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Obesity in Children

Since we are starting a new year and I plan to get on a healthy eating/fitness track I wanted to start my kids off right as well.  I was wondering if you have a resource that tells how many calories a child should be getting?  My middle son is on the husky side so for his benefit I'd like to find out his range, teach him portion control along with the other kids.  Can you help?

Obesity is a huge problem in America and a common issue in my practice. Before you get started on a new lifestyle, I would recommend you get a baseline height and weight. This can be done at home or ideally at your doctors office. You may ask your pediatrician to calculate a BMI (Body Mass Index). For most of my patients with weight concerns I recommend a whole family approach and starting with one livable change. By a “livable change” I mean a change that is reasonable and doable. Deciding to only eat broccoli for the rest of your life is not a “livable”, doable or reasonable change.

Examples of “livable change”

Set time before seconds - People who eat slower usually eat less. Sometimes is takes a little time for our body to realize we are full. For patients who seem guilty of eating large portions of food I often recommend a 10 minute waiting period prior to serving second helpings. Serve your family reasonable helpings. If an individual is still hungry they must wait 10 clock minutes prior to serving themselves seconds.

Eat as a family - Too often, I learn that my patients are eating dinner in front of the T.V. and not at a table. Multiple studies have show that people who do this tend to overeat and be obese. Eat at a table and with your family. It will help your waist line and bring your family together.

Drink water - Simply by drinking water many people are able to cut calories. We often do not notice that many of the liquids we drink are high in calories. By drinking water only or even drinking water prior to other drinks, many people can painlessly reduce their caloric intake.

Stop whole milk - If you are beyond that age of 2 years old, you should be drinking skim milk. Whole milk has tons of fat and therefore tons of calories.

Limit eating out - Most American families eat out too often. By setting a limit on the number of times your family eats out per week or per month can greatly reduce the caloric intake for some families.

Change snack habits - When people snack between meals they tend to eat poor quality/high calorie foods. Some people can reduce their caloric intake by eliminating snack or eating healthier snacks.

Increase caloric use - Spending time outside, Turning off TV and computers, Daily walks, Bike to school or training to run or walk a 5K

Children fighting obesity have a relative advantage over adults. Obese adults need to lose weight, while many children may thin out by maintaining their weight and growing taller. Despite, this advantage obese children need to actively work to obtain a healthy weight. Medical evidence reveals that the majority of people who are heavy at 18 years old will be heavy their whole lives.

The second part of your question is addressing in "How many calories does a child need?".



Written January 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician






gregorygordonmd.com is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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