A recent study in Pediatrics caught my eye as it related to childhood obesity. I spend a good deal of time discussing healthy eating and exercise with my families but I too continue to see children who gain too much weight each year. Some of my patients even qualify as being obese.
This study out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital looked at 100 obese 7 -12 year old children and randomly assigned them to one of three different eating plans. One plan followed the wisdom of portion control, another followed a low-carb diet, and the last was a “reduced glycemic load” plan that cut down on certain carbs (like white bread and sweets and white potatoes).
Over a one year period all three of the plans worked equally well in helping to control a child’s weight gain. Researchers did find that the low carb plan was tough for kids to stick to. Most of the kids in this group really followed the low carb plan to an extent by reducing carbs and calories, but not to the “strict limits of the low carb plan”. In other words, they modified the plan.
It seemed that the plan that “reduced the glycemic load” was essentially a modified low carb diet. Children could eat certain “unrestricted” carbs, like fruits and vegetables low in starch as well as whole grains. The limits were only placed on starchy carbs, but even some of those were not “forbidden”.
The beauty of teaching these kids about modifying their diets early on is that they can see changes in their BMI (body mass index) more quickly than an adult. Why? They are still growing!! I explain to the kids (and their parents) that a pre-pubertal child grows about 2 inches a year and should gain somewhere around 3 - 6 lbs a year. All of that changes with puberty as their child’s growth velocity and weight gain both increase.
But, since a child is growing that by just maintaining their weight, not losing weight, they will see changes in their body. Although children think this is “easy” it still requires effort and changes.
Small changes like cutting portions and reducing carbs (rather than trying to eliminate them) will reduce total daily calories. Add in daily exercise and your child will see real results. It is still a matter of burning more calories than you consume!
Lastly, the whole family has to be involved in the changes. You have to pick a plan that the entire family can follow and stick to as families come in all different sizes.
That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.