It’s the worst feeling in the world, when somehow the world seems to think that you haven’t done your best for your child. Parenting and guilt are synonymous, but if your child is overweight, and particularly if someone else points this out, it can feel like falling into an abyss of failure. There are some practical tips, however, that can help you and your child eat healthily together. This isn’t a magic wand, but will help your child learn healthy eating habits, one of the best inheritances a parent can give.
- Don’t panic. If your child weighs more than is healthy, this will have built up over time, and will take time to address. Don’t rush into diets or healthy eating plans without taking a breath.
- Talk to a professional. Start by speaking to your child’s GP, or paediatrician if you have one. They can assess your child to see if their weight is a matter of concern. They may refer you to another practitioner for more specialist advice.
- Make one change at a time. It can seem overwhelming if you are presented with a whole new diet sheet for your child. Talk to the practitioner about what changes will make the most difference and prioritise.
- Simple swaps can be a great place to start. What sugary snacks can you swap out for sugarfree options? There are some healthy food swap tips from the NHS here. Again, change one thing at a time.
- If the professional has suggested that your child is eating too much, consider smaller portions. A smaller plate can help here.
- Make changes together: it is far easier if all the family swaps from white bread to brown, and makes it easier for your child to feel supported.
- Add in exercise. This doesn’t have to be a complete lifestyle change: perhaps start with a weekend family walk, or ask a friend if you can take a dog for a walk.
Remember always to seek professional advice before deciding that your child is overweight or needs to diet.
Information from this article is based on the book Food and Your Special Needs Child by Antonia Chitty and Victoria Dawson. Children with special needs and disabilities may have accompanying issues with food and eating. This practical guide for parents will help navigate this often difficult terrain. In typically developing children, eating problems are relatively common, affecting 20 – 40% of children. In children with special educational needs and disabilities, eating problems can be even more common; they can be severe and can take many different forms. Anyone who has a child between the ages of two and nineteen with an additional need and a food or eating difficulty will find this book useful. Discover practical tips from experts, plus read what has worked for other parents in similar situations