Obstacles to healthy eating

Overweight children are at risk for health problems such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Getting to a healthy weight can help lower these health risks. But the road to healthy weight may have obstacles. Sometimes it can be one step forward and two steps back.

How to overcome obstacles to healthy eating
Learning how to deal with these obstacles will help your child reach a healthy weight. But don’t put him or her on a weight-loss plan without your doctor’s permission. Use these tips to keep your child on the right path to wellness:

Accept that setbacks will occur. No matter how determined your child is to get control over his or her eating and activity habits, sometimes a child will move backwards. Maybe your child will overeat when feeling stressed about an upcoming test. View these as minor setbacks and don’t give up on the progress he or she has made so far. Encourage children to keep moving forward. When you let them help with food shopping, cooking, and planning active family outings, they will develop lifelong healthy habits from your example.
Approach holidays and special occasions with extra care. Many children – and adults – tend to gain weight during holidays and special occasions. These events that may last for days are often focused on food. Pay special attention to what your child is eating during this time. Your child can enjoy the special day by taking a break from his or her weight-loss plan, but for just the day. At birthday parties it’s okay to have ice cream and cake. But remind the child to take only one helping of each. For Halloween, suggest they exchange most of their candy loot for a toy or money. The key is to include these special occasions as part of your family’s daily nutrition and activity routines.
Continue healthy eating and exercise while on vacation. Healthy-eating and activity routines often take a back seat during vacation. Eating at fast-food restaurants on a long car trip or skipping daily exercise routines can lead to weight gain. Instead, have your family agree to continue nutritious eating habits while on vacation. Choose salads and low calorie dressing or grilled chicken sandwiches if you must eat at fast-food restaurants. And schedule some physical activity as well. Swim in the hotel pool or play catch on the beach. Remember that when you are on a trip, don’t take a vacation from nutritious eating and exercise.
Get family members involved. Family gatherings are often food feasts, especially when extended families get together. The favorite aunt may mean well by offering large food portions to a growing child. But it’s important to continue portion control and moderation at relatives’ homes. Invite family members to support your child on his or her path to better weight by getting them involved with your child’s healthy-eating and activity routines. Family members can have a great influence on one’s health and wellness.
Take note of when setbacks occur. Keeping a record of what your children are eating and their activity level may help you identify problem areas and when setbacks occur. Maybe they watch more TV instead of riding bikes when their friends can’t play. Help your child figure out the problem and how he or she can prevent setbacks from happening again. And move forward from there.
Stay optimistic! Don’t get frustrated by these setbacks or scold your child for them. Remember, no one is perfect. Once he or she moves forward again, don’t let your guard down and assume new obstacles won’t get in the way. Keep watching your child’s progress and make sure he or she doesn’t fall back into old habits. You are your kid’s greatest cheerleader.

Your child’s doctor is a great source for advice and support. Talk with him or her about managing these obstacles to better health.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for parents – ideas to help children maintain a healthy weight. Accessed: 08/02/2010 American Academy of Pediatrics. Managing setbacks and detours. Accessed: 08/02/2010 American Academy of Pediatrics. Overcoming weight-loss obstacles. Accessed: 08/02/2010

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