Parents often ask me how they can effectively manage their kids’ weight if only one child is overweight. The key is to emphasize healthy eating and appropriate portion sizes.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Health is health! Really, good nutrition is the same for all children (and adults) regardless of their weight.
  • Provide everyone with healthful choices.
  • Model appropriate portion sizes and the idea that one can stop eating when one is full – there is no need to clean the plate!
  • Discuss the importance of keeping the family healthy and how everyone should eat well and get exercise – our weight is the least relevant part of the equation.
  • Don’t single a child out for their weight or tell other children that something is “off limits” because of their sibling.

What are some healthful things we can do as a family?

  • Skip the sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages (including juice)! Have water instead.
  • Serve food on plates (not family-style) at meals. Start with small portions and allow people to get seconds in small portions if they are still hungry.
  • Allow unlimited consumption of vegetables if a child complains he or she is still hungry after a meal.
  • Have family meals! Modeling good eating habits and having an enjoyable time at family meals has many positive benefits.
  • Exercise together and make it fun! Have races, take walks, play games together. Don’t make it feel like a chore; rather, make it special time as a family.
  • Teach your children how to cook healthful foods. Studies show that the more engaged kids are with food preparation, the more accepting they will be of new foods.

If you are worried about your child’s weight, talk to your pediatrician.

Children’s National has a clinic for children and adolescents who are obese. If you think you may need additional help, contact the IDEAL Clinic at Children’s National at 202-476-7200.


Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two girls.

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