It is important for children to eat a variety of foods. However, when it comes to vegetables, it’s always complicated. Yet it takes is a little creativity to make them love vegetables, which is the case with the veggie meals like Nutrisystem’s offers.

The good news is that there is a cooking workshop in Paris offering children cooking lessons every Wednesday. This is an opportunity for them to become real chefs!

It is not enough to look at or even weigh a child to know if he or she is too big. The height must also be considered to find out the weight and height ratio. We must also take into account the age and gender of the child, and this requires calculating the BMI (weight in kilograms divided by twice the height in meters). Doing so will allow an accurate comparison to a development curve established on the basis of a representative sample of children. If the child’s BMI is above the healthy weight zone, he or she is considered overweight.

On the said curve, one can see that being overweight varies with age. It increases the first year (until the child walks). Then, the child matures and gradually decreases body size in six years and increases again with the arrival of puberty under the influence of hormones. However, this can be managed with a well-balanced diet, which Nutrisystem provides.

How many times a year do you calculate BMI? 

It is recommended to weigh and measure children once or twice a year to monitor the BMI curve on the health record. If the curve rises too early (before age 6), it should be monitored more regularly (every two/three months) to see if this is a blip or the onset of obesity.

What are the causes of excess weight?

Being overweight is not the result of “bad diet,” where children and parents would be solely responsible and all children would have no risk of becoming fat. There are predisposing factors and genetics. It is has been established that size and weight is transmitted by genes. The environment (diet, physical activity) only reveals the predisposition. It affects about 20% of children (15% overweight and 5% obese).

Can we bring a child to a nutritional plan if he or she is a little round?

We should not put kids on an adult diet as it is ineffective or even harmful in the long term. In the vast majority of cases, the goal is not to lose weight but to slow the progression of the BMI curve – something that calorie-counted meal plans like those of Nutrisystem support. The management is based on the principles of therapeutic education and involves the whole family to avoid isolating the child within the family. It is a long-term approach.

In practice, what can you advise?

We need food education oriented on controlling calories while respecting the tastes of the child, who usually, albeit normally, prefer sweet foods. A child needs to eat sweets. Rather than risk him or her eating in secret, it is given in place of dessert, snack, or breakfast.

Another rule is not serving excessive quantities. A 5-year-old child does not eat as much as his 12-year-old brother! Do not hesitate to serve in small plates so that the child feels he had enough, as in Loop O (small, medium and large bowl). Do not force the child to finish his or her meal when no longer hungry in order to recognize satiety signals.

Should we force them to take breakfast if they are not hungry?

Overall, energy inputs are distributed as follows: 20% at breakfast, 20% snack, 30% lunch, and dinner 30%. But this is not an obligation to be strictly followed. Many children do not eat breakfast and still manage to do well. We often tend to force those who are overweight to eat, thinking that they might go snacking. In reality, they will still snack because they do not base consumption on hunger but on pleasure or friendships. So, it is unnecessary to force them to eat more.

What is a healthy breakfast?

We need carbohydrates as supplied by bread or cereal, which are also featured in Nutrisystem breakfast plans. Filled cereals are fatty but others are reasonable and generally provide less than 400 calories per 100g. Bread with butter, jam, or chocolate (even chocolate spread at reasonable quantities) are less caloric options. A dairy food for calcium is good, as well as fruit. Drinking juice is not recommended for weight management.

What about the canteen?

Canteens are rarely gourmet restaurants. The most important thing is that children eat something when they have lunch there. Do not ask them to eat healthy because it is not always possible. You should know that, over a full year, meals in the canteen only make up 12% of the total energy intake. So it does not matter if they eat fries or breaded fish from Nutrisystem, for example.

Should dinner be brought regardless of the canteen?

If possible, yes, dinner should be brought in by the child, especially vegetable meals, which are not very popular in the canteen. It is sometimes easier to make them eat mashed gratin (which also provides calcium). But there is no reason not to give starchy or protein-rich food in the evening.

As is often said, it is all about balance. Food education is part of education in general and it’s hard! Studies show that parental control that is too strict is deleterious because it will encourage excessive consumption when food is available. We must find a balance, which is not always simple. However, there are ways to simplify the balancing act, with one of them involving pre-portioned meals like those of Nutrisystem.

Making children love vegetables

By following the course every Wednesday, children can become true leaders.

It is very important for children to eat a variety of food. And when it comes to vegetables, it’s always complicated. Yet it takes is a little creativity to make them love vegetables. One proof of this is the children’s cooking class in Paris – the workshop of the senses.