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Is Your Child Becoming an Emotional Eater?

2:00

You may be tempted to appease your child with food after a fall or tears for short-term relief, but this could actually set your child up for long-term unhealthy eating patterns.

What happens is that children begin to identify eating with self-comforting or relieving boredom instead of nutrition or eating when they’re actually hungry.

Almost all children, teens, and adults may engage in emotional eating at one time or another.

Hunger associated with emotional eating comes on quickly and feels urgent. It's often triggered by a specific event or mood. It's not like typical physical hunger, which gradually builds and is a result of an empty stomach. Physical hunger can be satisfied by a number of different foods, but cravings usually involve particular foods. Examples might be ice cream or candy after a fight with a friend or a tough day at school.

Why is emotional eating unhealthy? Emotional eating isn’t really about hunger or nutrition; it’s about filling an emotional need. It can lead to overeating and over time, lead to extra weight gain or obesity. It also sets up a pattern of handling uncomfortable situations by eating instead of by learning how to solve social and psychological problems.

There are lots of reasons kids may seek out food for comfort such as:

  • Anger
  • Boredom
  • Change
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Frustration
  • Loneliness
  • Loss
  • Resentment
  • Stress

Even positive emotions such as excitement and happiness can result in emotional eating once it becomes a go-to as a reward. 

If you notice signs of emotional eating in your child, talk to him or her about your concerns. Be gentle. Stay positive. Helping your child might be as simple as having a warm and loving conversation.

Help your child develop a healthy response to his or her problems, such as focusing on solutions. Encourage your child to talk about the emotions that trigger his or her emotional eating. Brainstorm other ways to deal with those emotions. For example, your child could exercise or become involved in sports when he or she feels stressed out, or call a friend when he or she is bored.

Emotional eating can be learned, so your influence as a parent or primary caregiver is one key to prevention. Be sure to model healthy eating habits for your child. Also, avoid using food to celebrate occasions or to reward your child for good behavior. Instead, use verbal praise and give other types of rewards (for example, stickers for a young child or a fun activity with an older child).

There are signs you can look for in children to let you know if your child is an emotional eater. They are:

  • Eating in response to emotions or situations, not to satisfy hunger
  • Feeling an urgent need to eat
  • Craving a specific food or type of food
  • Eating a larger amount of food than usual
  • Eating at unusual times of day (for example, late at night)
  • Gaining excess weight
  • Feeling embarrassed or guilty about eating
  • "Sneaking" food during high-stress times
  • Hiding empty containers of food

A recent study from Norway found that kids offered food for comfort at ages 4 and 6 displayed more emotional eating at ages 8 and 10.

Also, the researchers found signs that kids who felt more easily comforted by food were fed more by parents for that purpose.

Emotional eating typically starts early in life but can really begin at any age; it seems like an easy fix for anxiety at the time, but can lead to health problems if not brought under control.

Story source: https://familydoctor.org/emotional-eating-in-children-and-teens/

Daily Dose

The Danger in BPA Bottles

2.00 to read

I have been getting plenty of question about BPA in baby bottles.I recently received an email from a parent who’s 4 year old son is a patient of mine, and she is pregnant and due with a baby girl in the next month. On top of all of that she is also a pediatrician. At any rate, her question was regarding BPA (bisphenol A) in bottles, and whether I thought she should throw out bottles that she had used with her son in favor of newer bottles.

I will tell you that her son is a perfectly delightful, bright, inquisitive and developmentally normal little boy and he received breast milk and formula from BPA containing bottles. With that information, and knowing that I am thrifty, I thought long and hard and decided that in my opinion I would toss the old bottles in favor of the newer BPA free bottles. The top manufacturers of baby bottles voluntarily stopped using BPA in their bottles at the end of 2008. These bottles include, Dr. Brown, Avent, Playtex, Evenflo and numerous others. It is easy to find BPA free bottles that are well marked and most large chain stores are no longer selling your-baby bottles containing BPA. The cost involved to replace old bottles seems minimal, and the data regarding the safety of BPA to infants and children continues to be released with more ongoing studies underway. There will be more data available in the coming months and years. The Endocrine Society who held their annual meeting last week presented “worrying” evidence about the effects of BPA , including the statement that “endocrine disruptors (which includes BPA) do have effects on male and female development, prostate cancer, thyroid disease, and cardiovascular disease”. There are concerns that infants and children may be particularly susceptible to BPA and possible long term effects on brain development and behavior. So, with these recent studies and more concern regarding the levels of BPA found in baby bottles as well as comparison data of exposure to BPA between breast and bottle fed infants, it seems prudent to me to purchase newer bottles that are BPA free. Cross this issue off of the mother worry list. The cost of new bottles is minimal as compared to future concerns about BPA. That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat tomorrow!

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Make Time For Family Meals

In order to have great family memories, families have to gather together and one of the most important times is over a meal.One of the best things about the holidays is that it brings families together. As stressful as that can seem at times, it is what makes the holidays memorable. Having the house filled with kids, parents and siblings is really what it is all about. Having our college boys home and the good natured bantering and arguing over the dinner table brings back memories of burps at the table, not using napkins, spilled milk, inappropriate comments, and growing up.

I am still amazed that everyone uses a napkin, knows the correct fork to use, (although when setting the table together the three of them argued about fork placement) and for the most part can carry on an interesting conversation whether it be with an older grand parent or a younger cousin. If you had asked me if this would ever happen I would have had to say, "not likely", as I know we spent countless hours repeating "put your napkin in your lap" and "don't talk with your mouth full", and " I can't believe you would say that at the table!!!" In order to have these memories, families have to gather together and one of the most important times is over a meal. This ritual of family meals may seem to be routine and unnecessary but numerous studies have shown that families who gather together for a meal have children who are more "connected" to family, have more self-esteem, are successful in school, have less problems with alcohol and drug abuse and also less obesity. In short, a family meal may be the easiest way to help raise healthy, and well-adjusted children. This meal does not need to be elaborate. It may be as simple as a roast chicken, spaghetti, hamburgers or stew. You name it, but it will most likely be healthier than driving through a fast food restaurant. The meal will also be a time to teach manners, conversation and good listening habits. It is also an opportunity to get the kids involved in setting the table, clearing dishes, loading dish washers and learning self help skills so necessary for later in life. Make it a point to eat together with a family, the rewards will be great. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again soon!

Daily Dose

Get Your Toddlers Walking!

With childhood obesity numbers rising, get your toddlers out of a stroller and walking!I walked into our office waiting room recently and was shocked at how crowded it was!! It really wasn’t that there were that many patients waiting, but it was the fact that there were about 6 “triple wide” strollers holding children of various ages who were being wheeled in and parked in the waiting room.

Not one toddler was walking or even standing!! I had a huge epiphany, children don’t walk anymore!! So, after looking out at the parking lot in our waiting room, I watched as these strollers maneuvered around hallways and doors as mothers brought their children to an exam room. Now, I must tell you, these children were not infants, or even new walkers. They were not twins or triplets either. These strollers were often holding a 5 year old, 3 year old and 1 year old, all being pushed toward their destination. In many cases, the older children were playing with a Nintendo DSL or their mother’s iPhone oblivious to the fact that their mother was struggling to push the “wide load” down the hallway.  It was reminiscent of a Cleopatra movie, while she was being carried eating grapes! I know I'm showing my age, but what happened to the day that the baby was in a stroller while the parent held the older children’s hands as they walked into our office, or a store or a restaurant. You may have even tried to maneuver around one of these mega strollers while shopping alone.  They take up entire aisles and should have to have a “wide load” sign with flashing lights. Not only are they a “road hazard” I think that they promote inactivity. Knowing that we have a terrible problem with childhood obesity, it seems that these” strollers on steroids”, only help promote inactivity. Not only are these toddlers and young children not walking on their own, they are missing out on many learning opportunities.  How many times do you remember saying or hearing,  “hold my hand” before you started walking through grocery store the parking lot?  How about “we have to stop and look both ways” as you came up to an curb or intersection.  If there were more than 1 or 2 children it was not uncommon to hear “hold your brother’s hand and he will hold my hand and we will all walk together”. These are important skills/lessons for a child to learn as they begin to establish some independence and autonomy.  You have to learn to ”run before you walk” and you have to learn how to navigate on your own by following simple “rules of the road” for safety, all of which needs to be achieved under a parent’s watchful eye during those early childhood years. These skills cannot be mastered when you are being “wheeled” around town without the need to pay attention to what is happening around you. At the same time that a child is inactive in the stroller, they are often eating cookies, goldfish, cheerios or granola bars and drinking from the sippy cup which is conveniently strapped to the side of their seat.  The combination of inactivity and snacking cannot be a positive way to promote a healthy lifestyle. I challenge mothers and fathers to get their children back on terra firma, and to hold hands and walk with their children rather than push those heavy children around. (can’t be good for the parent’s backs either).  Talk about where you are going, what you see along the way, and practice your child’s listening skills and following directions.  Return the mega stroller to the store and get those toddlers and pre-schoolers some good walking shoes! What do you think?  Send me your comments! That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your comment or question to Dr. Sue!

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Picky Eating: Magic Words Offer Food for Thought

1:15 to read

I am trying to clean up my desk and I have been looking through stacks of pediatric articles that I felt were really interesting. An article by Dr. Barbara Howard entitled “Three Magic Words Offer Food for Thought” made a wonderful point regarding family meals and eating habits.

She states that one of the best questions to ask a child during a “well-child” visit only requires three words, but offers so much insight into a family’s interactions. What are the magic words? “How are your meals?” I know you know how much I believe in, and promote, families eating together.

There has been a lot of data substantiating the many positive side effects that stem from family meals.  Not only does eating together as a family help improve food choices which may help prevent obesity, it also leads to children who have improved vocabulary and language skills, social skills and manners. Family meals have also been shown to lessen the chance of risk taking behaviors in adolescents. There has also been an association with fewer eating disorders among adolescents who have regular family meals. So, when I ask children about their meals, I also get parental feedback. The biggest complaint is that their children are “picky eaters”. Many children and parents will say that they don’t eat together as a family as everyone eats something different. I don’t think being a “short order cook” is a job requirement of any parent.

Social worker Ally Slater, delineates parent’s responsibilities with regard to food as “what, when and where” while leaving children, “how much and whether”. I love that!! Parents control the grocery cart, meal and snack choices and food offerings on the plate. It is nice to always offer at least one food that most family members like. Once that food is offered and we are gathered together to eat, parents need to back off. Is that easier said than done? Maybe in the beginning, but over time it actually simplifies family life. I think it is really fairly easy if you “buy into” the idea of family meals and know that children will make better and wider food choices if given that opportunity. It may take up to 100 times, and many months for your child to try different foods, but eventually you will be pleased that you have a child who is a healthy eater, and who also enjoys a wide variety of foods. Trust me, your children when raised this way, really turn out to be great eaters as adolescents and young adults.  I think my boys are less “picky” than I am! (No sushi for me).

Make family meal time a priority. Your children will respect the rules, learn table manners, and enjoy dinnertime conversation, while eventually developing a more mature palate. It just takes time. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Preschool Nutrition Can Be Challenging

With all of the back-to-school discussions surrounding getting back to healthy breakfasts, nutritious lunches and family dinners, I thought it was a good time to discuss preschooler nutrition too. Preschool children, specifically the two- to five-year-old set are notoriously picky eaters, and parents need to recognize that this is developmentally appropriate, although frustrating for parents.

This is an appropriate time to begin teaching children the importance of healthy eating habits to encourage a lifetime of good health and prevent obesity. A good place to start to get information is “MyPyramid for Preschoolers”, a Web site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This Web site not only covers what your children should be eating, but also is full of good advice on handling picky eaters, how to monitor your child’s growth and ideas to encourage physical activity. The Web site encourages parents to lead by example and let your children see you eating a wide array of foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day. There are ideas for healthy snacks that can be eaten on the run, as you get back into carpools and after school activities. Even the toddler set is busy after school! Remember: do not let food choices become a battle or an issue. Do not make negative food comments around your children, and keep trying new things. It may take up to 20 attempts or more before your child will try something new, but if you don’t keep trying you will never know if they might really like broccoli. Also, no “yucky faces” for the adults and older children while at the table and eating their meal. That will only discourage your toddler from trying unfamiliar foods. Put on that happy face, even if it is not your favorite food, it might be your child’s. The most important message is to make mealtime and snack time pleasant and healthy. Even a toddler can help with planning and preparing a meal. This Web site is really quite good and interactive as you can enter your child’s first name, age, gender and typical amount of activity and the site will generate a plan just for your child! Can’t be easier than that. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

More Information: MyPyramid for Preschoolers
Daily Dose

Toddler Day at the Office

Today seemed to be "toddler" day in the office and I was just amazed that the questions from room to room and morning to afternoon were essentially all the same. Forget that these were all different kids with different parents; the concerns were echoed from room to room.

  1. He/she doesn't eat: Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters and they also are smart enough to self-regulate. In other words, they only eat when hungry (such a novel idea to us adults, as I sit here eating a four-day-old cupcake just because it was there). If you provide your toddler with a balanced meal three times a day, they may choose to eat it or not, but I promise you they will not starve. Toddlers seem to grow and gain weight on air alone, and they also really only eat once a day, and pick at the other meals. Who needs a trainer when you know when to stop? A parent's job is to provide the healthy, well-balanced meals and the child will learn to eat a wide variety of foods, over many years. No need to bribe, scream, beg or feel guilty.
  2. Toddlers hit/bite/spit/pinch/pull hair. You fill in the blank. This is what I call "age appropriate, in-appropriate behavior." We all go through this as parents, some more than others. But this is also the time to begin teaching your toddler appropriate expectations as to playing, sharing, and the social graces. Correct your child when they misbehave. Begin time-out and consequences. Learn to get on your child's level to redirect inappropriate behaviors. Use a firm voice when talking told a child about their behavior, no need to scream or yell, but voice inflection is important as your child learns to listen to you.
  3. Sleep is also a big concern, and most toddlers should be sleeping alone at night. Have a set bedtime and bedtime routine and begin a sticker chart for good bedtime behavior and for staying in their bed.

The toddler years are some of the most important for a child's development and long term well being. Start young, if not it only gets harder. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again soon.

Daily Dose

Preschool Nutrition Can Be Challenging

1.30 to read

Does your child eat three meals a day with healthy snacks along the way? I often find myself talking to parents about establishing healthy eating habits especially when you have a preschooler. Preschool children, specifically the two to five-year-old set are notoriously picky eaters, and parents need to recognize that this is developmentally appropriate, although frustrating for parents.

This is an appropriate time to begin teaching children the importance of healthy eating habits to encourage a lifetime of good health and prevent obesity. A good place to start to get information is “MyPyramid for Preschoolers”, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This website not only covers what your children should be eating, but also is full of good advice on handling picky eaters, how to monitor your child’s growth and ideas to encourage physical activity.

The website encourages parents to lead by example and let your children see you eating a wide array of foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day. There are ideas for healthy snacks that can be eaten on the run, as you get back into carpools and after school activities. Even the toddler set is busy after school!

Remember: do not let food choices become a battle or an issue. Do not make negative food comments around your children, and keep trying new things. It may take up to 20 attempts or more before your child will try something new, but if you don’t keep trying you will never know if they might really like broccoli.

Also, no “yucky faces” for the adults and older children while at the table and eating their meal. That will only discourage your toddler from trying unfamiliar foods. Put on that happy face, even if it is not your favorite food, it might be your child’s.

The most important message is to make mealtime and snack time pleasant and healthy. Even a toddler can help with planning and preparing a meal. This website is really quite good and interactive as you can enter your child’s first name, age, gender and typical amount of activity and the site will generate a plan just for your child! Can’t be easier than that.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

 
Daily Dose

Common Newborn Questions Answered!

Dr. Sue answers common questions about newborn babies.Well, it seems like it takes more than one column to discuss the first days home with a newborn baby.  After discussing the nuances of breast feeding, there are also many questions regarding all of the noises that babies make.

Everyone thinks that infants are pretty quiet, that is until you sleep with a newborn in the bassinet right next to your bed.  Newborns are noisy!!  They not only cry (that is a whole other topic) but they squeak, grunt, stretch, yawn, have weird breathing noises, hiccup and pass tons of gas. (Dad’s are so cute when they say, “there is something wrong with my baby girl as she FARTS and it stinks, this can’t be normal?”) The first thing that many parents will notice is that their infant has “weird” breathing patterns. The baby seems to take some rapid breaths and then pauses and it looks like “they have stopped breathing” for a few seconds, and then resumes their more normal breathing.   This is called periodic breathing and is quite normal for the first few weeks of a baby’s life.  I swear only first time parents notice this, as you have the time to watch your precious baby and count their breaths. Every subsequent baby in the family is equally loved, but is typically not under the microscope like a first born and we only notice that they are ‘’’breathing”.  As an infant matures so does the breathing pattern and the respiratory rate becomes more rhythmic. If your baby has any color changes, i.e  turns dusky, or blue with their breathing that is a cause for immediate concern and a call to the doctor or 911. Another common concern is often how many times a day a baby will hiccup. If you remember, the baby often hiccupped in utero, and this too continues after they are born. Babies seem to hiccup for an inordinate amount of time, which bothers parents, but usually seems not to faze the baby at all. It is fine to try and give your newborn water if they are hiccupping and it is really bothering either you or them, but is not necessary.  Just like an infant’s startle (Moro) reflex, babies seem to get the hiccups when they are younger and they slow down as the baby’s nervous system matures.  A baby may hiccup for minutes to an hour and then just stop and fall asleep, oblivious to the concern that this event has caused their parents. Babies also make a lot of stretching and grunting and groaning noises, and are perfectly comfortable.  But these noises will awaken a sleeping parent.  If your baby is not crying during all of these noises, I would not pick he/she up, but would wait to see if they then go back to sleep. Some of these noises occur even while a baby is sound asleep. In this case the adage, “never wake a sleeping baby” is good advice.  These noises do not necessarily mean a baby needs to eat, especially if you think they may have just eaten an hour ago. Again, your baby should not appear in any distress or have color changes, they are just noisy! Lastly, GAS!  All babies have gas, and no one knows that until they have cared for a newborn.  It does not matter if a baby is breast or bottle fed, they produce gas, and it is loud and may be stinky. I think that infants produce more gas in the first 3-4 months of life than they will again until they are old (grandparents age, ask them). It seems like so many things occur both early and later in life, and gas is just one example. As a newborn’s GI tract matures, they seem to produce less gas, and are also often more comfortable after a feeding. When a baby is “gassy” they often like to have movement, so they like to be rocked, or put on their tummy and patted (only if awake, never to sleep), and they may enjoy the swing, or the motion of riding in a car, or putting the infant seat on top or a vibrating washing machine or dryer.  There are many “home remedies” but maturation of the GI tract just takes time. In most cases, changing an infant’s formula or a mother’s diet will not change the gas, but many people will try it. Remember, this too shall pass! 
(no pun intended) That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

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