When you’re a parent, there’s no shortage of things to worry about when it comes to your kids. Are they on track developmentally? Are they up-to-date with their vaccinations? Are they getting the right nutrition? At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we’re parents too and we feel the same way, especially about nutrition. In fact, your child’s nutrition is one of our top priorities and something we monitor each time your child comes in to see us.
Whether we’re seeing your child for a routine well visit/annual physical, an illness or an injury, we make sure to check your child’s overall health status. If we feel your child is not getting adequate nutrition or is overweight, we’ll discuss the issue with you and your child, and together, decide on the best course of action. This might include referring your child to our on-staff nutritionist, suggesting vitamin supplements, or discussing which foods he/she should be eating for a healthy diet.
Your child’s weight: too much, too little, or just right?
A common concern among many of our parents is whether their child’s weight is appropriate for their stage of development. Some parents might think their child is too thin, while others might feel their child is too heavy. That’s why our nutritional assessments are so important because they help us determine where your child falls within the American Academy of Pediatrics nutritional guidelines.
How to know if your child is overweight or obese
Obesity is usually defined as being more than 20% above the ideal weight for your child’s particular height and age. If your child falls within this range, it’s important to find ways to help him/her achieve and maintain a healthy weight, now and in the years to come.
To calculate your child’s BMI, use this chart from Kid’s Health.
4 facts about childhood obesity
- At least 3 in 4 obese teens grow up to become obese adults. This predisposes them to serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, stroke and several forms of cancer.
- Being overweight in adolescence can lead to lasting emotional damage. Overweight or obese children are more likely to have a negative body image and low self-esteem. This can cause them to withdraw socially and possibly turn to food even more as a source of comfort, or to drugs or alcohol.
- Overweight or obese children are also prone to anxiety and depression.
- Even a moderate, sustained weight loss of approximately 10% has substantial health benefits. Losing 10% of your body weight can bring elevated levels of blood pressure, insulin and blood sugar back to normal.
Working together, we can help your child get to a healthy weight
If we determine that your child is overweight, we may refer you to a nutritionist or sports medicine specialist to design a healthy eating and exercise program to meet your child’s and your family’s needs and your lifestyle. We may also suggest counseling for your child to address any underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed.
But whichever strategy we recommend, we want to see your child at regular intervals, both to check on his/her progress and to offer crucial support and encouragement.
How to know if your child is underweight
Although a lot of attention is paid to overweight kids, at Westchester Health Pediatrics we also become concerned when a child is underweight. In general, a child is underweight if he/she is in the bottom 5th percentile for weight compared to their height.
Here are some signs parents should watch for:
- Every child has their own optimal weight but if your child’s weight percentile consistently decreases on growth charts at his/her annual well-child visit, this is cause for concern.
- At home, keep an eye on how various clothes fit your child. If a younger child does not outgrow clothes after several months, bring your child in to see us. For an older child, if clothes seem to hang too loosely on their body (i.e., your child routinely is not “filling out” his/her clothes), this is cause for concern.
- At bath time, or while swimming or at the beach, notice whether you can see your child’s ribs. Ribs that stick out or are easily visible are a sign that your child may be underweight and is not getting enough nutrition.
How to help your child gain weight in a healthy way
If your child is underweight but has no underlying medical concerns, a good strategy is to make sure meals and snacks are nutrient-rich.
Good sources of protein for weight gain include:
- peanut butter and other nut butters
- bean soups
- full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese
Good carbohydrate sources include:
- whole wheat bread and pasta
- mashed, baked or oven-roasted potatoes
- sweet potatoes
- hot oatmeal
Healthy fat sources include:
- nuts such as macadamias, pecans, walnuts and pistachios
- cooking meats and vegetables in butter
Along with offering these foods to your child, try to make mealtimes pleasant experiences and not rushed. Involve your child in meal planning, shopping and food preparation to encourage his/her interest in food and eating.
Although eating disorders are more common in girls, boys can experience them too. There are several types of eating disorders but they typically have to do with a preoccupation with body image and being thin. To learn more, please visit these pages and blogs on our website:
- Eating disorders in children
- What You Should Know About Teenage Eating Disorders
- Does Your Child Have Bulimia?
Important articles you might want to read:
- Promoting Healthy Weight
- Childhood Nutrition
- Food Additives: What Parents Should Know
- Avoiding Food Traps
- Cholesterol Levels in Children and Adolescents
- Choosing Healthy Snacks for Kids
- How to Get Your Child to Eat More Fruits & Veggies
- How to Please Fussy Eaters
- Making Sure Your Child is Eating Enough
- The 5 Food Groups: Sample Choices
Above all, our goal is to help your child get and stay healthy
If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, nutritional intake or any other aspect of his/her health, please come in and see one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians. We will examine your child, listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and together with you and your child, determine what steps would be best to achieve the optimal health for your child. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.