Tips from the Program

(Scroll down for Additional Tips)

All the Tips included here are based on extensive research on the most recent clinical findings and recommendations.

Begin early.
The experts all agree that early intervention is paramount—perhaps the most important thing of all.

Honesty is a must.
It’s difficult but crucial to recognize the problem. Buy-in from both the parents and the children is absolutely necessary. If a child isn’t ready, perhaps it’s best to wait before attempting to make significant changes.

Start small.
Little things can make the world of difference. Small changes are more doable and more likely to become permanent. The cumulative effect really adds up.

Awareness is key.
Pay attention to where and when you eat and what exactly you put into your children’s bodies. Become an informed consumer. If the list of ingredients is unpronounceable or too long to remember, don't feed it to your child.

Use smaller plates.
Laboratory research suggests that just reducing the size of the plate and the servings you offer your children will reduce their overall caloric intake.

Slow down.
Approach food mindfully. Take the time to listen to your own body. When are you genuinely hungry and when have you had enough? Your kids will pick up on this behavior.

Eat family meals.
Studies have shown that having family meals can make an enormous difference. Be sure to make the meals pleasant, not a time to talk about difficult issues and certainly not a time for conflict over food. Sit back and enjoy the food and the company and don’t stress out about what or how much your children are eating.

Turn off the TV.
Across the board, everyone in the know agrees it’s essential to put limits on screen-time.

Play with your kids.
Find ways to be more active that are enjoyable for both you and them. Start with activities your children already like to do.

Change your habits.
This is essential. Habits are very powerful and changing them can be difficult. But studies show that once families can find ways to make those first steps, they can and do create new habits.

You’re the role model.
Like it or not your kids take their cues more from what you do than from what you say.

It’s a family affair.
The changes you make need to involve the whole family and, in the end, the whole family will benefit.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” — Michael Pollan

Additional Tips

Take the stairs.
Walking stairs, particularly up stairs, is great exercise and can be easily slipped into your daily routine. Often it takes about the same amount of time as the elevator and the benefits really add up.

Don’t park so close.
Instead of driving around to find the closest parking spot, head to the corner of the parking lot – where you’ll find plenty of spaces and you’ll also give yourself the benefit of a few extra steps.

Get more sleep.
Research has shown that weight loss and maintenance require adequate sleep. It has also shown that most children do not receive as much sleep as they need.

Assess your own family’s situation, apart from what you hear and read about everyone else. Consume advice selectively in light of your own, personal needs. What are your own biggest challenges? Where are the areas where you can most easily make changes?

“Trade up” your habits.
Whenever possible try to make small substitutions in more healthful directions. Replace soda with juice, juice with fresh fruit or water. Replace sitting with standing, standing with walking, walking with running. Any move in the right direction is a good one.

Add fruits and veggies everywhere.
Studies have shown that adding extra veggies can cut total caloric consumption and improve health. It’s easy to put out some carrot sticks or apple slices before and during a meal. Slip in some extra veggies with soups, sandwiches, and main dishes - whether home-cooked, frozen, or take-out. Don’t expect your kids to make a beeline for them but they are more likely to start eating them the more they encounter them.

It doesn’t have to be sophisticated, expensive or time-consuming. Research has shown that families that cook their own food tend to eat more healthfully than those that do not.

Experiment with produce.
Take your children to the produce department and let them choose something new. Make it an adventure.

Aim for variety.
"Eat from the rainbow". (No, this doesn’t mean M&Ms or Skittles, but produce.) A good mix of color is a good sign that you’re diversifying your nutritional assets.

Bring your kids into the kitchen.
Involve them as much as possible in food preparation. This offers a wonderful venue for informal health education. And there’s an added benefit: When we prepare food all of our senses become engaged. We see it, touch it, and inhale its aroma. Studies have shown that this starts to trigger the satiety sensation in our brain well before we even take a bite – so that by the time we actually eat it, we feel full sooner and end up consuming less.

Eat at the table.
As often as possible make it a point to eat at a table, preferably with the family, and to avoid eating while doing other things or when in the car.

Relinquish your membership in the Clean Plate Club.
Resist the temptation to ask your kids to clean their plates. What they leave on their plates is probably what their bodies don’t need. You wouldn’t make them clean the plate if the food were poisonous. It might actually be more beneficial if that food went into the garbage than into their bodies. (Better yet, put it into the refrigerator for later.)

Do doggie-bags.
In this world of super-sized portions the only way to get your money’s worth and not overeat at restaurants is to make a habit of taking home the excess food you are served. That way you get two (or more) meals for the price of one and eating out need not mean over-eating.

Strive for moderation
Perhaps the only diet or approach to eating that has never been debunked, or even criticized, is moderation.

Be patient.
Keep reminding yourself that these changes take time. Try to resist rapid or dramatic change or your child (and perhaps you, yourself) will get overwhelmed and discouraged.

Be forgiving to your child and yourself.
If either of you slips up in trying to adopt more healthful behaviors – and you both will – remind yourself that it’s part of the process and that being hard on yourselves will probably just make things worse.

Get involved in the big picture.
Join forces for healthful changes in your child’s school and community. Find out what food and activity options are now available and what changes you can help to bring about. Change will only happen if enough of us work to create it.

Parents' Survival Guide © 2011