Banner Health Services  

Is my child obese?

 

Alicia Acevedo, MD, is a board-certified Internal Medicine/Pediatrics physician at Banner Estrella Medical Center.

Question: I believe my child is obese. What can I do now to help him get back on track?

Answer: First and foremost, you should see your physician before doing any self diagnosis. Some children with weight issues could have serious thyroid problems that would require medication or treatment. Your physician can order a complete blood work up to eliminate all medical issues before you tackle the environmental issues that might be leading to your son’s weight gain.

Once your physician has ruled out medical concerns, you need to assess the environment that has lead to your son’s problem. Increase exercise. Limit sugar and fast food. Change your portion sizes. All of these answers are well-known but not as easily accomplished. Remember, you play a big part in your child’s diet—the healthier you are, the healthier he is going to be.

Exercise and activity is, of course, a huge factor in weight gain for children. I recommend increasing the level of activity to approximately 60 minutes per day and limiting the amount of television to maximum of 30 minutes per day. By activity, I mean anything from walking to the park with your son to encouraging him to join a competitive sports team. With television, I also include Playstations, Xboxes and other video games/computer games that encourage children to be inactive.

An easy way to limit sugar is to look at your child’s drinking habits. One soda has more than 100 calories. By eliminating one soda from your son’s daily diet, he can easily drop 10 pounds in just one year. Parents should also limit fruit juice, substituting with water, flavored water (watch for calories) or diet lemonade. Encourage your son to eat his fruit instead of drinking it—fresh fruit does not have the added sugar juice has.

Add vegetables and whole grain to your son’s diet. Children should have at least three cups of vegetables a day. Whole grains add health benefits to any sandwich. If your son is not lactose intolerant, he should have three cups (servings) of milk a day. After the age of 2, children can drink 2-percent or skim milk instead of whole milk to cut down on calories.

Most importantly, practice what you preach. Children imitate their parents’ choices. If you are eating whole grain pasta with fresh tomato sauce for dinner, chances are your children are as well. This healthy eating style encourages your son to look beyond the pre-packaged, fast food that leads to weight gain to find healthy options even when you aren’t the one who is feeding him.

 

Page Last Modified: 08/28/2013
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