Tween Weight Loss Tips for Parents

help your tween lose weight
Shestock/Blend Images/Getty Images

If you are the parent of a tween (usually a preteen aged 9 -13) then you're well aware of the many changes that happen during this rocky transition. It is not uncommon during this time for tweens to experience weight gain. While some weight fluctuations are expected due to growth, significant weight gain can result from poor food choices and a decrease in activity levels. As a parent, you may feel the need to step in and encourage healthy changes

Help Your Tween Eat a Healthy Diet 

If you notice your child is gaining weight, you may want him or her to avoid all junk food. But it's better to set boundaries and encourage portion control rather than complete restriction. Try not to refer to foods as "good" or "bad." Instead, talk about making choices to include more healthy foods and limit less healthy choices. 

This might be a challenge, but think about how boring eating would become if you never indulged in a treat! Sweets, cookies, and chips do not have to be forbidden as long as they are viewed as an occasional indulgence. By adopting a more reasonable stance, you may help your tween avoid binge eating episodes.

And try to keep in mind that you should not provide food as a reward or eliminate particular foods as punishment. Food should be viewed as a source of nourishment. Using it as a method of punishment can lead to confusion and even disordered eating.

Choose Healthy Foods for Your Tween

Instead of choosing all of your tween's food, ask him or her about the foods he or she enjoys most. Then discuss which of those foods provide the most nutritional benefits. Talk about how food provides fuel for school work and play. 

Then stock your shelves with healthy snacks.

You can also fill your refrigerator with nutritious foods that provide nourishment and flavor. It is important for tweens to have healthy snacks, so schedule and plan them just like you do meals. Snacking reduces hunger pangs between meals and takes the edge off of hunger before mealtimes, preventing overeating. 

You can also pack a healthy lunch for your tween to eat at school. But, bringing a brown bag lunch, instead of buying something to eat at school, can be a challenge at this age. To make things easier, let your tween help you plan and prepare bag lunches. Or encourage him/her to take lunch three days a week and buy lunch only twice.

Some healthy brown bag lunch foods include:

  • 100% whole-grain bread
  • Lean meat, such as turkey
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Baby carrots or sliced raw vegetables
  • Low-fat smoothies
  • Fruit
  • Whole-wheat tortillas
  • Small tossed salad
  • Soup (if a microwave is available)

Healthy Drink Choices for Tweens

Drinks account for a lot of the calories kids and teens take in.

When discussing your child's favorite beverages, offer suggestions for healthier alternatives. You may want to teach him or her how to make a healthy smoothie to enjoy instead of soda. 

Find out if soda machines are on school premises. While some schools are removing soda machines from their campuses after receiving criticism, don't assume your child's school has followed suit. Encourage your tween to purchase low-fat milk or water from drink vending machines, if they are available.

How to Help Your Tween Exercise

One of the most common reasons for weight gain during the tween years is a decrease in activity level. Your tween may spend more time using a computer, playing video games and watching television. It is important that you set a limit for the amount of "screen time" your tween is allowed. Make a time limit for these activities of no more than two hours a day.

Research has shown a direct connection between television viewing and childhood obesity. One survey showed that kids who watched four or more hours of television a day had significantly more body fat than kids who watched less. In other words, the more television a child watches, the more likely he or she is to be overweight.

To encourage activity, help your tween understand the many benefits of getting more exercise. If evening rolls around and your tween has not gotten any exercise all day, suggest she take a walk outside between homework and dinner. Or, after dinner, take a walk together. An ideal goal would be to get in a half an hour of activity for every hour of screen time each day.

Help Your Tween By Example

Of course, the best way to get your tween to pursue a healthier lifestyle is to consistently be a good example yourself. This may mean that you also need to become more active and spend less time at the computer or watching television. Plan, provide and participate in physical activities as a family as many days as possible.

To be more active on the weekend, consider some fun activities to do together, such as:

  • Going to a museum (there's lots of walking involved as you move from hall to hall)
  • Swimming at the community pool
  • Doing housework or yard work together
  • Taking a brisk walk around the mall before shopping
  • Going to a beginner's health club class together
  • Doing a fun exercise video together in your living room
  • Walking at a track, through a scenic area, or even just around the perimeter of your apartment building

Don't rely on your tween's school to provide her with opportunities to exercise. Many schools have had to cut activity programs in order to make room for other academic classes. So make healthy eating and exercise a family affair. Get active and eat healthy meals as a way to bond and connect with your tween.

*Edited by Malia Frey, Weight Loss Expert

Continue Reading