Walking Guide

Are Your Kids Making You Fat?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You start off the day with the best of eating and exercise intentions. You've prepped healthy meals and snacks, signed up for an afternoon spin class and plan to get in some extra steps during the little one's soccer practice.
 
But the kids have other ideas. The picky toddler boycotts the chicken and broccoli you prepared, fighting the meal until you finally cave and serve mac and cheese (but not before a few bites make it into your mouth). Then the baby spikes a mid-day fever, landing you at the pediatrician's office right when you're supposed to be climbing on the spin bike. And later, your favorite pint-sized kicker insists that you stay to watch every last minute of soccer practice, so that your planned walk goes by the wayside.
 
Are your kids making you fat?
 
Of course not—well, not directly. Each of us is in full control of what and how much we put in our bodies, and whether and how often we move said bodies. No one can make those decisions for us, and displaced blame—especially directed at the chicken nugget-loving, broccoli-snubbing offspring—won't get you any closer to your goals.
 
But hey, let's face it: Life is busy, and when you have kids depending on you for meals, rides and attention, it can be all too easy for those best of intentions to get shoved to the back burner. There are two main challenges parents often face when it comes to weight loss: eating unhealthy foods for the sake of the kids' tastes and giving up on exercise due to logistics or time constraints.
 
Whether you have toddlers, teenagers or any age in between, it is possible to meet their needs (and maybe even some of their wants) without sacrificing what's best for you.
 
Serve smaller portions of what they don’t like.
 
Summer Yule, MS, RDN, estimates that approximately one third of children are picky eaters, and that the pickiness will generally resolve by age five or six. "These children benefit from continual exposure to healthful foods, but tend to leave a lot of food on their plates while their palate expands," she explains. "This can mean that either a lot of food is being wasted—or the parent ends up eating the extra food."
 
If you're one of the many parents tasked with feeding picky eaters, Yule recommends serving them only a small bite of less preferred foods, rather than a whole serving. In this way the child can more easily experience success for “finishing their vegetables” (or another less preferred food), while getting exposure to a wider dietary variety and slowly becoming desensitized to the strong taste of these foods. And this also means there will be less uneaten food for you to finish later, if you're prone to impulsive plate-picking.
 
Track every BLT—or avoid them altogether.
 
No matter how healthy your meals are, it's easy to fall into the trap of finishing the kids' leftovers, which can add up to excess calories.
 
Liza Baker with Simply: Health Coaching stresses the importance of tracking everything you consume, even if it wasn't from your proper plate. "Be sure to include every BLT—every bite, lick and taste—including what you're finishing from the kids' plates," she says.
 
Even better, dietitian Chelsey Amer advises her clients to refrain from picking at all, as those extra BLTs may lead away from regularly scheduled meals and snacks in favor of all-day grazing, which isn’t good for the blood sugar or metabolism. "Also, you often don’t remember these BLTs, so you’re less satisfied from these eating experiences," Amer warns. "This can lead to eating beyond your needs."
 
Save kids' leftovers for later.
 
When they have three bites and are suddenly "full," you don't want to just throw away all that food you spent time and money preparing, nor do you want to give into eating a substantial amount of extra calories. There is a third option: If there is salvageable food left, pack it up for the kids to finish later (when they no doubt become again hungry moments later).
 
"If you immediately refrigerate room-temperature leftovers after dinner rather than letting them sit around for a long time, they will likely be safe," Baker notes. More care should be taken with proteins, especially animal proteins, she says, but in general, most starches and vegetables should be fine to save.
 
Prepare the same foods for everyone.
 
It's easy to fall into the trap of cooking two meals: one for the adults and one for the kids. This might keep the peace for today, but it establishes an unhealthy precedent and also makes you more vulnerable to sampling the unhealthy fare on their plates.
 
"Somewhere along the line, we decided that kids don't eat adult food," Baker points out. "The notion is affirmed by most kids' menus out there—a long list of pizza, nuggets, mac and cheese, burgers, fries. This becomes a vicious cycle, as kids start to think that they should be eating these foods daily, and parents succumb to their demands because it's just easier not to fight one more battle every day."

Baker suggests talking to your kids and explaining that these types of foods are not healthy. Yes, they taste good, and it's fine to have them on occasion as treats—but meals at home can be equally delicious and also much better for them.
 
Give the snack cupboard an overhaul.
 
When children are in the house, it's easy to wind up with a pantry and fridge that’s stocked with snacks you might not choose for yourself (Cheez-Its, Twinkies, Kool-Aid…the list goes on). In addition to being unhealthy for the kids, another danger is that you could end up snacking on them yourself.
 
"The reality is, if a snack is not healthy enough for you, it is not healthy enough for your children," notes weight loss therapist Dr. Candice Seti. "Instead of treating them to these unhealthy snacks, give them options you can feel good about and that will provide them with lots of nutrients."
 
Some healthier snacking choices include yogurt, cheese, veggies and hummus, dried fruit, nuts, natural peanut butter and whole-grain crackers.
 
Involve the kids in exercise.
 
Don't let lack of childcare stand in the way of your workouts. Yule points out that there are many ways to get physical activity with kids in tow, so you'll be modeling healthy behavior while burning calories. Some ideas include running around with water guns or water balloons, going on a bike ride together, playing tag, playing hide-and-seek, dancing to silly music, doing yoga, roller skating at a local park or simply going out for a walk. If the kids are old enough, you could even invite them to do an exercise video with you.
 
"Put your small child in a stroller and go for your walk or run, let your older children scooter or bike next to you or go for a run with your teen," Baker suggests. "It's vital that they see you moving your body and move their own!"
 
Make cooking a fun family activity.
 
When the kiddos are involved in the food prep process, they'll become more engaged with the meal and will be much more likely to eat it, notes Baker. She suggests setting up a bar with bowls, tacos, burritos, nachos, baked potatoes, chili, salads or anything that allows kids to assemble their own foods using a variety of healthy toppings.
 
"If they 'make' it themselves, they're much more likely to eat it," Baker says.
 
She also recommends preparing simple, mix-and-match meals, with the idea that if you make a protein, a starch and a vegetable, there should always be two or three components that everyone will eat. "If they don't like the meat, let them eat rice and veggies; if they don't like the veggies, let them eat meat and potatoes, and so on," she suggests. "Try to vary the menu so that over the course of a week (not necessarily a day), everyone has some protein, carbs and veggies that they like."
 
Simplify and seek help.
 
If your children's activities are monopolizing your free time and making it impossible to fit in exercise, meditation or any sort of "you time" that promotes your health and relaxation, Baker says it's time to reevaluate. Look at ways to simplify your schedule—perhaps you can limit each child to one after-school sport or activity. You can also look for opportunities to carpool with other parents or coordinate childcare swaps to lighten your load.
 
SparkPeople member ENGINEERMOM says her family has limited after-school activities, focusing instead on spending time together as a family. She concentrates on teaching them how to cook, having family dinners together and going for walks and bike rides. "Good food and great movement are something we share together," she says.
 
Learn to view your kids as motivation.
 
"My kids are my motivation and models, not my problem," ENGINEERMOM says. "I want to stay alive and functional so I'll be around to ride 100 miles with them, like my 65-year-old dad does with me."
 
By teaching her kids how to have a good relationship with all types of food, to listen to their hunger and satiety cues, and to pay attention to how they feel after eating, ENGINEERMOM says that she ultimately repaired her own relationship with food.
 
How do you ensure that your kids are satisfied and happy, while keeping your own healthy habits on track?

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Comments

NANCYPAT1 11/18/2018
Eating healthy is good for the kids and when you start out as babies, lots easier than when they are older. Report
NANCYPAT1 11/18/2018
Eating healthy is good for the kids and when you start out as babies, lots easier than when they are older. Report
KATHYJO56 11/8/2018
Great article Report
SHOAPIE 11/1/2018
Thanks. Report
BONIFIANT 11/1/2018
The answer is that when they were small - "yes." Having been raised to never waste food I used to finish their left-overs. Then when I started doing that with the grand-children I decided, "No more." Report
BONIFIANT 11/1/2018
The answer is that when they were small - "yes." Having been raised to never waste food I used to finish their left-overs. Then when I started doing that with the grand-children I decided, "No more." Report
CHRIS3874 10/31/2018
What I found frustrating about this article is that it seemed to only promote the 2 extremes- giving in or expecting them to eat everything and anything, I grew up being terrified of needles (as a kid) and listening to my mom threaten to send me for IRON SHOTS if I did not eat my egg whites. Oh and don't get me started about having to stay sitting at the table being stared down by both parents because///i did not want apple or raisin (never mind I didn't want it to begin with ). Food should never, ever be used as a control. Report
DARKOCEAN 10/31/2018
This doesn't work:

Quote: "you have to taste a tsp of the food and then if you don't like it you didn't have to eat it."

Well, my son would eat a bite and say he didn't like... everything.

Get rid of candy, and all non healthy snack food and watch in a couple of weeks they suddenly like eating everything, okay not everything but much much more then before. Processed suger is the mann problem as its so addictive! Get it out of the house. Report
DARKOCEAN 10/31/2018
Freeze the left overs, put in the fridge, or throw away! Why? I'd rather throw it away then wear it! 🤢😖 Report
DARKOCEAN 10/31/2018
Oh right, I forgot, they have to see you eat the foid to. Sometimes the best way is to make up a plate for yourself when they aren't houngrtmy (like at breakfast) and start eating they'll probably want some soon (hea.) Report
DARKOCEAN 10/31/2018
Excuse my typos this app kept laging on me and I just couldn't seem to tap the correct key! Report
DARKOCEAN 10/31/2018
Stupid artile, teach your kuds to eat healthy ftom the start and you won't have this problem. When they get older go for walks with them. Often I like to go to the gas station to get monster 0 and as its just a mile away I take my 9 year old boy with. Its easy.

As for fighting about what foids to eat whos parent? It shure isn't your child! Put your foit diwn and stand firm. When it comes to health and safety we can't fail. I have two options for lunch and supper: 1. Take it. 2. Or leave it.

If my boy won't eat and I know he likes it, but trys to get me to give a treat then he gets one more chance to eat before I put it in the fridge, He has to wait two hours for pulling that b.s. This isn't mean it gives him time to feal his hounger, knowing what it feeks like is important in teaching kids when they really are houngry.

My boy has been becoming more independent latly so to ease his fustrations I sill sonetimes let him pic the meal. This year I've added in teaching him to cook.

Non of this would work with out being consistent. Let them throw a fit; what would happen, the world's going to explode? Ha. Report
AZMOMXTWO 10/31/2018
thank you Report
97MONTY 10/31/2018
Thanks for the info Report
LIS193 10/31/2018
Thanks Report
CECTARR 10/31/2018
Don't give your kids junk Report
JANET552 10/31/2018
Great Report
PICKIE98 10/31/2018
no. Report
AQUAGIRL08 10/31/2018
Great information! I used to give my daughter three peas, green beans etc. on her plate at dinner time. She wanted to know why I got a pile of them and she only got three. To this day, she loves veggies ! Report
HEALTHYME98 10/31/2018
I had this problem when my kids were little, but now, they want to eat healthier, too. Report
NEPTUNE1939 10/31/2018
ty Report
RAPUNZEL53 10/31/2018
Interesting. Report
AMYRCMK 10/31/2018
Thank you Report
JANETEMILY 10/31/2018
My youngest is now 27 - but autistic and developmentally disabled, so a very picky eater. I decided long ago to eat differently. We all generally have the same protein for meals, but the sides are different. Even my husband doesn't like the same vegetables I do! Report
KITTYHAWK1949 10/30/2018
It was hard after losing 100 # when adopted a 9 yr old who was a picky eater and I couldn't resist temptations. Report
KHALIA2 10/29/2018
I am guilty of this one. I have eaten the food that my children have left on their plates. Report
BIKE4HEALTH 10/29/2018
Good stuff...thanks Report
ANHELIC 10/28/2018
Great article. Report
JANIEWWJD 10/27/2018
Loved this article!!! Report
GRANNYOF05 10/26/2018
It's not my kids, it's my husband. He's the carb addict. Report
MNABOY 10/26/2018
Thanks Report
NELLJONES 10/25/2018
It must be a generational thing. I didn't make my parents fat, and my kids didn't make me fat, but that was a generation ago. Report
KHALIA2 10/24/2018
Great info! Thanks! Report
ANHELIC 10/24/2018
Thanks for the information. Report
1CRAZYDOG 10/24/2018
My kids are grown now, but I learned quickly that I had to be a good example and also set guidelines. We have a rule, you have to taste a tsp of the food and then if you don't like it you didn't have to eat it. I DID make sure there was at least one or two things @ supper that they DID like.

Report
MUSICNUT 9/24/2018
Thanks for a great article! :) Report
KAGOME412 6/20/2018
I think the hardest part is to make large portions and still eat small ones . When helping kids eat I would often model proper eating, when if I wasn't hungry. So learning to mindful was a big deal for me.

Thanks for the article. Report
DJ4HEALTH 4/19/2018
It depends on how you eat, not your children Report
ROSSYFLOSSY 4/16/2018
Interesting perspective. Report
I used to have a hard time not finishing my children's plate. Now what I do is wait until they've finished eating and then I start eating so now I only eat once instead of twice. Report
GLENMORRISGIRL
I wish this blog had a different title - maybe are you making your kids malnourished? I see plenty of of "skinny" kids who eat nothing but junk in their lunches - the healthiest item is too often the white bread their bologna sandwich is made with. Where as my own children, who do struggle with their weight eat very nutritional lunches filled with fruit and vegetables, yogurt, and whole wheat bread products - no juices and usually only white milk. The "fat" focus is a little offensive and very misfocused. There are lots of families with thin kids who eat very poorly and their health will show it in years to come. Report
I gained the most weight of my life when my older children were little. I weighed more when the 2nd child was age 2, than I did a few days before he was born. It was then that I joined a gym and started working out. I lost almost all the weight and then had a 3rd and then a 4th child. After each of them were born, the weight came off rather quickly. It was when the 4th was a few months old that someone told me about SP. I then learned about healthy eating as well as a healthy/active lifestyle. WOW, what a difference eating well AND working out does! Thanks SP - and never will I "finish my childs plate" for them (thats how I gained most of it in the first place) Also the younger ones never eat out or eat fast food. The 3rd child was 6yrs old before she had McDs for the first time (she had been begging to go for more than a year, so we finally took her 2 months after her bday) She'll be 7 this week and only been there twice - the 2nd time only for an ice cream. And they also have only been to Taco bell twice.
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A huge help in losing weight: give yourself permission to NOT finish your child's meal! Report
I had overlooked the value of using frozen dinners instead of fast food. I used to eat them a lot when I was pregnant. I imagine they do have a lot more food value for the calories. Report
There was another part to gaining from having kids that this didn't mention, but I remember quite well. When eating meals, a parent is often distracted by trying to get the child(ren) to eat, not play or fight. Food is prepared in larger amounts so growing child(ren) have enough - but that means portion sizes vary and are less likely to be measured out. AND, worst of all, there's the cleanup tendency to eat the last few bites on the child(ren)'s plates rather than scrape it into the trash or combine it back into any leftovers.

Remembering to be conscious / mindful of the food eaten is important - especially with such active distractions. Report
+1 million to getting your healthy habits in place BEFORE having kids!!!!! It is no different after kids, except the scheduling is a tiny bit trickier. It's amazing how many people would rather try to figure out how to balance young children and start trying to get healthy at the same time. Report
And make exercise fun for the whole family - get out and PLAY together! Report
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