Prevention and Wellness

Childhood Obesity

Premier Physician Network physicians answer Frequently Asked Questions about Childhood Obesity.

What is Good Nutrition for Your Child from Infancy Through Teens?

As your child grows and changes, so do his or her nutritional needs. Keep changing nutritional guidelines in mind as you’re choosing what to feed your child throughout these important stages of growth and development.

Good Nutrition for Your Infant Includes:

  • Breast milk (preferred for at least the first year) or formula
  • A vitamin D supplement for breastfed babies. Vitamin D is important for proper organ function and brain development
  • Solids—including fortified cereals, fruits and vegetables—beginning about four to five months of age
  • Water and juice, if you choose. Although breast milk and formula give babies all the fluids they need, you can give your baby water after he or she is eating solid foods, or give juice after your baby is six months of age, according to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP)

Good Nutrition for Your Toddler Includes:

  • Whole milk, after your child turns one
  • No low-calorie or low-fat foods before age two. Fat is essential for brain development at this early age
  • Calorie dense and vitamin infused foods, such as peanut butter (assuming the child has no allergies), can be introduced at this time
  • At least three meals a day and one or two snacks, according to the AAP (starting at age two)
  • A variety and good balance of foods from all food groups to help create good lifelong good eating habits, according to the AAP
  • Serving sizes that are about a quarter the size of your portion, with a serving of vegetable being one to two tablespoons and a serving of meat being about the size of a child’s palm, according to the AAP

Good Nutrition for Your Child Includes:

  • A variety of foods similar to those that you eat, starting at about the first grade
  • A balanced diet of foods from throughout the food pyramid (a colorful plate is a sign of good balance)
  • Reduced fat and low cholesterol foods
  • Small amounts of starchy foods, such as potatoes, pasta and rice, to help use fat and cholesterol in the body, according to the AAP
  • Lean meats
  • Other options to butter, sour cream and other high calorie dips and toppings
  • Baked or broiled foods instead of fried

Good Nutrition for Your Teen Includes:

  • Foods that continue to be part of healthy eating habits you’ve established for your teen during childhood, according to the AAP
  • Reduced fat and low cholesterol foods
  • Small amounts of starchy foods, such as potatoes, pasta and rice, to help use fat and cholesterol in the body
  • Lean meats
  • Other options to butter, sour cream and other high calorie dips and toppings
  • Baked or broiled foods instead of fried foods

Be sure your teen understands that he or she needs nutritious foods as part of a healthy, active lifestyle. This is the time when many eating disorders appear so keep tabs on your teen’s eating habits.

Talk with your child’s doctor about helping your child to eat healthy at every stage of life.

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How is a Still-Growing Child’s Weight Loss Plan Different from an Adult’s?

Dr. Chunn explains: How is a Still-Growing Child’s Weight Loss Plan Different from an Adult’s? 

 

 

Weight loss plans for children are different than those for adults. When planning for your child’s weight loss, you must keep in mind that he or she still has growth and developmental needs, according the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Children’s bones, muscles and nervous systems are still developing and need nutritious food to stay on the right path, according to the AAP. Ask your child’s doctor about his or her need for proteins and healthy fats.

If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, talk with your child’s doctor. He or she may suggest reducing your child’s calorie intake and increasing activity to promote weight loss.

When you help your child choose to eat healthy and exercise, you’ll inspire a lifelong focus on overall wellness.

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Do Some Children Have a Greater Risk of Becoming Obese?

Studies show genetic factors—which help manage body weight—can have an effect on a child’s risk for becoming obese, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

While more research is being done on the role heredity plays in childhood obesity, your family’s lifestyle can greatly affect your child’s weight.

If you are raising your child with less focus on healthy eating and healthy activity, he or she has a greater risk of becoming obese.

In addition, some medicines can cause weight gain and increased appetite. Certain health conditions that keep your child from being active and burning calories can cause obesity problems.

Talk with your child’s doctor for more information about obesity risk factors affecting your child.

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Why Might a Child Refuse to Eat or Drink?

Dr. Chunn explains: Why Might a Child Refuse to Eat or Drink?  

 

 

Depending on your child’s age, he or she might refuse to eat or drink for a variety of reasons.

  • One year olds – Might refuse to eat everything on their plate from time to time. This is part of learning to eat meals and healthy snacks at appropriate times. If your child won’t eat a meal, save it and offer it again a bit later. Don’t let your child fill up on unhealthy foods in the meantime, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  • Preschoolers – Can often be “too busy” to find time to eat and drink without structure or prompting. Keeping a regular eating and snacking schedule can help, according to the AAP. Your child may sometimes refuse to eat – even foods he or she loved a day before – as part of a normal change in eating patterns where children start eating less.
  • Early school-aged children – Can easily become emotional and have unpredictable responses to food, including refusing to eat at all, according to the AAP. Help your child feel empowered to choose what he or she is eating by providing a few healthy choices.
  • Teens – Should be old enough to understand that they need to eat and drink for good nutrition and energy. If your teen refuses to eat or drink, talk with your doctor about eating disorders and behaviors to watch for.

Whatever their age, children often refuse to eat if they’re feeling sick. If your child refuses to eat or drink and shows other signs of illness, contact your child’s doctor.

If your child is not eating or drinking as he or she should, talk with your child’s doctor for guidance.

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When Might a Physician Become Concerned with a Child’s Weight?

Your child’s doctor will track his or her Body Mass Index (BMI) rating during office visits.

A BMI is calculated by a formula using weight and height, according to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP).

A BMI rating of 25 to 29 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or more is listed as obese.

Your child’s doctor will start to become concerned about your child’s weight when the BMI rating begins to reach to overweight status.

Your child’s doctor will also be concerned about possible weight problems for your child if:

  • You have a family history of obesity
  • Your family’s lifestyle does not include regular activity and a nutritious diet
  • Your child has health or physical disabilities that put him or her at risk for becoming overweight
  • Your child is taking medicine(s) that can cause weight gain or increased appetite

If you are concerned about your child’s weight, talk with his or her doctor.

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How Can You Help Your Family Follow a More Nutritious Diet?

Good eating habits are learned at home. You can help you family follow a more nutritious diet with:

  • Structured meals – Eating together as a family, without TV (or other electronic distractions), at a similar time for every meal, every day can help with nutrition, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  • Portion size – Serve healthy adult-sized and child-sized portions (which are generally about a quarter the size of an adult portion), according to the AAP.
  • Healthy plate – Serve a balance of foods from all the food groups. The foods on your plate should include a variety of colors.
  • Fruits and vegetables – Serve more fruits and vegetables at meals and snack time. These can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Strive for none – Eliminate or restrict sugary, high-calorie drinks from your family’s diet, according to Public Health of Dayton and Montgomery County. Try to stick with water or low-fat milk more often.
  • Eat breakfast daily – Breakfast gives you energy for the day. Skipping breakfast can leave your family hungry, tired and choosing less-healthy snacks, according to the NIH.

For more ideas on how to start your family on the path to a healthy diet, talk with your doctor.

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What are the Best Healthy Snacks for Children?

Dr. Ruff explains: What are the Best Healthy Snacks for Children?

 

 

Snacking between three main meals of the day can actually help your child meet his or her nutritional needs. Planning your child’s snacks, just like planning meals, can help you make sure they are healthy for your child, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Some of the best snacks for children include:

  • Fruits – Apple slices, bananas, pineapple, kiwi, peaches, grapes, dried fruits, raisins, berries,
  • Vegetables – Carrot sticks, celery sticks, zucchini sticks, bell pepper rings, cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli, green beans, avocados, cucumber
  • Grains – Whole wheat tortillas, high-fiber dry cereal whole grain crackers, rice cakes, graham crackers, low-fat popcorn, pretzels, granola bars
  • Dairy – Low-fat cheese slices, string cheese, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, low-fat cottage cheese
  • Protein rich foods – Boiled egg slices, peanut butter, bean dip, hummus dip, lean turkey or chicken slices, unsalted nuts (make sure your child has no allergies)

Be creative! Serve hummus as a dip for fresh vegetables or yogurt as a dip for fresh fruits to make healthy snacks more exciting for your child, according to the American Academy of Pediatricians.

Always make sure snacks for younger children are appropriate items and sizes to avoid choking hazards, according to the USDA.

Your child’s doctor can give you more healthy snack ideas.

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Source: Geetha Ambalavanan, MD, Fairborn Medical Center; Michael A. Chunn, M.D., Michael A. Chunn, M.D. Family Practice; Katrina Paulding, MD, Samaritan North Family Physicians; Melinda L. Ruff, MD, Centerville Family Medicine

Content Updated: November 1, 2017

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