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Are you overfeeding your children?

Find Out If You Are Setting Your Kids Up To Be Obese And How To Get Your Family Back On Track

kidsApproximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents, in the U.S., aged 2 to 19 years are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). With so many kids tipping the scales at an unhealthy weight, it leaves some parents wondering: am I overfeeding my child?

Scott & White dietician, Ms. Gladys Skinner, said parents need to look at what they are feeding their children and make sure portion sizes are age-appropriate.

“The latest guidelines have been formulated with the “my plate” concept,” Ms. Skinner said. “It’s put together by the USDA. They came up with a guideline that would help parents determine how much their child needs [of each food group].”

The “my plate” concept suggests that half of your child’s plate should be fruits and vegetables, a fourth of the plate should be grains and other starchy foods, and the other fourth protein. The dairy food group can be added by giving your child milk to drink with his or her meal.

When your child is eating a variety of foods, especially vegetables and grains, they will be less likely to overeat, reducing their chances of becoming overweight or obese.

What are the risks associated with overeating and becoming overweight?

“The immediate risks are diabetes, high blood pressure, in pubital girls—polycystic ovarian syndrome, increased pressure on the joints leading to sprains and fractures and sleep apnea,” said pediatric endocrinologist, Catherine J. McNeal, MD, PhD, Scott & White – Temple.

But the problem isn’t just eating too much, she said. Often times, the child is eating an appropriate amount, but is not physically active.

“The other common problem we see with overweight families is that they tend to eat out a lot,” Dr. McNeal said. “When you eat out, it’s very difficult to monitor portion sizes.”

When you’re eating at restaurant, you could have a starter, a main course and then dessert. Whereas, at home, you may just have the main course.

What can a parent do to take a step in the right direction?

Dr. McNeal said the first thing to remember is not to aim the action at the child. It has to be a family change.

“The parents have to be role models,” she said. “If the parents aren’t going to implement change, then they can’t expect their children to implement change.”

That’s one of the things that the MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition…Do it) program, which is available in Temple and Waco, emphasizes.

“The program has really hit all of the highlights: family involvement, a positive attitude toward eating, and teaching parents and children to be savvy about the quality of their food—lower salt, lower calorically dense foods, and limiting greasy or fast foods.”

“Good habits are caught rather than taught. If parents are doing the things that they’re trying to instill in their children, then [the children] will learn a lot more and [the lessons] will last a lot longer.”

For more information about the MEND program, contact Brock Boone at 254-298-5737 or visit www.templeparks.net.

Not only is it the parent’s responsibility to serve healthy foods to their children and get them moving, but Ms. Skinner said they need to teach their children what goes into a healthy meal.

“Take them to the store when you grocery shop and show them where the food comes from,” she said. And talk about what the foods provide. Explain why they need to drink their milk.”

Here are a few tips to help make the transition into a healthier lifestyle.

  • Decrease your fat intake.
  • Broil or bake meats instead of frying them.
  • Limit gravies and sauces when cooking because they can add more calories.
  • Use a smaller plate to serve meals.
  • Get rid of sugary drinks like sodas, fruit drinks and juices.
  • Don’t give second helpings of grains or starchy foods like potatoes and corn.
  • Choose colorful fruits and vegetables to compliment a main course. The more colorful they are, the more nutrients they have.
  • Make healthy snack foods, like peanut butter on celery sticks, instead of buying pre-made snacks.

“In some ways, you could look at having an overweight or overfed child as a good thing for a family,” Dr. McNeal said. “It’s a catalyst for a family to take stock and change and look at the way they do things,” she said.

But she warns that parents need to practice what they preach.

“Good habits are caught rather than taught,” Ms. Skinner said. “If parents are doing the things that they’re trying to instill in their children, then [the children] will learn a lot more and [the lessons] will last a lot longer.”

For more information, visit choosemyplate.gov or make an appointment with your Scott & White primary care physician.

Was this your family? Were you overfeeding your child? How did you make a fresh start and get your child back on the right track?

About the author

Jessa McClure
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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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Are you overfeeding your children?