Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Role of Parents

Because so many factors outside the home affect nutrition and weight management, parents trying to keep their families healthy can feel helpless and overwhelmed. But there are things that parents can do to make a difference in children’s physical and emotional health. Modeling healthy behaviors for children is a parent’s best bet for teaching them to engage in healthy behaviors themselves. Here are some tips:

  • Make change a family affair: If everyone participates, you’ll wind up improving the whole family’s nutrition and activity levels.
  • Out of sight, out of mind: Help the whole family make better food choices by keeping poorer choices out of the house or at least in the back of the cupboard.
  • Forgo “family style”: Research shows that people consume more when serving dishes are left on the table. Try serving your family from the counter, so that seeking a second helping at least requires standing up and giving it some thought.
  • Speak up: Advocate in your children’s schools and with your local school board for a better nutrition and physical activity environment.
  • Speak out: Don’t tolerate weight-related teasing and bullying of your children or of anyone else’s. If there is a problem at school, address it.

Here are some resources we recommend for helping children manage weight:

Treatment of Overweight Children: Practical Strategies for Parents, by the Rudd Center's Kathryn Henderson, PhD, and Marlene Schwartz, PhD

Ending the Food Fight: Guide Your Child to a Healthy Weight in a Fast Food/Fake Food World, by David Ludwig and Suzanne Rostler

All Shapes and Sizes: Parenting your Overweight Child, by Teresa Pitman & Miriam Kaufman