15 Ways to Help Your Chubby Child Grow into a Healthy Weight

Chubby toddlers are adorable.  

Many children go through a chubby phase, and most will grow out of it naturally.   

But how do you know that it’s more than just a phase?

When do you know it’s time to intervene?

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I spoke with board-certified pediatrician, Dr Natasha Pereira, to find out how she differentiates between normal childhood chubbiness and when it's a potential problem that needs to be addressed. Here's what she says:

Two year olds should have big bellies, but three year olds should be losing it. And after that they should look like a string bean. So if I'm not seeing those physique changes, I intervene.

Starting kindergarten with a high BMI (Body Mass Index) usually means they will stay that way through grade school.

Never make an issue about your child's weight or body type. Keep a joyful, positive attitude about food.

For best results make changes gradually and together as a family.

Grab your free pdfNutrition & Supplement Checklist for the Plant-Based Child and be confident you're providing the best nutrition for your little one!

The simple lifestyle changes below are easy to implement do meant for the long-term.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Below are 15 simple ways to help your child eat healthier and move more-- the keys to a lifelong healthy weight.

1.  Make water the beverage of choice

Get a fun water bottle for both mom and kiddo to sip all day long. Everything is more fun when you do it together, even drinking water from a cool bottle.

2.  Have your child eat what the family eats

Don’t make special meals for a picky child. When you first make changes, he may refuse to eat, but he’ll soon learn to eat what's offered if there aren't other options.

If you need more support with feeding a picky child, read this article.

Dr. Pereira tells moms and dads of her pint-sized patients, "It's your job to give them healthy food and their job to eat it. If they don't want to eat, never force them".

She also reminds parents, "Many kids don't really like dinner very much, so if they're not eating well at dinner, (don't worry) they will make up for it the next day".

3.  Don’t give into demands for unhealthy snacks

He may reject your healthy snacks at first, but he’ll come around.

A normal, healthy child won’t starve herself, I promise! 

It’s good for her to be hungry sometimes. When she's hungry, the healthy food will look and taste delicious and she'll be more open to it.

A little hunger does wonders for the appetite.

4.  Eat fresh fruit together, every day

plant based kids

Fruit is high in nutrition and low in calories.

By enjoying fruit for snacks together instead of refined sugary snacks, she'll naturally develop a love for fresh fruit.

Thanks to you, she'll enjoy the benefits of this healthy habit for her lifetime.

5.  Plan, plan, plan ahead for healthy snacks

Did you notice my emphasis on planning?

It'll be worth it to take an extra 5-10 minutes to pack a healthy snack to take along. It doesn't have to be fancy. Grapes and PBJ sandwich will do just fine.

Don’t end up in the fast food line because you didn’t plan ahead.

6.  Increase fiber rich foods

Eating a fiber-rich diet is one of the easiest ways to naturally move towards a healthy weight.

Fiber rich foods are filling, nutrient-dense, and will leave less room for unhealthier options. Fiber improves gut health, decreases inflammation, and relieves constipation.

Offer fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, greens and legumes.

Try meals of bean and lentil sloppy joes, bean burritos or tacos. Hummus, bean dip or edamame are delicious “bean” snacks.

To get an idea of how much fiber is in foods, you can track fiber intake with the Cronometer app.

In case you're wondering, fiber powders and fiber supplements will NOT give the same health benefit as fiber-rich real foods in their whole form.

7.  Walk or ride together

Go by foot, bike, or scooter to school, the store, or the park. Get those little legs moving as much as possible. Have fun!

Normalize walking. Don’t treat walking as extra work, but rather a normal part of your day.

family walking

8. Nix the dairy, especially cheese

Dairy, especially cheese, is high in saturated fat, sodium, and a concentrated source of calories.

It has been shown to cause constipation, increases inflammation, and has been linked to many health problems for children. Recent studies show cheese may have an addictive component that makes this unhealthy habit especially hard to break.

9.  Don’t soothe with food

It may be easy to offer a treat to calm your child's intense or unpleasant emotions.

Teach children to self soothe with methods like slow, deep breathing, jumping jacks, drawing, writing or talking it out.

Once a child knows other ways to self soothe, he'll have tools to help him manage stress that he can access all by himself, anytime--even when you aren't around.

10. Encourage outdoor play and getting dirty

Encourage running, climbing, digging and getting dirty.  Go puddle-jumping.

It’s good for body and soul!

11.  Get moving indoors on bad-weather days

When the weather isn't friendly enough for outdoor play, kids don't have to miss out on physical activity.

Build a fort or an obstacle course. Play Hide-and Seek, Simon says, Skip-it, 7-up, or Twister. Have a Dance Party or bean bag toss.  

Have a contest who can do the most jumping jacks, push-ups or wall-sits.

12.  Don't eat in front of a screen

Kids eat eat more, and are less satisfied when they are focused on a screen while eating. It's better to avoid screens during meal and snack times.

13.  Prepare yummy, healthy snacks together

Prep snacks together for now and later.

Together you can create popsicles, smoothies, apples and peanut butter, popcorn, avocado toast, nut-butter toast, baby carrots and hummus, berries, whole grain cereal, homemade mini muffins.  

Go to Pinterest for endless ideas of healthy kid-snacks.

14. Don't use snacks to cure boredom

When you rush in with a treat to rescue her from boredom, you create an unhealthy food habit she may find herself unable to break later on.

It's ok, even healthy, for kids to feel bored sometimes.

Boredom can be a blessing. It's the perfect opportunity for children to tap into their creativity and problem-solving skills.

15.  Be the change you want to see in your child

Get excited about yummy, healthy foods.  Show her how much you enjoy all things healthy and how good and strong you feel when eat them.

It’s more effective to model a desired behavior than to nag

In closing...

Your child is beautiful just the way he or she is.

But excess weight as a child can lead to unwanted issues with health and self-esteem throughout childhood and into adulthood.

I guess the moral of this story is: You can help your child develop healthy habits or unhealthy ones.

It's your choice.

But you will give her habits whether you're trying to or not.

Small changes in habits now, can make a big difference later on.

Dr. Natasha Pereira, pediatrician

Give your child the gift of healthy habits now, so she won't have the personal health battles later on.

Try one or two ideas from the list and see how it goes. You'll find kids adjust easier and quicker than you might think.

P.S . Grab your free pdfNutrition & Supplement Checklist for the Plant-Based Child and be confident you're providing the best nutrition for your little one!

Smiles,

Heidi