The Common Cold

Rhinovirus Infections
More than any other illness, rhinoviruses (rhin means “nose”) are associated with the common cold. Rhinoviruses may also cause some sore throats, ear infections, sinus infections, and to a lesser degree, pneumonia and bronchiolitis (infection of the small breathing passages of the lungs).

The average child has 8 to 10 colds during the first 2 years of her life. If she spends time in child care settings where she’ll be exposed to other children with colds, she may catch even more colds.

Rhinoviruses are spread easily through person-to-person contact. When a child with a rhinovirus infection has a runny nose, nasal secretions get onto her hands and from there onto tables, toys, and other surfaces. Your child might touch the hands or skin of another youngster or toys that have been contaminated by the virus and then touch her own eyes or nose, infecting herself. She might breathe in airborne viruses spread by a sneeze or cough.

Although your child can develop a cold at any time of the year, these infections are most common during autumn and spring.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of the common cold are familiar to everyone. Your child’s cold may start with a watery, runny nose that has a clear discharge. Later, the discharge becomes thicker and is often colored brownish, gray, or greenish. This colored nasal discharge is normal as the child begins to get over the cold.

Children may also develop symptoms such as

  • Sneezing
  • A mild fever (101°F–102°F or 38.3°C–38.9°C)
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • A decrease in appetite

In some children, pus will appear on the tonsils, which could be a sign of a streptococcal infection

The incubation period for a rhinovirus infection is usually 2 to 3 days. Symptoms generally persist for 10 to 14 days, sometimes less.

What You Can Do

When your child has a cold, make sure she gets enough rest. She should drink extra fluid if she has fever. If she is uncomfortable, talk to your pediatrician about giving her acetaminophen to reduce her fever. Don’t give her over-the-counter cold remedies or cough medicines without first checking with your doctor. These over-the-counter medicines do not kill the virus and, in most circumstances, do not help with the symptoms.

When to Call Your Pediatrician

If your infant is 3 months or younger and develops cold symptoms, contact your pediatrician. Complications ranging from pneumonia to bronchiolitis are much more likely to develop in very young children.

Older youngsters generally don’t need to be seen by a pediatrician when they have a cold. Nevertheless, contact your doctor if your older youngster has symptoms such as

  • Lips or nails that turn blue
  • Noisy or difficult breathing
  • A persistent cough
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Ear pain, which may indicate an ear infection

How Is the Diagnosis Made?

Colds are typically diagnosed by observing your child’s symptoms. In general, it is impractical to conduct laboratory tests to identify the organism that may be infecting a child with cold symptoms.
Treatment

Most rhinovirus infections are mild and do not require any specific treatment. Antibiotics are not effective against the common cold and other viral infections.

What Is the Prognosis?

Most colds go away on their own without complications.

Prevention

Keep an infant younger than 3 months from having close contact with children or adults who have colds.

Make sure your child washes her hands frequently, which will reduce the chances of getting the virus.


Source: Immunizations &Infectious Diseases: An Informed Parent’s Guide (Copyright ©American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


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Constantly Connected: Adverse Effects of Media on Children & Teens

​Today’s children and teens are growing up immersed in digital media. They are exposed to media in all forms, including TV, computers, smartphones, and other screens.

Media can influence how children and teens feel, learn, think, and behave.
What We Know:

Here are facts about digital media use.

  • Almost 75% of teens own a smartphone. They can access the Internet, watch TV and videos, and download interactive applications (apps). Mobile apps allow photo-sharing, gaming, and video-chatting.
  • 25% of teens describe themselves as “constantly connected” to the Internet.
  • 76% of teens use at least one social media site. More than 70% of teens visit multiple social media sites, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
  • 4 of 5 households (families) own a device used to play video games.

Why It’s Good to Unplug:
Overuse of digital media and screens may place your child or teen at risk of

Obesity. Excessive screen use, as well as having a TV in the bedroom, can increase the risk of obesity. Teens who watch more than 5 hours of TV per day are 5 times more likely to be overweight than teens who watch 0 to 2 hours. Watching TV for more than 1.5 hours daily is a risk factor for obesity for children 4 through 9 years of age. This is in part due to the fact that viewers are exposed to advertising for high-calorie foods. Viewers are also more likely to snack or overeat while watching screen media.

Sleep problems. Media use can interfere with sleep. Children and teens who spend more time with social media or who sleep with mobile devices in their rooms are at greater risk for sleep problems. Exposure to light (particularly blue light) and stimulating content from screens can delay or disrupt sleep, and have a negative effect on school.

Problematic internet use. Children who overuse online media can be at risk for problematic Internet use. Heavy video gamers are at risk for Internet gaming disorder. They spend most of their free time online, and show less interest in offline or “real-life” relationships. 4% to 8% of children and teens may have problems limiting their Internet use, and almost 10% of US youth 8 to 18 years of age may have Internet gaming disorder. There may be increased risks for depression at both the high and low ends of Internet use.

Negative effect on school performance. Children and teens often use entertainment media at the same time that they’re doing other things, such as homework. Such multi-tasking can have a negative effect on school.

Risky behaviors. Teens’ displays on social media often show risky behaviors, such as substance use, sexual behaviors, self-injury, or eating disorders. Exposure of teens through media to alcohol, tobacco use, or sexual behaviors is associated with earlier initiation of these behaviors.

Sexting and privacy and predators. Sexting is sending nude or seminude images as well as sexually explicit text messages using a cell phone. About 12% of youth age 10 to 19 years of age have sent a sexual photo to someone else. Teens need to know that once content is shared with others they may not be able to delete or remove it completely. They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings. Another risk is that sex offenders may use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail, and online games to contact and exploit children.

Cyberbullying. Children and teens online can be victims of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can lead to short- and long-term negative social, academic, and health issues for both the bully and the target. Fortunately, programs to help prevent bullying may reduce cyberbullying.

Children today are growing up in a time of highly personalized media use experiences, so parents must develop personalized media use plans for their children. Media plans should take into account each child’s age, health, personality, and developmental stage. All children and teens need adequate sleep (8-12 hours, depending on age), physical activity (1 hour), and time away from media. Put together your family media plan today!


Source: Digital Media and Your Children and Teens: TV, Computers, Smartphones, and Other Screens (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Breakfast for Learning

​Nearly half of all American families regularly skip breakfast. Is your family one of them? When it comes to getting your children to school, a healthy breakfast is just as important as gym shoes and sharp pencils.
How Breakfast Betters Your Child

Breakfast has been associated with everything from:

  • Better memory
  • Better test scores
  • Better attention span to decreased irritability
  • Healthier body weights
  • Improved overall nutrition

Rise & Dine
It’s easy to see how breakfast has come to qualify as one of the nutritional challenges of parenthood. Whether it’s your own parental time constraints or your child’s busy schedule, getting the whole family ready to set off to child care and/or school in the morning, play dates, or any of a whole host of other common early-in-the-day commitments, breakfast is often neglected.

If the words “slow” and “leisurely” don’t exactly describe your morning routine, we’d like to suggest that you commit a little extra time and effort to protecting the nutritional integrity of your child’s morning meal.

Breakfast-Made-Easier Tips for Parents

Whether you opt for a simple breakfast or a more elaborate one, any effort to make it nutritious is better than no breakfast at all. Whether that means a glass of low-fat milk and a piece of wheat toast or an all-out feast, the following breakfast-made-easier tips will hopefully help you rise to the occasion and overcome some of the most common barriers to a healthy breakfast.

Schedule accordingly. While we’d like to remind you that sitting down and sharing family meals is beneficial, we’re willing to bet that sitting down to a leisurely breakfast with your kids each morning simply isn’t realistic for most of you. What is realistic, however, is making sure you carve out enough time to allow your child to eat without pressure. Especially for infants and toddlers, this includes factoring in enough time in the morning’s schedule to allow for both assisted- and self-feeding.

Fix breakfast before bedtime. In other words, plan ahead. As with just about all other aspects of feeding your child, a little advance planning can go a long way toward having a wider range of healthy foods on hand. Simple examples such as hard-boiling eggs ahead of time or having your child’s favorite cold cereal dished out the night before to pair with some presliced fresh fruit can mean the difference between time for a balanced breakfast and running out the door without it (or, as is often the case, with some commercially packaged and far less nutritious alternative in hand).

Grab-and-go breakfasts. If the reality of your schedule is such that you and your kids routinely run out the door with no time to spare in the morning, then try stocking up on a variety of nutritious foods that you can prepare and prepackage for healthier grab-and-go convenience. In addition to hard-boiled eggs, consider other fast favorites like sliced apples, homemade muffins, or a bagel with low-fat cream cheese.

Make sure sleep is on the menu. Applying the age-old adage, make sure your child is early enough to bed that she rises early enough to allow time for breakfast. No matter what their age, tired kids tend to be cranky, and cranky kids are far less likely to sit down for a well-balanced breakfast. Not only that, but sleep has proven itself to be a crucial ingredient in children’s overall health.

Broaden your horizons. You’ll certainly want to keep safety in mind when figuring out what’s age-appropriate to offer your child for breakfast, but don’t let yourself be constrained by artificially imposed labels to determine what is good to serve for a morning meal. Think protein, think fruits and vegetables, and think outside the box when it comes to expanding your breakfast horizons beyond just breakfast cereals and milk.

Look for child care and school support. Be sure to check out what breakfast options your child’s school or child care provider offers. With much-deserved attention now being paid to the food our children eat in out-of-home settings, you’re more likely to find balanced breakfast options on the menu, and your child may well be more receptive to eating them if all of his friends are eating alongside him.


Source: Healthy Children E-Magazine, Back to School 2012. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Choosing Healthy Snacks for Kids

While meals make up the majority of a child’s nutritional intake, most children eat at least one snack per day. While many of the most commonly offered kids’ snacks tend to be of lower nutritional value than meals, snacks still can support—or even enhance—your child’s overall healthy eating plan. Here’s how:

  • Use snack times as a way to increase fruits and vegetable intake. Most kids do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Snack times offer a great opportunity to increase access and exposure to these nutrient-dense foods. Consider pairing them up with dairy products or dairy substitutes (such as grapes and cheese) lean proteins (such as celery and peanut butter), or whole-grain cereals and bread (such as a banana sandwich on whole grain bread).
  • Keep a range of healthy foods handy at home. It is much easier to make easy, healthy snacks when you keep a few key items stocked at home. Ideas include different types of raw vegetables and fruit, yogurt dip, hummus, and cheese sticks.
  • Avoid processed foods and added sugars. Processed foods (made in a factory and sold in bags and boxes) do not have many nutrients and often have a lot of added sugar and salt. In addition, children may become hungry faster after eating processed foods.
  • Teach your children to eat a rainbow of colors. Arrange your children’s foods to show the beauty of fresh, brightly colored foods. Talk about the farms where food comes from and the farmers who help grow it.

Source: Section on Obesity (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

March is National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Visit their website today for information about Food, Health and Fitness for the whole family! CLICK HERE for fun games, tip sheets and handouts, interesting videos and more!

Then, stay tuned to the Pediatric Plus blog and Facebook page during the month of March as we look at:

  • Preschool: Sample Menu for a Preschooler
  • Gradeschool: Making Healthy Food Choices
  • Teen: A Teenager’s Nutritional Needs
  • Baby: Sample Menu for a 1-Year-Old

11 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active

exercise

Did You Know?

  • Only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day.
  • Less than 50% of the time spent in sports practice, games, and physical education class involves moving enough to be considered physical activity.
  • Children and teens spend more than 7 hours per day on average using TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices for entertainment.
  • About 1 out of 3 children is either overweight or obese in the United States.
    Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.

Getting Started
Parents can play a key role in helping their child become more physically active. Here are 11 ways to get started:

  1. Talk with your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor can help your child understand why physical activity is important. Your child’s doctor can also suggest a sport or activity that is best for your child.
  2. Find a fun activity. Help your child find a sport that she enjoys. The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely she will continue it. Get the entire family involved. It is a great way to spend time together.
  3. Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a 7- or 8-year-old child is not ready for weight lifting or a 3-mile run, but soccer, bicycle riding, and swimming are all appro­priate activities.
  4. Plan ahead. Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
  5. Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child’s equipment and chosen site for the sport or activity are safe. Make sure your child’s clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
  6. Provide active toys. Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes, and other active toys.
  7. Be a role model. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
  8. Play with your child. Help her learn a new sport.
  9. Turn off the TV. Limit TV watching and computer use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time, including TV, videos, computers, and video games, each day. Use the free time for more physical activities.
  10. Make time for exercise. Some children are so overscheduled with homework, music lessons, and other planned activities that they do not have time for exercise.
  11. Do not overdo it. When your child is ready to start, remember to tell her to listen to her body. Exercise and physical activity should not hurt. If this occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it. If your child’s weight drops below an average, acceptable level or if exercise starts to interfere with school or other activities, talk with your child’s doctor.

Last Updated 11/18/2015. Source Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics, Updated 10/2015). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

The Flu: FAQ

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What is the flu?
The influenza (flu) virus causes serious illness that may result in hospitalization or death. It mostly affects the breathing system but may also affect the whole body. The flu season usually starts in the fall and ends in the spring. Talk with your doctor about getting vaccinated at the start of the season (late summer or early fall) so that you are protected during the whole season. People can get the flu more than once per season and many times in their lives. Influenza viruses are unpredictable. They are always changing over time and from year to year. As many as 4 flu viruses are expected to make children sick again this flu season.

What are signs of the flu?
All flu viruses cause a respiratory illness that can last a week or more. Flu symptoms include:

  • A sudden fever (usually above 101°F [38.3°C])
  • Chills and body shakes
  • Headache, body aches, and being a lot more tired than usual
  • Sore throat
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Stuffy, runny nose

Some children may vomit and have diarrhea. Talk with your child’s doctor if your child has ear pain, a cough that will not go away, or a fever that will not go away. There can be serious complications, even death, from the flu, but these are uncommon.

How do I keep flu germs from spreading?
The flu virus spreads easily through the air with coughing and sneezing or through touching things such as doorknobs or toys and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Here are some tips that will help protect your family from getting sick.

  • Everyone should wash their hands often. You can use soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. That is about as long as singing the “Happy Birthday” song 2 times. An alcohol-based hand cleanser or sanitizer works well too. Put enough on your hands to make them wet. Then rub them together until dry.
  • Teach your children to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Show your children how to cough into the elbow or upper sleeve (not a hand) or use a tissue.
  • Throw used tissues into the trash right away.
  • Wash dishes and utensils in hot, soapy water or the dishwasher.
  • Do not share items such as toothbrushes, pacifiers, cups, spoons, forks, washcloths, or towels.
  • Teach your children to try not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Wash doorknobs, toilet handles, countertops, and toys. Use a disinfectant wipe or a cloth with soap and hot water to help kill germs.

What if my child gets the flu?

Call the doctor right away if your child shows any signs of the flu and:

  • Is 3 months or younger and has a fever
  • Has fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Looks very sick
  • Is more sleepy than usual
  • Is very fussy no matter what you do
  • Cannot or will not drink anything
  • Urinates very little

You should also call the doctor if your child shows signs of the flu and has a chronic medical condition, such as: Asthma, diabetes, or heart problems; Sickle cell disease, cancer, HIV, or another disease that makes it hard to fight infections; Cerebral palsy or other neurologic disorders of the brain and muscles that make it harder to cough up mucus and breathe; Morbid obesity (being very overweight).

Go to the emergency department right away if your child Has signs of the flu that keep getting worse, Has blue skin color, or Will not wake up at all

Should I keep my child home from school?
Keep your child home from school or child care when she has a fever and other signs of the flu. Your child needs rest. Plus, your child might give the flu to other children.

When can my child go back to school?
Your child should stay home until at least 24 hours after his fever is gone. Start counting time after you stop giving your child fever medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. A temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher is a sign of fever. Check with your child’s school or child care center to find out its rules about children staying home when they are ill.


Last Updated 9/9/2015. Source Seasonal Influenza (Flu) 2015–2016 (Copyright © 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Hey, What’s to Eat?

nutrition

Unless you’ve been totally out of the loop, it’s likely you’ve heard about the childhood obesity epidemic. Nearly 1 in 3 children in America is overweight or obese. It’s talked about on television, radio, the Internet, and in books, newspapers, and magazines. Yet, with all this focus on kids being overweight and obese, many parents are still confused, especially when it comes to what kids eat. How much does your child need? Is he getting enough calcium? Enough iron? Too much fat?

Whether you have a toddler or a teen, what he eats is important to both his physical and mental development. Here’s what children need — no matter what the age.

Infants
During this stage of life, it’s almost all about the milk — whether it’s breast milk, formula, or a combination of the two. Breast milk or formula will provide practically every nutrient a baby needs for the first year of life, says Jennifer Shu, M.D., FAAP, a pediatrician at Children’s Medical Group in Atlanta and co-author Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insights, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

At about six months most babies are ready to start solid foods like iron-fortified infant cereal and strained fruits, vegetables, and pureed meats, Dr. Shu says. Because breast milk may not provide enough iron and zinc when babies are around six to nine months, fortified cereals and meats can help breastfed babies in particular, she explains.

Once you do start adding foods, don’t go low-fat crazy. Although the AAP recently released updated guidelines stating fat restriction in some babies is appropriate, in general, “you don’t want to restrict fats under age two because a healthy amount of fat is important for babies’ brain and nerve development,” says Dr. Shu.

Toddlers and Preschoolers
“Toddlers and preschoolers grow in spurts and their appetites come and go in spurts, so they may eat a whole lot one day and then hardly anything the next,” says Loraine Stern, M.D., FAAP, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine. It’s normal, and as long as you offer them a healthful selection, they will get what they need, she says.

One area parents should probably keep under watch is calcium. Calcium, the body’s building block, is needed to develop strong, healthy bones and teeth. Children may not believe or care that milk “does a body good,” but it is the best source of much-needed calcium.

Still, there’s hope for the milk-allergic, lactose-intolerant, or those who are just impartial to milk. Lactose-free milk, soy milk, tofu, sardines, and calcium-fortified orange juices, cereals, waffles, and oatmeal are some calcium-filled options. In some cases the doctor may recommend calcium supplements.

Fiber is another important focus. Toddlers start to say “no” more and preschoolers can be especially opinionated about what they eat. The kids may want to stick to the bland, beige, starchy diet (think chicken nuggets, fries, macaroni), but this is really the time to encourage fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, which all provide fiber, Dr. Shu says. Not only does fiber prevent heart disease and other conditions, but it also helps aid digestion and prevents constipation, something you and your child will be thankful for.

Elementary School
Don’t be surprised if your child quits meat. “It isn’t uncommon for a 6- or 7-year-old to suddenly decide to be a vegetarian once they understand animals and where food comes,” Dr. Stern says. This doesn’t mean she won’t get enough protein. “Animal tissue isn’t the only place we get protein,” Dr. Stern says. Rice, beans, eggs, milk, peanut butter — all have protein. So whether your child goes “no-meat” for a week or for life, she’ll likely still get sufficient amounts of protein.

Areas that might be a little too sufficient are sugars, fats, and sodium. “This time is when kids first go to school and have a little bit more choice in what they eat, especially if they’re getting it in the cafeteria themselves,” Dr. Shu says. Cakes, candy, chips, and other snacks might become lunchtime staples. The body needs carbs (sugars), fats, and sodium, but should be eaten in moderation, as too much can lead to unneeded weight gain and other health problems. Packing your child’s lunch or going over the lunch menu and encouraging her to select healthier choices can help keep things on track, Dr. Shu says.

Preteens and Teens
As puberty kicks in, young people need more calories to support the many changes they will experience. Unfortunately, for some, those extra calories come from fast food or “junk” foods with little nutritional value. Some adolescents go the opposite way and restrict calories, fats, or carbs. Adolescence is the time kids start to become conscious of their weight and body image, which, for some, can lead to eating disorders or other unhealthy behaviors, Dr. Stern says. She recommends parents keep an eye on things by being aware of changes in eating patterns and making family dinners a priority once or twice a week.

Like calories, calcium requirements are higher. Calcium is more important than ever during the tween and teen years because the majority of bone mass is built during this time. However, fewer than 10 percent of girls and just more than 25 percent of boys ages 9 to 13 are at or above their adequate intake of calcium. Encouraging kids to have milk, milk products, or calcium-rich alternatives, even if it means they have to add chocolate syrup to their milk to make it more palatable, should help them get more calcium.

In addition to more calories and calcium, your child’s gender may play a role in whether he or she needs more of a particular nutrient. For instance, teen girls need more iron than their male counterparts to replace what’s lost during menstruation, and males need slightly more protein than girls.

Although getting your child to eat healthy — regardless of his or her age — can be a constant battle, it’s one well worth fighting. A healthy child becomes a healthy adult, and only with your support and guidance will your child be both.

Source Healthy Children Magazine, Fall 2008. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Back-to-School 101: Eating During the School Day

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Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy.

Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school’s website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.

Look into what is offered in school vending machines. Vending machines should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice. Learn about your child’s school wellness policy and get involved in school groups to put it into effect.

Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options to send in your child’s lunch.

Eating for Good Health

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What was your initial reaction when you realized that your child needed to control his weight? In that situation, many parents find themselves thinking, “I’ve got to put him on a diet.” After all, in a culture in which thinness seems to be the name of the game and Americans just can’t get their fill of diet books, you might instinctively think that the solution rests with the latest weight-loss fad, even though these diets are rarely designed with growing children or good nutrition in mind.

No matter what some diet gurus proclaim, calorie counting and exercising to the point of fatigue are not the answer, particularly for children. In fact, restricting calories in a growing child could pose risks to his health. You shouldn’t do so unless your pediatrician recommends and supervises those efforts.

So what’s the answer? Consistently good nutrition, meal after meal, is a foundation for a healthy childhood. Rather than becoming preoccupied with weightloss goals, you should focus instead on a wholesome lifestyle for everyone in your family, no matter what each member weighs. Establish some structure to your family’s eating — 3 well-thought-out meals and 2 snacks a day. If you take steps to minimize the junk food in your family’s diet, eliminate sugared beverages like soft drinks, pay attention to portion sizes, and add some physical activity to the mix, your heavy child will grow up to have a healthy weight.

In preparing foods high in nutritional value, build the family meals around selections like:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole-grain cereals and bread
  • Low-fat or nonfat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheeses
  • Lean and skinless meats including chicken, turkey, fish, and lean hamburger

The basics of good nutrition really aren’t that complicated. It means choosing low-fat turkey bologna instead of beef, or preparing a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a high-fat cheeseburger. Portion sizes at this age should be less than that of an adult-sized serving. Remember that when you’re in the kitchen, choose cooking methods that involve a minimal amount of fat, relying primarily on broiling, roasting, and steaming.

During the middle years of childhood, there are plenty of obstacles that can trip up your well-intentioned efforts at keeping your family eating right. In the mornings, as you’re rushing to get your child off to school, are there days when he doesn’t have the time to sit down for a nourishing breakfast? At school, does he sometimes make poor choices in the cafeteria or from vending machines?

As a parent, part of your responsibility is to find solutions for any stumbling blocks that arise. If the school cafeteria doesn’t offer many healthy choices or your child cannot be convinced to purchase healthy options (and in many elementary and middle schools, only one lunch entrée is provided), pack a healthy lunch for your child each day. You might prepare a turkey sandwich on multigrain or pita bread. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is fine, too. There are plenty of good selections, but stay away from pastrami, salami, and other high-fat lunch meats. Add a piece of fruit to your child’s lunch sack and perhaps a bag of pretzels. Pack a small water bottle for him, or give him money to buy low-fat milk in the cafeteria.

Once your child gets home from school, he might head straight for the cupboard or refrigerator and look for something to munch on. Have some healthy snacks for him to choose from — raw vegetables with nonfat dip, fresh fruit, whole-grain crackers, air-popped popcorn, unsalted pretzels, or baked tortillas with salsa. Keep the ice cream, cookies, and cakes out of reach — or better yet, out of the house altogether (reserve them for special occasions). If you don’t limit access to snack foods like these, you’re unfairly setting your child up for a losing battle against weight gain.

Meanwhile, stay alert for other potential stumbling blocks to healthy eating. For example, your school-aged child may sometimes exchange food with friends, giving up the sandwich and fruit that you’ve packed for him and trading them for a bag of potato chips. After school, if he’s spending time at a playmate’s home, he might be snacking there on candy rather than an apple. In short, even if you’ve done a good job of educating your child on making nutritious food choices, he’ll face plenty of temptations, almost on a daily basis.

Also remember that you’re a role model in this process, so make healthy food choices for yourself as well as the rest of the family. Even though school-aged children are busier than ever, make an effort to find time for family meals as often as possible. When all of you sit down at the dining room table together, it’s a perfect opportunity for every family member to describe his or her day and the family to grow closer.


Last Updated 7/9/2014. Source A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity: A Road Map to Health (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.