Childhood Obesity: Tips for a Healthier Family

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Guest: Dr. Janice Key - Pediatric Adolescent Medicine

Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatrist

Announcer: Welcome to an MUSC Health Podcast.

Dr. Linda Austin: I am Dr. Linda Austin interviewing Dr. Janice Key, who is Professor of Pediatrics. Dr. Key, one of your areas of expertise is childhood overweight and obesity. Many parents struggle with these issues genuinely wanting their kids to eat well, but not knowing quite how to help them the most, what are some simple tips or suggestions you might have for parents?

Dr. Janice Key: You are right Linda. We are surrounded by a culture that has every food available, high-density food, many calories in what we eat, so you have to be careful what you choose for your children. One think is eat smart, don’t bring high calorie dense junk foods and low nutritional value food in your home, just don’t buy it, that include sugar containing drinks, sodas, fruit juices, Gatorade, don’t make sweeten tea. Drink water or drink non-sugar containing drinks, don’t buy sugar containing drinks, that’s tip number one. Tip number two, don’t buy potato chips and junk snacks, don’t buy those prepackaged dessert cakes. I know there are tempting because you can them by the crate at discount stores, but don’t even have them in your home, have other healthy snacks. We are supposed to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday, so have fruits and vegetables available for healthy snacks. Another tip is, eat together, sit around the table, and eat dinner together that not only helps with nutrition but also helps with family relations. In studies that look at academic performance how kids did in school, eating together two or more times a week as a family help kids do better in school, have better grades, better achievement, more self-esteem, and lower depression because when you eat dinner together as a family you talk to each other.

Dr. Linda Austin: What about breakfast, is that an important meal?

Dr. Janice Key: Remember mom use to say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it turns out she was right. Your brain needs calories to work in the morning. This is so important that some of our schools are serving breakfast in the classroom before school starts.

Dr. Linda Austin: Would you recommend, though, is it better yet for parents to serve breakfast for their children?

Dr. Janice Key: Absolutely, breakfast at home and it’s is a good time to have a very nutritious and quick breakfast. If you are completely out of time, you can always have a breakfast part even in the car on the way to school or even better than that is organize your day to sit around the table in the morning and have cereal and low-fat milk may be with fruit may be with orange juice before you start your day.

Dr. Linda Austin: What’s a good suggestion for a lunch meal for children?

Dr. Janice Key: As far as lunch is concerned, remember we want to eat five fruits and vegetables a day, so having fruit or vegetable in lunch is very important. Then what about a sandwich? A sandwich is easy as long as you don’t put mayonnaise on it. Mayonnaise is a big no, no. It is a solid fat, that’s all mayonnaise is. You can have a sandwich with mustard, that’s fine, but not mayonnaise.

Dr. Linda Austin: How about after-school snacks?

Dr. Janice Key: Some kids really need an after-school snack. They can’t make it until dinner time because of their physical activity. An after-school snack that includes a fruit and a vegetable or a peanut butter sandwich would be an excellent after-school snack as long as it’s not a sugar containing drink and the potato chips.

Dr. Linda Austin: And dinner?

Dr. Janice Key: Sit around the table together at dinner, remember to include vegetables at dinner, remember to only drink water or low-fat milk or unsweetened drink and enjoy dinner together.Dr. Linda Austin:Dessert, is that allowed?

Dr. Janice Key: Well dessert is never a no, no. It just depends on how much you weigh and what the dessert is, and the proportions of dessert to the rest of your nutrition. So, I don’t think we should eliminate dessert, dessert is wonderful. It’s just the amount.

Dr. Linda Austin: Any other tips for parents specially those with overweight children. How does a parent balance issues about the child self-esteem on the one end versus encouraging them that may be they need to think about losing weight on the other?

Dr. Janice Key: That’s right. We don’t want to make them feel guilty about their weight, and overweight children are more prone to depression and low self-esteem. We have to be very sensitive to that. One thing we can do as parents is take some of that burden ourselves to control what’s in the home that they eat. Don’t put that on the child to avoid high-calorie foods that we brought into the home, we need to keep them out of the home. Second thing is don’t make them feel guilty. Guilt is not an essential nutrient, keep the guilt out of it.

Dr. Linda Austin: But, is it the issue may be not so much guilt as just embarrassment or shame. I recall actually being an adolescent at about 14 and I had put on, I don’t know, 5 to 10 pounds and happen to see my pediatrician at that time and the pediatrician said you have gained weight, you have two weeks to get it off, I will see you back then, and the embarrassment I felt was overwhelming. Just over that one little comment, I did lose the weight.

Dr. Janice Key: Well, you had an excellent pediatrician that noticed and kept you from becoming overweight first of all, but we do walk a fine line in bringing this problem to the attention of the child, but keep them from feeling guilt. We are not doing them a service by not informing them of their problem and getting them to work on the problem with us lifelong.

Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Key, thank you very much.

Dr. Janice Key: Thank you.

Announcer: If you have any questions about the services or programs offered at the Medical University of South Carolina or if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call MUSC Health Connection at (843) 792-1414.


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