Monday, June 30, 2008

If you offer it, they will eat it...

I went to lunch this weekend with one of my friends and all children. I ordered my diner usual for the kids- grilled cheese sandwiches made without any butter, oil, or mayo and sliced cucumber instead of fries. My girlfriend laughed at me, claiming that her son (18 months old)would never go for that. She ordered him chicken fingers and fries. The food came and initially my children said, "Mommy, why can't we have fries?" and I said, "Because they aren't healthy". They accepted that and began to eat their lunch. At some point, my friend's son reached his hand into my daughter's plate and grabbed a cucumber. I watched him munch happily on the crisp vegetable. To prove my point, I ordered another side of cucumber and placed it in front of him. To his mother's surprise, he began to eat the cucumber, only occasionally stopping for some fries. I explained to my friend that children will eat the veggies if they are offered to them- especially if you start at a young age. She has now vowed to order cucumber instead of fries. I think the lesson here is that you shouldn't just assume that your child "won't" eat something. Try- and keep trying. Always offer healthy choices to your kids. You will be surprised how often they will eat them.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Salads are not (always) healthy!

Many people mistakenly believe that if a meal contains lettuce, it is automatically healthy. Salads are often some of the more fattening items on the menu. I laugh when people order a caesar salad because they are "on a diet". A caesar salad is beyond fattening. And a taco salad is never a healthy choice; you know your salad is unhealthy when it contains anything fried or is topped with sour cream. Even just a plain salad with regular salad dressing can sabotage your diet. Salad dressing has lots of calories and fat. Blue cheese and caesar salad dressings are the worst- they have about 76 calories and 8 grams of fat per tablespoon. And most people use much more than 1 Tbsp when dressing their salads. Other regular salad dressings have about 55 calories and 6 grams of fat per tablespoon. Light salad dressings have about 30 calories and 1.5 grams of fat per tablespoon and fat-free salad dressings have about 20 calories per tablespoon. Regardless of the type of dressing, be careful of serving sizes!!!

A patient's family recently told me that prior to coming to see me, they had been trying to lose weight on their own. They like to go to Burger King for the convenience- so they had begun to order salads to help them lose weight. They typically ordered a crispy chicken salad- and topped it with a packet of croutons and two packets of the light italian dressing. This "diet" meal contains 710 calories and 45 grams of fat! I told them that if they had eaten a small burger and small fries, they would have SAVED themselves 190 calories and 20 grams of fat!

Be very careful when eating salad. Try to use a small amount of a fat-free or low fat dressing- or better yet, learn to enjoy salads with just a splash of balsamic vinegar!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Does caffeine stunt growth?

It is a widely held belief that caffeine stunts growth, but there are no scientific studies to support this claim. However, caffeine is generally not recommended for children because it can cause many side effects such as upset stomach, jitteriness, nervousness, headaches, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and dehydration. Because children are smaller than adults, it takes much less caffeine to cause these effects in a child.

I often see children on the line at Starbucks- ordering Decaf drinks and thinking they are safe. All decaffeinated coffee has some caffeine (just less than regular). Starbucks decaf coffee has especially high levels of caffeine. In my opinion, parents should not give their children caffeine.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Mommy, why did you tell the waiter not to bring any fries?"

I took my children out to lunch today and ordered their lunch "without fries". My five-year old son got upset. "Mommy, how come you told the waiter not to bring any fries?" I looked him in the eyes and said, "Because fries are not good for your heart and I want your heart to be as healthy as possible". He looked at me and said, "Oh". End of discussion. Sometimes it is as easy as that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What is the best cold treat during summer?

What is the best cold treat during summer?

ice cream, premium: 1/2 cup = 266 cal, 17 grams of fat

ice cream, regular: 1/2 cup = 145 cal, 7.9 grams of fat

ice cream, light: 1/2 cup = 100 cal, 3.5 grams of fat

ice cream, no sugar added: 1/2 cup = 80 cal, 4 grams of fat

sorbet: 1/2 cup = 130 cal, 0 grams of fat

sherbet: 1/2 cup = 110 cal, 1.5 grams of fat

frozen yogurt, soft serve: 1/2 cup = 117 cal, 4 grams of fat

frozen yogurt, low fat: 1/2 cup = 150 cal, 4.5 grams of fat

frozen yogurt, fat-free: 1/2 cup = 100 cal, 0 grams of fat

frozen yogurt, premium, lowfat: 1/2 cup = 190 cal, 0 grams of fat

frozen yogurt, premium: 1/2 cup = 220 cal, 4.5 grams of fat

Enjoy summer!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fast food's convenience is so tempting... Don't Give In!

My daughter and I were shopping at Target the other day when I realized it was lunchtime. It was 12:30 and I only had an hour to run all my errands and pick my son up at school at 1:30. There was no way I was going to be able to stop to eat and get everything done. As I rushed out of Target, I noticed a Pizza Hut stand. How easy would it be to just stop and pick up some pizza? I would be able to get everything done and be on time. It was very tempting. But I knew that was not a healthy option and I would regret it later. There is no errand that is more important than healthy eating. So I picked up Danielle and we left. We stopped for sushi (our favorite healthy lunch), ran some of the errands, picked up my son, and then finished the errands. There was a way to get everything done without sacrificing our health!

Friday, June 13, 2008

TV and obesity- advice for parents

What can a parent do to help their child?


The AAP recommends fewer than 2 hours of TV per day. Parents seem to believe that their children will not agree to these limits- but elementary and middle school children can usually be persuaded to cut down on TV.


Have your child make a pie chart of what they do with their spare time and tell them the doctor says more than 2 hours of TV a day is unhealthy. Then fill in the pie chart with other activities. They can even interview a grandparent or great-grandparent about what they used to do before they had TV. Make trying new activities into a game.


Children (and adults) do not realize how many calories they consume when they watch TV. Don’t eat while distracted.


Explain that companies who produce unhealthy foods are trying to make money by tempting children with their commercials.


When you put a TV in your child’s bedroom, you immediately lose control of how much your child is watching and also of what your child is watching.


The parent has to be responsible and has to be aware of how much TV a child is watching. A TV should not be a babysitter.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

TV and obesity

TV, video games, and computer use are contributing to the rise of childhood obesity. Before these inventions became so popular, children used to run outside to play. Now, more often than not, our kids are content to sit on the couch with the remote (and a bag of chips).

Studies have proven that children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to be obese. A study published in Lancet in 2004 followed 1000 children born in 1972 or 1973 over the course of 26 years. Almost 50% of the individuals who consistently watched 3 or more hours of TV per day were overweight. Only 25% of the individuals who consistently watched less than 1 hour of TV were overweight. The more hours of TV a child consistently watched, the more likely that child was to be overweight.

Putting a TV in a child’s bedroom raises the risk of obesity even further. A 2002 study from Columbia University revealed that preschoolers with a TV in their bedroom were 31% more likely to be overweight than those children without a TV in their bedroom. A TV in the bedroom instantly adds about an hour of increased TV time per day. It is impossible to tell what is cause and what is effect. Does watching TV make a child overweight or does being overweight cause a child to watch a lot of TV? It is not clear.

Chubby children are often teased in school and left out when children are picking teams in gym class. They tend to have some discomfort in their knees and ankles when running. They become embarrassed that they can’t keep up with the other children and tend to turn to more sedentary activities, such as watching TV and eating. This causes more weight gain which makes the situation even worse. The overweight child starts to avoid sports altogether and further increases TV and computer time. Eventually the child becomes obese and unable to do even simple activities, such as walking.

TV causes weight gain in many different ways. Most important, children are inactive while watching TV. And the average child sees 40,000 commercials a year- mostly for high calorie and high fat foods. Companies spend so much money on these child-targeted commercials because they work! They prompt children to crave these unhealthy foods.
How many of you remember seeing commercials for fruits, vegetables, or whole grains? These healthy foods are rarely promoted on TV because they are not usually branded items and don’t turn out the same profits.

And who hasn’t experienced the mindless eating that occurs during TV viewing? We are all guilty of this from time to time. A child gets so engrossed in the program that he doesn’t realize he have eaten the entire bag of chips. During the week, children tend to consume 18% of their total daily calories while watching TV. On weekends, children consume 26% of their daily calories while watching TV.

New studies indicate that children’s resting metabolic rates are lower while watching TV than they are when sitting still, staring at a wall, without the TV on. This means that they are burning fewer calories during this time. It is not clear why this occurs, but it may be because they fidget less while watching or because they get into a trance-like state.

Read more tomorrow to learn specific strategies to prevent the TV from causing weight gain in your child.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sugar-Free Jello and Fat-Free Cool Whip

I have just rediscovered this wonderful dessert- and now my kids are enjoying it too. They just love to see the scoop of the "whipped cream" on top of the colorful jello. They have no idea that it is a very low calorie dessert- they just see it as a treat. Try it yourself with your kids. There are so many different flavors so every day can be something new. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

It isn't easy...

It isn't easy to limit your children's junk food. I am so often sabotaged. Today we took the kids to the pool club. I had spoken to the owner of the cafe during the week and asked him to add some healthy options to the menu. He agreed to add a "grilled cheese light" item which is two slices of whole wheat bread with three slices of Alpine Lace reduced fat cheese made without any butter, oil, or mayo. So I ordered that for my daughter- and purposely didn't order any fries for her. I also ordered some fruit salad to start so we could all fill up on the healthy stuff. Well, our food came and I realized that all my friends had ordered chicken fingers and fries for their children. So of course Danielle immediately started crying that she wanted french fries. How could I deny her what all of her friends were eating. I usually do that but I really didn't have the energy. So I let her have a few fries. We finished eating- but our friends had left over some chicken fingers. Next thing I know, I turn around and Danielle is chomping on a fried, greasy, left-over chicken nugget. So much for all my efforts to make this a healthy meal.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Will kids eat carrots with hummus?

We had friends over for a barbeque tonight and I put out a nice spread of food. I had a vegetable platter of baby carrots, bell peppers, and baby tomatoes with a hummus dip. I also prepared a fruit tray of pineapple, watermelon, oranges, grapes, and cherries. I could not keep my kids away from the table. Surprisingly, they spent a lot of time around the veggies- particularly the carrots and the hummus. I am sure that if I had other junk food on the table (chips, cookies, crackers), then my kids would have been eating that stuff. But since I kept all the options healthy, they took advantage of what was there. Try it the next time you have guests over; just put out healthy fruits and vegetables and see what happens. I bet (after some initial grumbling)you will be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Are turkey burgers really that healthy?

I was at a barbeque tonight and noticed many people making a very common mistake. The hosts were serving hamburgers and turkey burgers. The hamburgers were made from 93% fat-free ground beef and the turkey burgers were regular turkey burgers. All of the women chose the turkey burgers because they were "dieting". What they didn't know was that turkey burgers have more fat and more calories than 93% fat-free ground beef. In fact, even all white meat turkey burgers have more fat than 93% fat-free ground beef. I counsel all of my patients about the benefits of this extra lean meat. It is so yummy and also healthy. So I enjoyed my burger while the other women suffered through their turkey burgers! It is not often that the tastier food is also the healthier choice!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fast food causes heart disease!

Everybody knows that fast food isn't healthy but few realize exactly how unhealthy it truly is.
Children who commonly eat fast foods have the same risk of developing clogged arteries as an adult five times their age. Can you imagine a 10 year old with the same risk of a future heart attack as a fifty year old man? It is astounding.

Fast food also plays a large role in the development of obesity. Children are eating more and more fast food these days. And while it is great that fast food restaurants are offering healthier options, kids are not choosing them. A recent study found that teens served a fast food lunch ate about 1650 calories during that meal- more than 60% of their daily requirement.

Children eat about 187 extra calories on days that they eat fast food. They also eat more fat and sugar and less fiber, milk, fruit, and vegetables. Over the course of a year, an extra 187 calories a day = 68,255 calories per year or 17 extra pounds of fat. Granted, most children don’t eat fast food DAILY- but even eating fast food once a week would cause a child to gain 2 ½ pounds in a year. And those 2 ½ pounds can add up quickly.

Fast food should not be a regular part of a healthy diet. As a (very) occasional treat, it may be okay. But it should not be a daily (or even weekly) option.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Friendly's should be illegal!

In a moment of weakness, my husband and I decided to take the children to Friendly's for ice cream. When I was younger and ordered a sundae, I was served a scoop of ice cream, some hot fudge, whipped cream, and a cherry. That is not what my children received. They got THREE scoops of ice cream with hot fudge, M&Ms, sprinkles, fluff, caramel, oreos, and every other type of topping that you could imagine. No wonder children these days are getting heavier. Luckily, my kids had a few bites and were done. I wish I could say the same for myself. Somehow I found myself eating my entire sundae and finishing everybody else's. I try to watch what I eat but I fell into the trap of thinking, "Well, I already ruined today so I may as well really enjoy it". It is such flawed thinking. Allowing myself a treat was okay- but indulging in everybody else's because I had already deviated from my normal plan- was just silly.