BC Medical Association

BC Medical Association

September 21, 2005 15:05 ET

BC Medical Association-Eat Well, Play Well, Stay Well: Children Should Avoid Diet Trends

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 21, 2005) - Placing an overweight child on a diet is known to harm a child's health by affecting their normal growth and development and damaging their delicate self-esteem. Despite the increasing number of new diets available and the rising rates of childhood obesity, diets remain inappropriate for most children.

The best action parents can take to help an overweight child is to support the child by creating healthy habits for the entire family. Having all family members eat nutritious foods and exercise 30 minutes or more each day remains the most effective way for an overweight child to achieve a healthy level of body fat.

Cautioning parents against diet trends when it comes to feeding their children, is one of the key topics in the Stay well section of the BC Medical Association's Eat well, Play well, Stay well project. The BC Medical Association has created a list of helpful tips for families called Avoiding Diet Trends: Steps to Healthy Family Habits. This list of tips provides parents with advice for establishing a healthy shift in their family's lifestyle. For more information about the Eat well, Play well, Stay well program, please visit www.bcma.org/healthykids.

"The low-carb diet craze is particularly concerning," says paediatrician Dr Wilma Arruda, chair of the BC Medical Association's Eat well Play well Stay well project. "A balanced breakfast that includes carbohydrates provides a child with glucose, the brain's preferred source of energy. Removing or limiting a child's intake of carbohydrates decreases the glucose fuel a child needs to function and perform well in school."

Studies show that low fat diets can reduce the amount of essential fatty acids and fat soluable vitamins a child receives, which can affect a child's growth and development. While a low fat diet may be appropriate for adults, it should be avoided for children.

"Parents who are concerned about their child's weight should talk to their paediatrician or family physician. Only in exceptional cases is a weight loss program recommended," says Dr. Arruda. "This should not be undertaken without the involvement of a physician."

Focussing on a child's weight can stigmatize a child and lower his or her self esteem, which may cause further over-eating. Regardless of your child's weight or shape, help them to love and respect themselves by praising their skills and strengths. Family involvement in healthy lifestyle change provides an overweight child with emotional support, and benefits the health of each family member.

Avoiding Diet Trends: Steps to Healthy Family Habits

Diets are not the answer to helping an overweight child lose weight. Making lifestyle changes as a family around food and physical activity is the most effective way for a child to achieve a healthy body weight. The following suggestions will help a family get started in leading and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

Healthy eating habits

- Parents: set an example through the food choices you make

- Eliminate junk food from your household

- Learn to consume appropriate food portion sizes

- Encourage children to drink more water and less juice and soft drinks

- Keep healthy snacks in a place where children can easily find them

Make time for exercise

- Parents: set an example through your own exercise habits

- Set a family physical activity goal of 30 minutes or more exercise each day

- Limit children's sedentary time and replace this with physical activity time

- Spend time playing with your children

- Take 5 to 10 minute activity breaks to stretch or walk around while watching TV or the computer

Encourage your children

- Talk to your children and support them regardless of their size or shape

- Discourage negative talk about body weight

- Avoid nicknames that refer to a person's body weight

- Focus on your children's strengths and skills, not their weight

- Make healthy living a family activity

For more information about the Eat well, Play well, Stay well program, please visit www.bcma.org/healthykids.

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