Small changes in diet such as decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, eating lower-calorie cereal alternatives for breakfast or a green salad could help teens battle weight.
Cara Ebbeling and other researchers at Children's Hospital Boston evaluated 103 teens -- half were asked to pick non-caloric or low-caloric drinks they liked and a supply of them was delivered to their homes, reported the health portal Health Central.
The other half were not asked for their favourite non-caloric drinks nor did they receive any. Over the 25-week study, the researchers found that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages dropped by 82 percent in the low-cal beverage group compared to the control group.
The low-cal choices included sugar-free sodas, non-caloric lemonade and ice tea, and bottled water.
When the researchers weighed the teens and re-measured their body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height), they found that heavier teens in the low-cal group lost about a pound a month.
The conclusions were reported in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The simple strategy comes at a time when many parents of teens are frustrated trying to help their overweight children. The rate of overweight children and teens between the ages 6 to 19 was 16 percent in 2002, triple the figure in 1980.
That 16 percent translates to nine million kids, according to estimates by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Small changes like the one tried in the study can be effective approaches to weight loss, said Lona Sandon, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
"A simple change of what is available in their [the teens'] environment helped them to decrease calorie levels without really being aware of it. This shows that our environment can have a profound effect on food choices."
Other small steps can also offer big payoffs for teens who want to lose weight -- or simply control it, Sandon said.
Parents can offer a lower-calorie cereal alternative for breakfast, for instance. And they can be sure a green, leafy salad with low-fat dressing is available with lunch and dinner.