It can be unhelpful to focus on a child’s body weight, restrict their food intake or put them on a diet. This can have a range of unintended consequences, and we know this from years of doing precisely that as Dietitians and weight management Clinicians. This may cause negative or altered ideas about body image, self-image, self-esteem and actually cause other unhealthful eating practices. Young children need to understand that they are not to blame for their excessive weight gain, and they are fast learners to new ideas. Parents are their most important role models, and so whole family approaches to weight management for children are the best way forward.

Excessive weight gain in childhood adversely affects health, with obese children and teenagers five times more likely to be obese as adults. Children with excessive weight gain, or within the obese weight range for height, can benefit from a child-centred approach, which is best achieved when the whole family are involved in making changes to the food, feeding and eating. This provides visible and active day-to-day support for the child, helping them to learn through action, agency and adaption.

Carine offers assessment and regular consultations to families who want to make food changes, but don’t know where to start. It might seem like a huge task! She will take a close look at the role food plays within the family and the existing patterns of food-related behaviours. Cross generation history can be in important determinant of food behaviours. She will help you to focus on family-orientated food and nutrition goals, support meal planning, consider the way food, weight or bodies are talked about, as well as misconceptions around food, eating and nutrition. She typically uses a framework she calls Structure, Nurture and Boundaries. Aspects to address might include the following …

Structure Nurture Boundaries
Meal times and main family meal; snacks and packed lunches. How do you eat together?
Kitchen and food-related tasks – who does what? Who is cooking, what is cooking?Shopping planning; left overs, extra helpings. Understanding key nutrients; how do these nutrients support the body and what are good food sources eg. fibre, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, Omega 3’s, Vitamins A, B, C, D. Boosting food diversity and avoiding highly processed foods
Boosting the immune system through food diversity, supporting improved gut health and a diverse microbiota. Taking time for Family Meals. Chewing food well – what effect this has on the brain. Encouragement, Agency and Involvement. Praise, Encouragement and Feedback Mindful Parenting Troubleshooting, and asking what’s possible right now and what’s not. How are food boundaries understood, and what do they mean? Knowing when you (as a parent) need to take time out. Establishing boundaries around food. Avoiding battles over food, and seeing this as a longterm process. When saying no is OK