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The Informed Parent

How Can I Gain Control Of My Child’s Eating Habits? Part 1

by Shanna R. Cox, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jul. 22, 2013
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It is staggering to realize the state of affairs our children are in here in the new century. Look on any school playground. You will often see overweight, sedentary children. How did this situation develop? And, are my kids one of the heavy ones? What can I do to correct this?

First off, consult with your pediatrician. Express your concerns. Make a list to help you remember the questions at hand. If you don’t understand something do not hesitate to ask questions. Ask for information about your child’s growth and development. Know what you can do as a parent to stimulate your child’s growth and learning potential. Think of your physician as a part of your family’s team. Your goals are the same: to do what is best for your child.

Your child’s height and weight are measured with each visit from birth to eighteen years. These measurements are plotted on a growth chart with percentiles, which range from 3% to 97%. These percentiles are formed from studies of children across the United States who are the same age as your child.

The percentage where your child’s height and weight fit shows where he is compared to other children his same age. As an example, if your child is at the 25th percentile, this means he is heavier/taller than 25% of children his age, and that 75% of children his age are heavier/taller than him. A child at the 50th percentile would be considered the “average”, meaning half of children his age are heavier/taller than he and half are smaller/shorter.

Where your child’s measurements fit on the percentiles is a reflection of many things: i.e., how big/tall his parents are, how he is eating, the rate he is growing. Your child is unique, but the majority of children fit somewhere in these percentiles. Children who are premature and children with some other illnesses may not fit these percentiles, and there are special growth charts to fit their needs.

Children’s growth tends to follow along a particular percentile most of their lives. Your physician looks at these to make sure this is happening. It is concerning when a child either goes down several percentiles or goes up. Children who are less than the 3rd percentile in weight may not be thriving enough to ensure their growth and development. More commonly, children who are greater than the 97th percentile for weight may be obese, or too heavy.

You provide the food that sustains your child. It follows that your eating behaviors also teach your children. Do not provide separate meals for your child. Healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables are desirable. Juice is mostly sugar. Therefore, it is not a healthy beverage. This includes Snapple, Fruitopia, Arizona beverage, and other similar products. Sodas are not appropriate beverages for children. Instead, choose milk, water, or diluted juice. If your family drinks sodas, change to diet soda only. Chips and Cheetos are mostly sugar and fat. They are not healthy snacks, and are not appropriate for young children. Eat as a family as much as possible, and NOT in front of the television.

If your child is eating meals at school, encourage him to choose healthy alternatives. Do not give your child money to spend on unhealthy snacks. Instead use the money to provide him with snacks that you choose. Do not reward your child’s behavior with sweets.

There is such a thing as too much milk. Ask your doctor what the right amount is for your child. Do not use dietary supplements that you have not discussed with your doctor. Vitamins do not make children eat better. If you are concerned about your child’s weight, discuss with your doctor what changes your family can make to solve the problem.

Next week we shall cover the continuation of your gaining control of your child’s eating habits, and how you can help stimulate him toward a healthier lifestyle.

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ERRATA

Nobody is perfect and we, too,  can also make errors. During the proof reading process a misstatement was overlooked on Dr. Shanna Cox’s articles of September 22 and September 29, 2013 entitled “How Can I Gain Control of My Child’s Eating Habits?”

The statement  was “Children who are greater than the 97th percentile in weight or height on their growth chart are characterized as obese and are at risk for the development of associated health problems.” 

It should have said, “More commonly, children who are greater than the 97th percentile for weight may be obese, or too heavy.”  Even more correctly height percentile and weight percentile have to be compared. This is expressed as BMI.  




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