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Children and Diets
Q: My child loves to eat. I was overweight as a child and now am as an adult. I want to help him control his weight now. Should he be on a diet?
A: It's important to speak with your son's doctor to find out where he falls above a healthy weight for his height and age. In general, only if your child were very overweight would a weight loss program be suggested, and only under the supervision of your doctor.
In order for your son to maintain a healthy weight, creating healthy eating habits and increasing his level of physical activity are necessary. The emphasis should be on feeling healthy and strong -- not on weight. I discussed exercise in an earlier answer, so let us focus now on proper eating.
I suggest taking a family approach to eating healthy, so your child does not feel isolated as the one with a problem. Eliminate unhealthy food from your home rather than keeping it from him alone. Keep healthy snacks around the house and make them easily accessible to him. For example, keep cut vegetables in the refrigerator and fruit on the table for quick and easy snacking. Most importantly, set a good example. Children develop their eating habits from the people around them -- if they see you eating healthy, they will also be inclined to do so.
Feel free to consult with your child's doctor or registered dietician to help change your son's eating habits. Overall, do not discuss weight unless your child brings it up. The focus should be on feeling healthy and being strong! By praising his strengths, skills, and efforts, your son will always continue to feel good about himself.
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Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.