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Top 3 Ways to Get Your Child to Choose Healthy Foods

Teach healthy food choicesI spend a lot of time in my family nutrition practice helping parents with their “picky eaters.” That could be the primary reason for their visit, or the picky eating could be complicated by a diagnosis that requires a child to go on a special diet in which their favorite foods are no longer on the menu. This adds layers to their nutrition issues and it is my job to peel the proverbial onion.

How do we transition our kids to the right path with minimal conflicts? What are the underlying issues associated with food battles? Every child is unique, and that cannot be understated. But there are some common denominators with them and hopefully this post will provide you with some ideas to chew on.

It is not a news flash to you that kids want to make their own choices. When parents force things on their children, the natural thing they do is push back. But does that mean we should give children all the decision-making when it comes to eating? Absolutely not. Parents often take this thought too far in allowing their children to make too many choices on their own. It’s all about guiding them. With food, provide acceptable choices from which they may choose. That is the main theme, and here are three of the most important ways in which you can implement them:

  1. Expose your children repeatedly. Expose your children to a variety of foods. This should start super early in your child’s life and continue as they grow older. Do not delete a food off your child’s menu because they reject it one time or even multiple times. Avoid saying statements such as, “He/she does not like (fill in the food).” A child’s body is growing and developing – and that includes their taste buds! Parents provide the healthy meals and the child gets to choose to eat them or not. If they don’t eat dinner because they don’t like how it looks, that’s OK! But don’t provide an alternate meal of their choice, and don’t allow them to have a snack after dinner of their own food preference. This will never encourage them to try new foods! Stay strong, Mom and Dad. If they are hungry later, you can tell them that you are more than happy to heat up their dinner plate. If you stick to your guns on this one and your kids see that throwing a tantrum does NOT get their way, they will eat the dinner. If you have this in place from the beginning, it’s less of a struggle. They don’t know any different. But if you have done this wrong in the past, communicate that this is the new way and we are not going back.
  2. Assess your home’s food environment. Each new year should involve going through the kitchen and doing a food balance assessment. When you look into your pantry and/or fridge, are 90% of the available foods healthy? If not, you may need to make some changes. We must fill our home with “always” foods and if there are any “sometimes” foods that are being over consumed, remove them from your home. Make healthy foods ready-to-eat so those snacks are as easy as grabbing a bag of chips.
  3. Involve your children. Your entire family must be a part of the entire feeding process. That includes planning, shopping (or growing!), preparing, eating and cleaning. The parents are in charge (and must stay in charge), but the children should be involved as helpers in age-appropriate ways. A toddler can help set the table while a teenager can be in charge of cooking one night. Involve your children in the “why’s” behind healthy eating as well. A family is a team and teams must work together to stay healthy so they can meet all their life’s goals. Food is literally the fuel for our precious bodies! Use the MyPlate visual as a guide to help plan meals, and have your children (school-age or older) make their own school lunches that include all the items. If they buy their lunch, go over the school menu and encourage them to use the MyPlate when choosing their lunch.

How ironic is it that being a parent is THE hardest job on the planet and there is no training manual? When it comes to raising healthy eaters, constantly be thinking about the behaviors around feeding children. Empower them to make the healthy choices so they will choose them on their own. That, my friends, is the key to raising a healthy adult.

Can Your Pediatrician Help With Your Child’s Weight Control?

Boy on scaleOne of the most frequent problems I run into as a practicing Pediatrician is overweight issues in children. It is a very prevalent problem now in Pediatrics as the population as a whole is overweight and this issue tends to begin in childhood and tracks through to adulthood. It is probably true that overweight parents tend to have overweight children; not out of any malicious cause but for a number of reasons including poor education and parental observation and habits.

When I tell an overweight parent that his/her child is overweight (using height and weight charts and BMI as back up data) or even obese I receive one of two responses. Either they have been aware of this but totally unsuccessful at any attempts to alter that situation, or they seem to be totally surprised at the assessment. The first response is a good one although not optimal; the second response is very difficult to work through. Everyone seems to be aware that obesity can and does lead to such adult life shortening diagnoses such as Diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac events and strokes among the top of the list – there are others.

It is my responsibility as a Pediatrician to alter the course of these diagnoses by working on the problem during childhood, and helping to educate a family to all that I mentioned above. I have failed when an overweight child becomes an overweight adult – and I don’t like failure.

I believe that most Pediatricians feel the same and take this responsibility very seriously. Your Pediatrician is, along with you as parents, your child’s advocate and this is clearly stated in the mission of the Academy of Pediatrics. You have a passionate ally in your effort to keep your child healthy but you must listen to the education and suggestions of that person and try to incorporate that into a new family philosophy. Weight loss is much easier when begun early in life and becomes as difficult as in adults after the age of about 11-13yrs old, but not impossible. It will take commitment and energy to keep your child on the course of a healthy life style so that overweight issues are brought under control – and the natural course is interrupted.

My ultimate goal initially, is not necessarily weight loss but involves attempting to slowly change life styles so that weight loss becomes the eventual outcome. This will take a long time to accomplish but if one can only keep his/her eye on the goal – we can make it happen.

Overweight & Obese Kids: What’s Going On & What Can We Do?

The problem:

About one out of three American children can be considered overweight and that rate is growing very rapidly. Additionally, according to the CDC, in the years 2015-16, approximately 14-20% of our kids were considered obese. The causes are multiple and are most likely societal in nature and not caused by a health condition. Most parents who realize that their child is overweight come to the Doctor to have “their glands checked”. It seems just about everyone knows someone who has a thyroid or other glandular condition that has been blamed for that person being overweight. In fact, a medical problem in kids is one of the least likely causes for obesity.

If one takes time to carefully dissect our current society one would easily be able to notice the low rates of exercise in children and the high rates of sedentary activities. The television and the computer now rank among the chief contributors to the increase in overweight children. In addition, local budget cuts have resulted in elimination of some physical education and intramural sports. And yet another reason for obesity in our kids may be the result of the busy lifestyle of some dual working parents who have very little time to prepare healthy foods- so it‘s fast foods for the night, and it is easy to find the root causes for obesity in this country. As easy as it is to pinpoint some of the reasons for obesity, it is extremely difficult to do something positive about it.

Not only is it time consuming to prepare healthy meals but it is more expensive to buy than a typical American diet and in this economic slump it might not be the first place people wish to spend their money.

On top of these reasons there are certain environmental and familial factors that will contribute to overweight children. If the familial body type is not thin and wiry, this trend will tend to continue through generations and it becomes easy to “blame” the overweight problem on “genetics”. In fact most overweight kids have overweight parents who just do not recognize the “problem” in their children.

What to do

Again, the first thing to do if you think your child is overweight is to take him or her to the primary care provider for an evaluation, looking for the rare and very unlikely medical cause. The diplomatic nature of the approach your Doctor may take to this problem might belie the serious nature of the issue. Beware, it is very serious! The use, by your health care provider, of graphs and charts in the office at the time of the discussion can be very helpful to you, pay attention.

Your Doctor may discuss in front of your child and in a very frank manner, all the medical repercussions of becoming an overweight adult: high blood pressure, increased rates of diabetes, heart disease and strokes just to mention a few. Your child will probably be asked to help resolve this problem. That is very important because without his/her help any attempts will probably fail. After all, you can only control what your child eats when he/she is in the house: once out of the house for the day, it’s all on him or her- that’s tough!

The following are some ideas I believe can help when approaching your overweight child.

Diet related issues

Before you begin to count calories there are some simple mechanisms to put into place.

  • Feed your child on a smaller plate than usual but fill the plate- the visuals help to keep the total intake down.
  • Do not allow “seconds” and desserts should consist of such dishes as fruits and low fat products.
  • Watch out for the “innocence of toppings”. These may carry the majority of calories in the dish you are preparing: low fat or no fat substitutes can now be found in your supermarket for salad dressings etc. You can probably eat a pound of potatoes and gain somewhere near a pound, but if you add the butter, cream and bacon that usually accompany those dishes all bets are off as to the accumulated weight gain.
  • Begin to become aware of the information on the labels of just about all foods.
  • This is not a bad time to institute low fat and low cholesterol “diets” in hopes of altering adult behavior in the future as this is a major contributor to poor cardiac health in this country. In particular, stay away from foods containing, transfats, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as these can contribute to plaque buildup in arteries beginning at a young age; concentrate instead on fruits, vegetables and fiber.
  • Rid your house of all snack foods, whole milk and carbonated drinks as this must become an entire family affair.
  • While I approve of skim milk after the age of 2 years old I do not approve of artificial sweeteners for children, as many of the past artificial sweeteners have fallen into disrepute at one time or another, and carbonated drinks and juices are generally “empty calories” devoid of anything nutritionally useful except for sugar which he/she does not need.
  • Remember, the object of a “diet” is not necessarily to lose weight initially but to begin to alter life styles as your child grows into adult hood. Weight loss is a bi product or “collateral damage”, if you wish, of the particular “diet” you chose.
  • When you begin to concentrate on weight loss you should aim for no more than 1 – 2 pounds per week as anything faster has a high likelihood of failing.
  • Let your child enjoy an occasional birthday party filled with cake, ice cream, candy etc. Total abstinence will breed discontent.

Don’t forget exercise

The flip side of the coin is, of course, exercise: a reasonable diet without exercise or, vice versa, is like one hand clapping. Family endeavors will be most likely to generate the best results. Encourage sports of all kinds as this not only yields some of the exercise component but builds a sense of belonging and responsibility.

Build in “rewards” to recognize your child’s effort in trying to adhere to this new life style. You might very well encounter resistance at your initial efforts to begin this program but stick with it as it will greatly improve the quality of life for the entire family.

My Son Has Gynaecomastia (Man Boobs) – What Can He Do?

Gynaecomastia (*gynecomastia) (sometimes referred to as “man boobs”) is a common condition that causes boys’ and men’s breasts to swell and become larger than normal. It is most common in teenage boys and older men.

What are the signs of gynaecomastia?

  • Signs vary from a small amount of extra tissue around the nipples to more prominent breasts. It can affect one or both breasts.
  • Sometimes, the breast tissue can be tender or painful, but this isn’t always the case.

What causes gynaecomastia?

Gynaecomastia can have several causes.

Hormone imbalance

Gynaecomastia can be caused by an imbalance between the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen. Oestrogen causes breast tissue to grow. While all men produce some oestrogen, they usually have much higher levels of testosterone, which stops the oestrogen from causing breast tissue to grow.

If the balance of hormones in the body changes, this can cause a man’s breasts to grow. Sometimes, the cause of this imbalance is unknown.

Obesity

Some growth in breast tissue is not due to extra body fat from being overweight, so losing weight or doing more exercise may not improve the condition. However, a common reason for gynaecomastia is that being very overweight (obese) can increase levels of oestrogen, which can cause breast tissue to grow.

Newborn baby boys

Gynaecomastia can affect newborn baby boys, because oestrogen passes through the placenta from the mother to the baby. This is temporary and will disappear a few weeks after the baby is born.

Puberty

During puberty, boys’ hormone levels vary. If the level of testosterone drops, oestrogen can cause breast tissue to grow. Many teenage boys have some degree of breast enlargement. Gynaecomastia at puberty usually clears up as boys get older and their hormone levels become more stable.

Older age

As men get older, they produce less testosterone. Older men also tend to have more body fat, and this can cause more oestrogen to be produced. These changes in hormone levels can lead to excess breast tissue growth.

Other causes

In rare cases, gynaecomastia can be caused by:

  • side effects of medication – such as anti-ulcer drugs or medication for heart disease
  • illegal drugs – such as cannabis or anabolic steroids
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • a health abnormality – such as kidney failure or liver disease
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome (a rare genetic disorder)
  • lumps or infection in the testicles

Treatment for gynaecomastia

If you’re worried about breast tissue growth, see your GP (*doctor).

If your GP thinks treatment is needed, there are two types of treatment for gynaecomastia:

  • surgery to remove the excess breast tissue
  • medication to adjust a hormone imbalance

Your GP can discuss the treatment options with you. Read more about male breast reduction surgery.

Procedures such as breast reduction surgery are not usually available on the NHS, unless there is a clear medical need for them. For example, if you have had gynaecomastia for a long time, it has not responded to other treatments and it is causing you a lot of distress or pain, your GP may refer you to a plastic surgeon to discuss the possibility of surgery.

Always see your GP if the area is very painful or there is an obvious lump. Sometimes, the lump may need to be removed. Gynaecomastia is not related to breast cancer, but if you’re worried about breast swelling, see a GP.

Read the answers to more questions about men’s health.

Further information:

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

NHS Choices logo


From www.nhs.uk





Couch Kid: 6 Easy Ways to Motivate an Inactive Child

Has your child, who is sitting on the couch in the next room, ever used his cell phone to text you to bring him a snack?

Hopefully, you can answer this with a laugh and a simple no. Unfortunately, for our family, this is a reality we stared in the face a few weeks ago. It was a normal day, we had just returned home from school and our boys immediately found their designated spots on the couch and resumed their gaming. Within minutes, I received the infamous text asking for their snack. Unfortunately, the issue of couch potato children isn’t an isolated problem we are noticing in only our household.

In fact, as a nation we are noticing a rise in child obesity and inactivity. To put this into perspective, it is believed that only one out of three children are engaging in some form of physical activity on a daily basis. If this path should continue, experts warn that by 2030 half of all American adults will be obese. While these are hard numbers to digest, we need to look at the fact that today’s average kid spends over seven hours everyday parked in front of a screen of some kind.

6 Surefire Tips For Getting Children Off The Couch

Whether it is a computer, Smartphone, or television, our sons and daughters are spending more and more time seated on the couch looking at their devices. This can present many problems for parents, but a major one is our children’s health and well-being. We obviously know that exercise or active play is good for a developing body’s muscles, bones, and coordination. However, getting our children pried away from their favorite technology can be difficult.

Undoubtedly, we probably will hear whining, pouting, crying, and an occasional slamming door when we bring up the subject of powering down to get up and moving.

Listed below are 6 ways to motivate our most obstinate inactive children:

1. Bridge technology with physical activity. Appeal to a child’s love of gaming by trying to hunt for Pokemon in your neighborhood or tapping into their inner adventurist by giving geocaching a try. If a child is competitive, try using a fitness tracker to count steps and make it a competition.

2. Let children “earn” their couch time. If a child completes certain chores, walks the dog, or shoots hoops for an allotted amount of time, allow them to be paid in screen time. For example, if a child walks the dog for one hour, he can earn 15 minutes of television or gaming. Adjust the reward to fit your schedule and family values.

3. Get hooping. If a kid balks at the idea of traditional exercises like running, little leagues, or push-ups, seek out activities that are exciting and engaging. Embrace fun and introduce the entire family to hula hooping. Hula hooping is different and will offer countless opportunities for children to develop new skills without knowing that they are actually exercising. Teach them the traditional hip movements, but expand to use their necks, arms, and legs. For added fun, encourage children to roll the hoops across the floor and put their arm inside or their foot in while the hoops are rolling. The possibilities are endless and will help restless children burn off a little “cabin fever”.

4. Look for community programs to try. Sign up children or the family for a sports league, buy a season pass to the local swimming pool, or register for an activity program (hiking, bird watching, kayaking, sledding, snowshoeing, etc.) at the nearest nature recreational park. Many cities and towns are now offering a variety free or low cost opportunities for children and their families to promote physical activity. Plus, these opportunities offer a social aspect for children and might peak their interest in a future hobby or career.

5. Get crafty. Arts and crafts offer our kids the perfect opportunities to get off the couch. Tap into the frozen winter wonderland for inspiration and the kids won’t even miss sitting on the couch. Try adding food coloring or Koolaid packets to water in spray bottles and let kids graffiti the snow for a fun winter afternoon activity. You can also fill balloons with colored water and freeze them outside. When the orbs are frozen, remove the outer shell to expose colorful balls or frozen marbles to decorate the yard.

6. Play. It sounds simple, but encourage children to play. Think back to your favorite youthful pastimes and introduce them to your sons or daughters. Teach them how to fly a kite, construct the perfect snow fort, go ice fishing, try ice skating, build the perfect snowman, or assemble an amazing fort inside. Channel your inner child and join in on the fun to seek precious opportunities for bonding with your kids.

Looking Forward

Motivating inactive children can be daunting, but with a little effort and enthusiasm we can get our children up and moving. After all, we want the best for our kids and know in the long run that increasing physical activity can drastically cut their odds of developing a variety of health conditions. If we make one or two adjustments to our child’s habits today, we can improve their outlook for tomorrow.

What techniques do you have for motivating children?

Very Overweight Children: Advice for Parents

If your child is very overweight, there’s lots you can do to help them become a healthy size as they grow.

advice for very overweight childrenIf your child is very overweight, there’s lots you can do to help them become a healthy weight as they grow.

Very overweight children tend to grow up to be very overweight adults, which can lead to health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Research shows that children who achieve a healthy weight tend to be fitter, healthier, better able to learn and are more self-confident.

They’re also less likely to have low self esteem and be bullied.

As a parent, there’s lots you can do to help your child become a healthier weight. Getting them to be more active and eat well is important.

Here’s practical advice to help you.

Listen to your child’s concern about their weight. Overweight children often know they have a weight problem and they need to feel supported and in control of their weight. Let them know that you love them, whatever their weight, and that all you want is for them to be healthy and happy.

Steps for Success

Here are five key ways to help your child achieve a healthy weight. You can read this whole page or click on the links below to go directly to the topic you want to know about:

If your child has a medical condition then the advice in this article may not be relevant and you should check first with their GP (*pediatrician) or hospital doctor.

Be a Good Role Model

One of the best ways to instill good habits in your child is to be a good role model. Children learn by example. One of the most powerful ways to encourage your child to be active and eat well is to do so yourself.

Set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride instead of watching TV, or surfing the internet. Playing in the park or swimming with your children shows them that being active is fun.

  • Any changes you make to your child’s diet and lifestyle are much more likely to be accepted if the changes are small and involve the whole family. Here are 10 ways to get healthy as a family.
  • If you’re not sure what activities you’d like to try as a family, use this What’s your sport? tool to find out what you’re best suited to.

Get Active

Very overweight children don’t need to do more exercise than slimmer children. Their extra body weight means they will naturally burn more calories for the same activity.

All children need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day for good health, but it doesn’t need to be all at once. Several short 10-minute or even 5-minute bursts of activity throughout the day can be just as good as an hour-long stretch.

For younger children, it can take the form of active play, such as ball games, chasing games like “it” and “tag”, riding a scooter, and using playground swings, climbing frames and see-saws.

For older children it could include riding a bike, skateboarding, walking to school, skipping, swimming, dancing and martial arts.

If your child isn’t used to being active, encourage them to start with what they can do and build up to 60 minutes a day. They’re more likely to stick to their new activity levels if you let them choose the type of activity they’re comfortable with.

Walking or cycling short distances instead of using the car or bus is a great way to be active together as a family – and you’ll save money too.

Child-size Portions

Try to avoid feeding your child large portions.

A good rule of thumb is to start meals with small servings and let your child ask for more if they are still hungry.

Try not to make your child finish everything on the plate or eat more than they want to. And avoid using adult-size plates for younger children as it encourages them to eat oversized portions.

Beware of high-calorie foods. Calories are a measure of the energy in food and knowing how many calories your child consumes each day and balancing that with the amount of energy they use up in activity will help them reach and stay at a healthy weight.

Eat Healthy Meals

Children, just like adults, should aim to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables everyday. They’re a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Getting 5 A DAY shouldn’t be too difficult. Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your child’s 5 A DAY including fresh, tinned, frozen and dried. Juices, smoothies, beans and pulses also count.

Discourage your child from having too many sugary or high-fat foods like sweets, cakes, biscuits, some sugary cereals and soft drinks. These foods and drinks tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients.

Aim for your child to get most of their calories from healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables, and starchy foods like bread, potatoes, pasta and rice (preferably wholemeal). And switch sweet drinks for water.

Less Screen Time and More Sleep!

Help your children to avoid sitting and lying around too much, as it makes it more likely for them to put on weight.

Limit the amount of time your child spends on inactive pastimes such as watching television, playing video games and playing on electronic devices.

There’s no hard and fast advice on how much is too much, but experts advise that children should watch no more than two hours of television each day – and remove all screens (including mobile phones) from their bedroom at night.

It also helps children stay trim if they sleep well. It’s been shown that children who don’t have the recommended amount of sleep are more likely to be overweight. The less children sleep, the greater the risk of them becoming obese. Lack of sleep can also affect their mood and behaviour.

Getting Support

If you’ve received a letter about your child’s weight after they were measured in school you can use the contact number on the letter to speak to a health worker and get more information about what you can do and what support is available in your area (*UK-specific advice).

Your GP (*pediatrician) or practice nurse can give you further advice.

They may also be able to refer you to a local weight management programme for children, such as those run by the Weight Management Centre, MEND and More Life.

These programmes are often free to attend through your local health authority (*in the UK), and typically involve a series of weekly group workshop sessions with other parents and their children.

At these workshops you’ll learn more about the diet and lifestyle changes that can help your child to achieve a healthy weight.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.





 

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