for morning tea, or give away to a neighbour, or even better, try to find other non-treat ways to celebrate some of these festivities.

There is not a single member of any household who NEEDS to eat chocolates, lollies, soft drinks or other snacks of low nutritional value. Keep the cupboard, fridge and benchtop full of nutritious snacks such as fresh fruits and vegetables, yoghurts, milk and nuts. These are all jam packed full of nutrients which nourish and fuel our bodies.

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