You have a dilemma.
You notice your child or teen has gained a few extra pounds. Maybe he’s not as active as he used to be, or maybe she is off-season in her sport. Maybe you notice an uptick in eating. Or perhaps your teen has returned from college and is sporting some extra weight.
Whatever the root of the problem may be, you see a dilemma.
The Dilemma About Weight
The dilemma is this: you see a need for healthier food choices, more exercise, or both, but you don’t want to suggest a diet or dieting.
You know that commenting on weight or eating can jeopardize self-esteem in kids. And, you know that dieting is risky business in teens who may already be taking a lot of risks.
What you really want to know is this:
How can you change the outcome without causing more harm?
How can you tweak things to encourage healthy eating, more exercise and better lifestyle choices without being obvious, hurtful, or stigmatizing your child?
What you need are some non-diet weight loss tips.
9 Simple Non-Diet Weight Loss Tips for Kids and Teens
Guess what? You can help your child or teen cut calories without dieting.
And you won’t even have to say a thing.
Just use these simple, non-diet weight loss steps and turn unhealthy eating and exercise patterns into healthy habits:
If you have a soda drinker on your hands, start to make the switch to diet soda. Regular soda has about 130 calories per can; diet soda has zero calories. While I don’t encourage soda drinking in general (diet or regular), I have found that many kids and teens that do drink regular soda need a weaning step before they can give it up completely. The switch to diet soda is a reasonable step on the way to getting off of soda completely or significantly down-grading it. Of course, if your child or teen can give it up altogether, go for it!
Water is the best drink ever: it’s calorie-free, portable, and easy to flavor naturally. Stock it so it’s readily available, such as with filled re-usable water bottles, a water bubbler, or a cold pitcher of water in the fridge. Check out these fun, fruity, homemade soda recipes that stand in for soda without all the sugar and calories.
Limit Fun Foods
Fun Foods, or sweets and treats, are those foods that are typically offered at celebrations such as desserts, candy, chips and other snack foods.
Unfortunately, many kids and teens are eating too many of these foods in their diet. To shave off some calories, stop the weekly shopping for these items and if you do, follow the 90-10 Rule, picking one or two Fun Foods to have in the house at most on a given day. Be sure to keep portions petite.
Don’t let them skip breakfast or lunch
Skipping meals, especially breakfast and lunch, is a big no-no and a common mistake many kids and teenagers make. Aside from missing out on important nutrients, skipping meals underfeeds the body for its daily work, whether it be playing a sport, other physical activity, or learning. Perhaps worst of all, it leads to a voracious appetite and a probability of overeating late in the day when your child or teen is unwinding and may be more sedentary. Instead, front-load the day with a healthy breakfast and lunch, and light-load eating at the end of the day.
Watch the coffee drinks
Yes, coffee and coffee drinks are popular amongst some kids and many teens. But what they may not realize is their favorite coffee drinks may add significant amounts of sugar, fat and calories to their day. A better alternative would be no coffee at all (yeah, right, Mom!), plain coffee, coffee with low fat milk and sugar (or sugar substitute if preferred), or having a coffee drink only once or twice a week. Step in before the habit gets started if you can, otherwise, set some limits.
Exercise has many benefits, but it won’t necessarily help your child or teen lose weight if he or she still eats a high calorie diet. Even if your child or teen isn’t involved in organized sports, exercise should be part of their day to day routine. The truth? Pairing exercise and a healthy diet together is when the real magic happens with health and weight loss. Give your kids lots of ideas about exercise, advocate for it, and let him or her choose what to do.
Nix eating late at night
There’s a reason why the rule of not eating after 8 pm surfaced (even though it’s not scientifically-based)—most people don’t move their bodies much at all in the evening, so anything that is eaten generally gets processed in the body (not burned off) and stored. In other words, late night eating can mean extra calories and weight gain. If your child or teen is in this unhealthy habit, suggest a new routine such as light exercise, a cup of herbal tea, or going to bed earlier.
Watch out for social eating
Many teens, in particular, like to anchor their social gatherings around eating. But this can be a contributor to excess calories as dining out is generally a higher load of calories than eating in. Switch up the food focus by encouraging social gatherings around community service, group exercise, and study groups, for example. At least encourage cooking a healthy dinner with friends if eating together is the preferred mode of socializing.
Loop in feedback
Some of the best motivating tools for healthy eating and exercise are apps and tools that let your child and teen know how their doing while they make healthy changes. Take care to assess whether this would be a positive addition for your child. While they can be positively motivating for kids, for others they may fuel disordered eating and exercise.
What healthy habits would you suggest?
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Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: July 29, 2015
Updated on: August 14, 2019