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Daily Dose

Don't Let Your Child Become an Obesity Statistic

Healthy eating begins with the first foods that you feed your infant.An alarming statistic was released today which shows that one in five 4-year-old children are obese and these numbers are even higher in minority children. This study was just published in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, and followed over 8,000 children looking at height and weight. The findings were quite concerning, showing a trend toward obesity at an age younger than predicted, and numerous long term health problems associated with obesity, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and bone and joint problems.

This is a national health issue and a call to action for all families to teach and model healthy eating. One of the problems is that many of the government sponsored food programs provide foods high in carbohydrates, and low in fresh fruits and vegetables, and this promotes obesity. School lunches have also been found to be high in fat and carbohydrate and continue to promote poor food choices. With the bad economy and recession, families have cut back on groceries and may be eating more fast foods, breads and pastas, again providing more carbohydrate than protein. Healthy eating begins with the first foods that you feed your infant. A well balanced diet with grains, fruits, vegetables and meats begins in the high chair and should continue at the family dinner table. The meals may be simple and healthy. Being a short order cook, or providing your child's favorite pizza and fried food on a daily basis, even in a young toddler will have deleterious effects for the rest of their life. Don't let your child become a statistic heading toward lifelong health issues secondary to childhood obesity. Change your own eating habits, improve your children's and remain committed to family meals. We, as parents, cannot afford to raise a generation where obesity is the norm: the change must begin now. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow. More Information: 1 in 5 Preschoolers Obese

Daily Dose

Food Myths & Your Baby

1.15 to read

I really enjoy talking to my young parents about feeding their baby and toddler new foods. But what about food allergies they say?   I believe that healthy nutrition and good eating habits begin early on, actually just as a child starts to eat solid foods. The more foods a child is exposed to initially, the better chance a parent has of having a child who eats a variety of foods when they are older.  This means no making yucky faces if you (parent) don’t like spinach - fake it! 

But, with that being said, so many new parents are still under the impression that there is a “list” of forbidden foods. As I talk to them about finger foods and letting their baby explore new foods and textures they are amazed when I say things like, “let them try scrambled eggs” or “what about trying almond butter or peanut butter?”, “try ripping up pancake pieces”. 

I also like to let a 9-15 month old try all sorts of different fruit, veggies and proteins. In fact, “there are really no forbidden fruits” as long as the food you offer is mushy (we adults might say a bit over cooked at times) and broken/or cut into very small pieces. I am most concerned about the size and texture of the piece and protecting the airway than I am about the food itself.  

Over the last 5-10 years studies have shown that restricting foods and delaying introduction of certain food groups did not prevent the development of food allergies.  So, the idea that delaying the introduction of peanut butter until after a child is 2 yrs old, or waiting to give a child fish until they are older, or not letting your 9 month old child taste scrambled eggs, did not prevent food allergies. Some researchers would say it may actually be the converse, earlier introduction may be preventative.  

But the funniest thing to me, it is like old wives’ tales....these ideas have somehow been perpetuated.  The new group of parents that I am now seeing were often still in college and dancing at parties when it was the recommendation to wait to introduce some foods (egg, peanut , fish etc).  How do they hear these old ideas?  Maybe grandparents or friends with older children. Who knows? 

So, for the record, the rates for most common food allergies are still low at 2.5% for milk, 1.3% for eggs and 1% for peanut and less than that for tree nuts.  Don’t limit what you give your child unless you have seen them have a reaction when a food is initially introduced, and if you are concerned, talk to your doctor.  Most people who report having food allergy actually turn out not to have true food allergies after a good history and further testing. 

More about true food allergies to come.  Stay tuned! 

Daily Dose

Do You Have a Happy Spitter?

1.15 to read

New parents often come in concerned about their baby spitting up.  They typically  ask, “does my baby have gastroesophageal reflux (GER)?”.  I reassure them that “spit happens” and it occurs in more than 2/3 of perfectly healthy infants.  Whether you want to call it GER or spit up, it is regurgitation and in most cases it goes away with time. 

GER is defined as “the physiologic passage of gastric contents into the esophagus”, while GERD is “reflux associated with troublesome symptoms or complications”.  GER in infants is typically painless and does not affect growth. We call these babies “happy spitters”.  

For a “happy spitter” parents need to know that spitting gets worse before it gets better and typically lasts for 5-6 months, with the worst spitting occurring around 3-4 months of age.  

The best treatment for benign GER is lifestyle management.  Small things like thickening feedings with either rice or oatmeal cereal will often decrease the volume of spit up ( parents get sick of wearing towels over their shoulders). Thickening feedings does increase the calories a baby receives. There are also formulas available that contain thickening agents if parents prefer trying them that have the same amount of calories as other formulas.  Thickening feeds has been shown to decrease crying time in some irritable infants with GER and also increases sleep time for fussy babies.  It is always worth trying.

While many parents try putting their baby in a car seat to help with reflux and spitting, car seats may actually make the problem worse. Infants have less reflux when in the prone (tummy) position, but remember your baby must NEVER sleep on their TUMMY!

Babies who are spitters may also benefit from smaller more frequent feedings. When a baby is fussy, parents may try to keep feeding their baby and overfeeding may actually make the spitting worse. Just because a baby is crying, does not always mean they are hungry, especially if they have just been fed.  Sucking in and of itself may help reflux, so a pacifier may be the trick and provide non nutritive sucking.

For babies with GERD who are extremely irritable, may refuse feedings and even lose weight further work up and management with pharmacotherapy may be necessary.  Talk to your doctor about options if lifestyle management does not seem to help. 

Daily Dose

Why Family Meals Are Important

It seems so easy to have meal time together, but it needs to begin when your child are younger, so that you will continue to have family dinner time once your children are older and busier.On our last radio show I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Dr. Dan Kindlon the author of Too Much of a Good Thing, where he discusses the problems with overindulged children. One of the many interesting points in his book is that he reiterates the importance of family mealtimes.

During Dr. Kindlon's research he looked at common attributes among the teens that he felt were "well adjusted" and successful at both school and outside the home. One of his findings was that these students had regular family meals. It seems so easy to have meal time together, but it needs to begin when your child are younger, so that you will continue to have family dinner time once your children are older and busier. Too many families find too little time to gather for a family meal. The excuses for all of us are many: after school and evening activities, parents work schedule, homework, etc. But there are really very few reasons to skip weeknight and or weekend family meals. It may be more convenient to have meals as a family three school nights and one weekend or all school nights or some combination. But, the bottom line is, the more often families gather for meals and spend time together engagedin dinner table conversation, the better adjusted, more successful and happier the children and teens seem to be. The other great thing about family meals is that they tend to be healthier and cheaper! If youneed recipe ideas, check out What's Cooking with Chef Dad on our Web site. A family dinner is just a click away!

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

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Daily Dose

No More Food Battles

1.30 to read

Seems that I spend several times a day discussing “food battles” with my patients and their families.  I guess the longer I practice the more I don’t think we should even have to discuss how often parents “battle” with their kids about eating.  

From the early days of parenting when a baby is first offered either breast or formula, they are not asked “do you like this?”.  It is taken for granted that an infant will eat and grow and  there you have it.  The easiest days of parenting, correct? (except for a few months of sleep deprivation).  But once that baby begins to eat the discussions start about “he makes a face when he eats spinach”, or “she will only eat chicken tenders from Chik-fil-a”, or “he only likes pasta and won’t eat meat”, or even “I make 3 diferent meals for my 3 kids”.  If you have a child older than 9 months you understand what I am talking about. 

Food is necessary to nutrition, growth and health. But, with that being said, parents have to trust that a child WILL EAT when they are hungry.  Really, hunger drives us all to eat, eventually.  That bowl or cereal, or the steamed vegetables or even the dreaded chicken breast will get eaten if your child gets hungry enough. I remember reading somewhere that , “ a parent’s job is to provide food for their children at appropriate meal times, and child’s job is to decide if they will eat it.”  In other words, make the meal whether for your toddler or teen and “forget about it”.  Meal time needn’t be a battle but more a gathering to enjoy being together eating is just a bonus.  

As an adult, when you go to a dinner party, you don’t ask what they are serving before you accept, nor do you tell the host/hostess, I hate lamb!!  (my example).  You just smile and find something to eat and there is not a battle.  We all need to approach family meals as a dinner party. Our children are our guests, and sometimes they like what we fix and other times they push some food around their plate and choose not to eat.  The good news for most children is that there is another meal to follow. 

So, think about it and don’t let certain food likes and dislikes dictate mealtime. The more foods young children are exposed to the better chance they have of EVENTUALLY becoming a well rounded eater.  Children’s taste buds change with time as well, so you will find some foods that a 3 year old loved is no longer the favorite at 13 years of age.   

Well balanced, nutritious, colorful meals are the family goal and “food battles” can be left out of the vocabulary.   

Daily Dose

Surviving Picky Eating

2.00 to read

It's been a busy day in the office and a lot of parents have had questions about picky eaters.It was a busy week in my pediatric office (always is!) and one of the hot topics surrounded picky eating. The issue of picky eating seems to be on every parent's list from one to 18 years. Actually, picky eating is not as much of a subject in the older kids, seems that there are bigger issues and also hopefully the picky eating resolved when the child was younger.

I think that food is important for nutrition, nurturing, time spent together over a meal, etc....but it is not a big issue if you are relaxed about feeding your child. If you begin preparing your child healthy meals from the age of one year, provide them with many opportunities to experience different foods, and realize that most toddlers are picky regardless of what you feed them, they will eventually become good eaters. Parents worry that "they will starve" if I don't fix their favorite food every night. Children are SMART and they are smarter than we are, they self regulate and eat when they are actually hungry. If you provide a well-balanced meal three times a day, most younger kids will eat one fairly well and may pick at two. That does not mean that they need a different meal when they pick or refuse to eat, it just means they are not hungry at that time and should nicely be reminded that they might be hungry later, but not forced to eat. Along those same lines, when it is snack time later in the day, they should be given something healthy (even that sandwich or fruit that they refused at lunch) and not crackers and goldfish. Again, let them decide whether to eat it. IF you take the high road on this issue, hang in there for a LONG time, you will be pleasantly surprised that they become "good eaters", eat a wide variety of foods and know that you are not the short order cook at home. Those picky toddlers continue to gain weight, learn their colors and alphabet and grow into children that enjoy mealtime together. That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Food Textures

1.30 to read

If you have a baby between the ages of 8-9 months and have already been offering them pureed baby foods it may be time to start some textures as well.  Many parents are a bit “wary” of offering any food that hasn’t been totally pureed, but it is important that your baby starts to experiment with foods that have different consistencies. 

Of course this does not mean you hand your baby anything that they could choke on like a grape, or piece of meat etc. But instead of totally pureeing carrots, why not cook them well, chop them up a bit and put them on the high chair tray. It is fun to watch how they touch and feel the carrots, before they “smoosh and moosh” them and get them to their mouths.   

There are so many foods that are easily offered to a baby to get them used to feeling different textures.  This is the very beginning of experimenting with finger foods, and this doesn’t just mean puffs or cheerios either. I like to encourage babies to feel cold, gooey, warm, sticky, all sorts of different textures which will ultimately help them become better and more adventuresome eaters as they get older.  

Unfortunately, I see far too many little ones (and not so little ones too) continuing to eat totally pureed foods and then becoming adverse to textures as they did not get the experience at an early enough age. 

It is also fun to watch your child as they begin to pick up foods that have been chopped and diced into small soft pieces. In the early stages they have to scoop and lick the food from their fingers and hands, but very quickly their pincer grasp takes over and suddenly they can pick up that well cooked green bean or pea!!  Such a feat and worthy of a home video to send to the grandparents for sure. 

So, put out some mushy food and let them play - I know it is messy but that is what being a kid is often about!

Daily Dose

Childhood Obesity

1.30 to read

Everyone knows that obesity is on the rise and it is often beginning in childhood.  During well-child visits (and often during a visit for colds or flu) parents often bring up a child’s weight.  By using growth charts it is fairly easy for the doctor to show a parent and child where they fall on the growth curve and BMI (body mass index) curve as well. When discussing weight issues it is sometimes difficult to decide what terms are appropriate to use.

A study just published on line in Pediatrics surveyed 445 parents of children 2–18 years of age to assess what are perceived to be the most appropriate terms to be used when discussing weight issues in a child. The study, done at Yale University, was interesting in that more than 60% of parents said that referring to a child as “extremely fat” or “obese” would be “most stigmatizing and the least motivating terms to encourage weight loss.”

In this study, American parents preferred that terms such as “unhealthy weight”, “weight problem” or “being overweight” be used to discuss weight issues and that these terms would also be more motivating for weight loss.

In the same study about 36% of parents said that they would “put their children on a strict diet” in response to weight stigma from a doctor. This is concerning as well as since research has shown that severe dieting and restriction of calories in young children may backfire and may at times lead to other issues including eating disorders.

Whether we call it an unhealthy weight or being overweight or even using the term fat probably depends on each family and their own preferences. But whatever we call it, the topic should be addressed at each well child visit. The basic tenets of a healthy body weight still depend on eating a well balanced diet and getting daily exercise. Why does that sound so simple?

The easiest way to start to control weight gain is to begin with good habits when your children are young. If children are raised from their toddler years with a wide variety of healthy foods presented to them at meal and snack time, they will learn to enjoy these foods. “Grazing” should be discouraged and discussions should not be about “what you will or won’t eat” but rather about gathering for family meals and enjoying the time together. Parents needn’t be “short order” cooks, a child will eat if they are hungry and given the opportunity. But by offering a limited variety of foods and preparing just a few items that a child “likes” the stage is already being set for poor eating habits down the road.

Our job as parents is to provide healthy meals (and snacks) to our children, while the children will have to decide whether or not to eat it. There will be days that they are getting their favorite foods and others that they may not, but in the long run they will be a better and healthier eater. It would be nice not to have to figure out the correct term to use for being overweight or even obese.  Maybe we can cure it in the next generation and the terminology will become obsolete!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Diagnosing Food Allergies

1.15 to read

Food allergies continue to be a problem in the pediatric population and I often get calls or see a patient for an office visit with a parent who has a concern that their child “may have” reacted to something they ate. Their question is, are they allergic?  

There is a great resource for physicians entitled “The Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States”.  Not all adverse reactions to foods are allergic and it sometimes takes a bit of “detective work”, which is a good history and physical exam, to begin to determine if a child has a food allergy.   

So, when a parent tells me that their child gets a rash on their chin or cheek after eating “xyz” food the questions begin.  Was it the first time they had ever been exposed to that food? Describe the rash and how the child was acting?  Did they have other symptoms with the rash? Was the rash just on a cheek or was it all over? Was it hives? This list of questions go on and on.   

The most common food allergens are egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, shellfish and soy. I also ask if this was a one time occurrence, and  If they have tried the food again did it happen every time? Many times hard to tease out what a child has had to eat when they have a mish-mash of food on their plate and nothing is new!  

Is there a family history of allergy or asthma?  Does your child have eczema as well?  If so there is a greater chance of developing a food allergy.  

After a detailed history, and if I do think that the child has a good history for a food allergy, there are tests (skin prick and blood) that may help determine if an allergy may exist.  BUT, with that being said, there are several caveats.  Number one, your doctor should not test for “every” food allergen, only for the suspected food or foods, as there are many false positive tests when you just check all of the boxes for testing IGE levels for an allergy.  For example, if your child eats eggs and has had no problem but the IGE level comes back a bit high for egg allergy, what does that really mean?  In other words, I just test for the suspected culprit. So, I do not test for tree nuts if the parents only had concerns with a peanut product.   More to come on this topic. 

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