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Children 2 to 12 Years




Overweight Kids - the Challenge
  • Parents are role models for food and exercise habits.
  • Parents are food gatekeepers because they buy food for family.
  • Most people don't cook anymore so they don't know what ingredients are in food. Microwaving or heating prepared food is not cooking. Families don't often teach life skills like cooking so obesity becomes a generational issue due to the dependence on fast, deli or take out food.
  • Many families don't eat at the dinner table anymore and if they do the television is on so people keep eating even after they are full.
  • Carbonated beverages, sweet tea and sugary coffee drinks have replaced milk as beverage of choice.
  • Dependence on fast food, prepared and processed foods results in high fat and high sugar foods which also results in a higher food budget.
  • Eating out at restaurants have become the norm rather than an occasional treat - 40% of meals are eaten outside the home.
  • Portion sizes have increased enormously to a huge size.
  • Many neighborhoods aren't safe for latchkey kids to play outside after school to get exercise.
  • School physical education classes have been discontinued in favor of more academic subjects.

It's not hopeless and you can make lifestyle changes starting today.
  • Schedule time each week for family activities that expend energy. Visit museums. Bike, walk or swim. Get up and move your feet. Do activities that don't include food.
  • Buy foods that looks like it grew on a farm and foods with ingredients you recognize as food.
  • Start cooking from recipes. If you don't know how to cook, take a cooking class or buy a simple cookbook that teaches cooking with pictures that you can try at home with kids on weekends. Teaching your children to cook is a life skill like managing money.
  • Make dinner time a priority for everyone to sit down together and share their day. Turn off the technology during meals including television, phones, video games, tablets and computers.
  • Make carbonated beverages a treat not a daily habit. If you are thirsty, drink cold water.
  • Make meals on the weekend that can easily be served on work days.
  • Teach your kids to make healthy choices when eating out by choosing healthy foods yourself.
  • Eat smaller portions of food and take leftovers home from restaurants for second meal tomorrow.
  • Work with your neighbors to ensure safer streets for kids.
  • Work with schools to add physical education classes and enroll kids in after school sports because it helps them be active and builds self-esteem.


  1. Where can I find a dietitian who works with children? Answer
  2. Our daughter, who is four, seems to have less than normal bowel movements sometimes going four to five days without. Answer
  3. My daughter is constipated and her doctor told me to give her prunes and no apples or bananas. Why? Answer
  4. I am trying to find out exactly my son's percentiles for weight and height before I seek a specialist's help. Answer
  5. If my daughter is an okay shape and weight, why can I never find clothes to fit her waist? Answer
  6. My 5 year old daughter is exactly four feet tall and weighs 59 pounds. I would like to help her slim down. Answer
  7. If you are 11, what is the correct weight that you should be? Answer
  8. How old do you have to be to be able to go on a diet? Answer
  9. I am looking for information for my children ages 3, 6 and 9. I would like to know the daily calorie requirements for them. Answer


  10. I have a 9 year old son that to me seems overweight. Answer
  11. I am trying to find information on how to determine appropriate caloric intake and food exchanges for three of my children. Answer
  12. I am concerned about my son's height. When do boys do most of their growing? Answer
  13. I have taken him to the doctor several months ago with a constant stomach ache and he concluded that he had "cranky" bowels. I just don't know what to do. Answer
  14. I'm wondering if you have any information on any aspect children ages 1-3 you could send it to me? Answer
  15. My daughter's preschool recently said the meal I had provided for her did not meet all of the food groups. Answer
  16. I have an 11 year male is 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 132 pounds. Answer
  17. What should my children weigh and how can I help my son and daughter avoid being extremely overweight like I am? Answer
  18. There is not a day that goes by that my 7 year old daughter does not mention feeling "fat". I'd appreciate any help. Answer
  19. What happens when you drink dish soap? Answer


  20. I am 12 years old and measure 5 feet 2 inches. I weigh 108 pounds. Is that about right? Answer
  21. I guess what concerns me is the sudden slow down of growth of my son in the last 2 years. Answer
  22. Both of my children are the smallest in height in their school classes. Is there any vitamin supplements that can aid growth or what natural foods can also help. Answer
  23. My 10 year old daughter is not huge fat, but large. My question is do you have a simple diet for her to follow to knock 10 pounds off? Answer
  24. I have a child that I have to pack a cold lunch for. All he ever seems to want is peanut butter, Is he getting enough protein? Answer
  25. My sister gives in to her four year old daughter at meal time. Isn't it time her daughter start eating like the rest of the family? Answer
  26. The only vegetables my kids will eat are corn and beans. How can I get them to try something else? Answer
  27. According to the doctor's chart, my six year old son is 15 pounds overweight. Should I put him on a diet? Answer
  28. My daughter is overweight and I am picky about what she eats. I'm concerned she will gain weight eating hot lunch at school. Answer
  29. My friends say my two year old son is overweight. Is he too fat? Answer


  30. My two and a half year old son eats dirt and potting soil from my houseplant. Could there be something wrong with his diet? Answer


Where can I find a dietitian who works with children?

The Pediatric Nutrition dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics specializes in working with infants, children and adolescents. You can find a dietitian at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Include your zip code or city / state and the type of service you want (individual consultation) with expertise in pediatric nutrition or childhood obesity.


Our daughter, who is four, seems to have less than normal bowel movements sometimes going four to five days without. The last couple of bowel movements have been hard and we have seen traces of blood in the stool. Our pediatrician has prescribed Dulcolax, a stool softener, twice daily with no real success. The doctor has also stated that her problem could be associated with her being afraid of the unusual feeling of a bowel movement. What can we do assist our daughter. Thank you.

I recommend slowly increasing the amount of fiber she eats and increase the amount of fluids your daughter drinks. Allow her colon to adjust to increasing the fiber over one or two weeks.

Offer her 1 to 1 1/2 cups fruit servings of fruit (pears are particularly high in fiber) and 1 cup of vegetables each day. Aim for 4 to 5 ounces of whole grains each day as whole grain cereals, bread, brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Oat based cereals, fruit and cooked dried beans tend to increase the fluid retained in stool because of soluble fibers in these foods. Limit high fat foods like fired foods as the latest research indicates a high fat diet can increase constipation. Your daughter though does not need to be on a low fat eating plan.

Increase water to the point where her urine is colorless and odorless after her morning urine. Teach your daughter to pay attention to the color of her urine so that she learns to drink enough fluid for her body.

The blood may be from small tears in her anus and I would highly recommend you tell her doctor about the blood in her stool. If bowel movements are painful, your daughter may learn to hold stool. Basically if she eats a higher fiber diet, the waste products of food should eventually build up in her colon to the point where she will want to have a bowel movement.

Constipated stool looks like small marbles stuck together. Diarrhea is watery. Anything in between are normal stool and the color will be affected by the foods she eats. Beets can change the color of stool or urine to a reddish color. Asparagus can impart a strange smell to urine 15 minutes after you eat it. Both foods are healthy vegetables to eat.


I was very glad to find your web site.

My 2 year old has great problems with constipation. It grieves me to see her so distressed. All the pediatrician told me is to give her prunes and don't give her apples or bananas. I read on your site that apples (especially the peel) are good for constipation. Do you know why our doctor would tell me not to give her apples?

I live in Japan, and it is difficult to find whole wheat bread and some of the other things you suggested. I will start giving my daughter more bran cereal, fruits and vegetables and hopefully her problem will cease. Thank you.

When young children get diarrhea, doctors used to order a BRAT diet which stands for banana, rice, apple and toast or tea. These foods help to gel liquid stool and reduce the amount of stool. BRAT was intended to be used for a few days only. Apple contains pectin which causes liquids to gel similar to how pectin is used to make jelly from fruit juice. Kayopectate which is often prescribed for diarrhea contains pectin and some doctors may mistakenly think pectin constipates rather than understanding pectin gels liquid stool. Pectin also helps to keep more water in stool thereby preventing hard, compact stools.

If you live in Japan, her food options probably include rice and tea. White rice is low in fiber. Try substituting brown rice.

Serve your daughter 1 cup of fruits and 1 cup of vegetables each day. They can include fresh, cooked, dried or juice versions. When you can find cereal grains such as whole grain cereals (dry or cooked), bread or pasta, serve them instead of the refined grain versions. Oatmeal is a good source of fiber and contains soluble fiber that helps keep more water in stool to produce softer stools.

Also remember to offer her fluids such as fruit juice (in addition to apple juice) or water so that she is well hydrated and less likely to suffer constipation due to dehydration. Pay attention to the color of her urine to determine if she needs more fluids. Be patient with your daughter as she may be holding stool because of the pain caused by passing constipated stool.

The latest research indicates high fat foods contribute to constipation even more than low fiber foods. Typically Japanese menus are low in fat while including a lot of vegetables and fish. Avoid fried foods and a typical American fast foods. Your young daughter though does not need to eat a low fat eating plan, just avoid fried foods which may contribute to constipation.


Congratulations on a very useful site. I am trying to find out exactly my son's percentiles for weight and height before I seek a specialist's help. I have not been able to locate such tables any place on the web, not even in the CDC site. Your tables are the closest I got, but without data for birth weight / height (5, 50 and 95 percentiles) growth rates alone are rather limited. I would really appreciate it if you could point me to the right direction.

Growth charts for U.S. children are available at the National Center for Health Statistics. Choose the gender (male or female) and age range (birth to 36 months) or (2 to 20 years) you need. Then plot your son's height and weight at various ages to view his growth over time. Growth charts from the World Health Organization are available for children 5 to 19 years.

The Healthy Kid Calculator® will calculate your son's growth percentiles for height and weight at any age. Just click on the link in the upper left corner of any webpage and add your son's physical measurements at any age.


Thank you so much for your prompt reply. You have made me feel so much better. I could not find anyone to tell me anything about children and weight, even our family doctor, whom we adore, seemed hesitant about discussing Emily's weight, acknowledging she was big, but shrugging it off. I simply wanted someone to say, this is okay or to tell me what to do about it. I am extremely happy to have you say she is okay.

We will continue to increase our physical activity as a family in a fun and positive way and not focusing it on any reason. It is a load off my shoulders to know I will not have to count calories or calculate fat content of food (within reason I know)! Anyway, thank you so much. I am so glad to have stumbled upon your site. You have been a real blessing to us both (and my husband who never felt anything was wrong and is happy I can put this issue at rest)!

I do have one further question, not a priority maybe food for thought. If my daughter is an okay shape and weight, why can I never find clothes to fit her waist? Is society's idea of a perfect weight really too small and the clothing industry is supporting this or are fashions not in touch with reality. It's a good thing I can sew!

I am relieved as well. I never know how someone will react to being told to back off food issues. It is a surprisingly hot topic among health conscious parents. Sometimes parents forget that kids who are big for their age probably have taller or larger parents.

The best you can do for your daughter is buy basic, healthy foods, cook from scratch and allow her age appropriate choices of how much to eat. By the time she reaches school age, she will start making food choices like school lunch anyway so why not gently educate her and empower her ability to choose? Encourage her to be physically active and involved in sports. Be a positive role model for her that women should have strong, healthy bodies by exercising with her.

Your daughter's doctor should have given you more definite advice or referred you to a dietitian. Another good source is a series of books by Ellen Slater. She is a psychologist and dietitian who has written "How to get your kid to eat, but not too much" and "Child of Mine".

Counting calories or grams of fat is boring and puts the emphasis on the process rather than the goal - eat healthy in moderate amounts.

Don't know about kid sized clothes, but try a older size since she is tall for age and hem up long skirts or slacks. These older kid clothes will probably fit more comfortably all around too. She is lucky that you can sew.


I was very happy to find your web site as I cannot seem to get answers anywhere about my 5 year old daughter. She is exactly four feet tall and weighs 59 pounds. She carries most of this weight around her middle and her stomach sticks out quite a bit. She has become very aware of her size and I would like to help her slim down, but I don't know where to begin. How many calories a day should she be eating, how many from fat and how do I figure this all out?

I have cut back on snacks although she never had many 'bad' ones to begin with usually fruit or crackers. She is fairly active in swimming lessons and plays with her friends outside a lot. I really don't know what to do. Please help this has become a real issue in her life and as a result mine too!

Your daughter's doctor probably has documented your daughter's height / weight in her medical record since birth. What we like to see in children is continued growth at their own rate. What we don't like to see is growth dropping off or flattening out for more than 3 to 6 months (depending on child's age). Physical growth parallels brain growth which continues until age 10. Restricting calories could impair her brain development. Growing kids need fat to grow nerve tissue, make hormones and as carriers of fat soluble vitamins (A, vitamin D, vitamin E, K ).

Have you tried the Healthy Kid Calculator®? I enteredyour daughter's data. She is tall for height (above the 97% percentile for a 5 year 7 month old girl) and appropriate weight for height (above the 97% percentile for a 5 year 6 month old girl). So relax as she is OK. Her BMI is 18 and the healthy range for her age is 13 to 19.

Without knowing her daily activity, I couldn't estimate her calorie intake and feel this would be unnecessary given her weight is appropriate for her height. She does not need a calorie or fat restricted eating plan unless ordered by her doctor for medical reasons other than weight.

Your daughter is physically active in swimming and playing outside. At least she isn't a cartoon couch potato! Why not plan some parent and daughter activities like walking or bike riding? You may have to slow down your pace, but you will be modeling a lifetime of exercise habits.

It sounds like you are concerned about what she eats and I would suggest de-emphasizing food. Since you are probably the food shopper, I will speak to you. Buy a variety of foods using My Plate to create your menu. Allow your daughter some input into selecting foods when shopping. By example, you can teach her to choose healthy foods over junk foods by what foods you buy and cook for your family. Offer her appropriate choices and allow her to choose from among healthy foods. Start with cereals or snacks. For instance, allow her to pick cold cereals with less than 8 grams of sucrose per serving on the Nutrition Facts food label. Watch out in grocery stores because higher sugar cereals are usually on the bottom shelf at a child's height. Don't over emphasize low fat or fat free foods. Buy the regular version of foods and offer appropriate serving sizes for her age. Encourage her to taste new foods as it may take 10 times of trying a new food before she likes it.

Take a look around. The American public is getting fatter even with the proliferation of low fat and fat-free foods. These foods are not calorie free. The American public needs to be more physically active.

I periodically talk to young children about nutrition and am very concerned when 5 year olds pinch fat around their middles while exclaiming how fat they are. Five year old children should not be concerned about their body fat; they should be concerned with just being kids. After working in an anorexia and bulimia eating disorders therapy group for 4 years, that behavior shocks me that children that young would be concerned about their body fat. What I am trying to gently say to you is ease up on your concern for your daughter's weight and food choices or you may be encouraging the development of an eating disorder. Some research shows that when parents are the food restrictors, children actually gain more weight.

It is normal for children to have some body fat and rounding to their bodies. Encourage your daughter to be a strong, physically active girl who is accepting of her body image. She will need your support and encouragement as she is going to be the tallest girl in her class in school if she keeps growing at the same rate.


If you are 11, what is the correct weight that you should be?

Depends on your exact age and height. What is your: age in years and months height and current weight? Please write back with your data.

The average 11 year old boy would be 55 to 58 inches tall and weigh 70 to 91 pounds. The average 11 year old girl would be 55 to 59 inches tall and weigh 72 to 95 pounds.


I would like to ask you: how old do you have to be to be able to go on a diet?

Depends on the kid and the type of diet. If you mean weight loss diet without any other restrictions, then maybe 18. But if a kid is 100 pounds overweight or double their healthy weight, their doctor may put them on a gradual weight loss diet at a younger age.

Children and teens who have diabetes or high blood pressure or some other diagnosis that requires a nutrient restriction may go on a "diet" at any age i.e. diabetic nutrition therapy, low salt nutrition therapy, etc.

Weight loss is not recommended for children because they are still growing. Restricting calories may inhibit growing as tall as they genetically should or limiting specific nutrients like fat may impair brain development. Talk to your doctor to see what he / she recommends for you.


Hello. I am looking for information for my children ages 3, 6 and 9. I would like to know the daily calorie requirements for them. Also can you tell me how many servings of bread, fat, dairy they need per day?

We are trying to develop a healthy diet for my entire family to follow. Thank you for your time.

Have you tried my Healthy Kid Calculator®? If you send me their data (age in years and months, height, weight and activity hours), I will send you their individual results.

With regards to the servings of food, I would suggest your family follow My Plate. The number of servings for each child would depend on their age and individual calorie needs in their individual Your Nutrition Facts results.

Here are a general number of food servings for your children:

Food Group 3 year old 6 year old 9 year old
Grains 3 ounces 4 to 5 ounces 5 ounces
Vegetables 1 cup 1 1/2 cup 2 cups
Fruit 1 cup 1 to 1 1/2 cup 1 1/2 cup
Milk 2 cups 2 cups 3 cups
Meat & Beans 2 ounces 3 to 4 ounces 5 ounces
Oils 3 teaspoons 4 teaspoons 5 teaspoons


Your children are of the age that they can self select portion sizes and should be encouraged to make food choices based on your providing a healthy food environment. In other words, if you buy healthy foods that are moderate in fat and low in sugar and cook from scratch, your children can only make good food choices at home. Furthermore, since two of your children are school age and if they participate in school lunch, they are already making food choices outside your home. Why not model healthy food choices at home that they can carry over to when away from home?

A word of caution, a child needs sufficient calories to grow and develop and if calories are restricted it will limit their brain development if younger than 10 and interfere with genetic height potential. Children should continue to grow in height and weight until 18 years of age at least. Children also need regular exercise to help develop bones and muscles as well as energy levels. Parents can be good role models of exercise behavior as well as food behaviors.


I have a 9 year old son that, to me, seems overweight. His father and I are both overweight. I have had my ups and downs in weight since a child. Currently I am following your Healthy Body Calculator guidelines for intake recommendations.

My son is 4 1/2 feet tall and 120 pounds. His doctor did not seem to be concerned about his weight at all, but he comes home in tears because the other children are cruel with weight jokes and remarks. He told me he really wants to be thin.

I have started us on a low exercise schedule to work us into it since we both have been sedentary for such a long time. We have been biking for an hour a day, three days a week.

Today for example, he had 1650 calories (320 were fat calories), 31 grams of fat (7 were saturated fats) and are you sitting down? - 113 grams of sugar. It didnt seem like I was giving him all that sugar, but that can't be good for him! Is that what makes him overweight?

I read your advice not to diet the children, but instead let them grow into their height. I, too, had that same theory 3 years ago when he seemed a little chubby. But now I feel worried that he will grow up to have the same weight fighting dilemma as myself. He isn't "growing" into his body, he is developing fat pockets on his sides and stomach. What do you recommend most that I should do?

Have you tried my Healthy Kid Calculator®? I ran your son's data through. His height is at the 75th percentile and his weight is over the 97th percentile. So he is heavy for height with a BMI of 29. His BMI should be 17.6. A healthy weight range is 63 - 81 pounds and he should maintain his weight until he is 13 years old to grow into his current weight of 120 pounds. He needs 1,420 calories to maintain his weight without any exercise.

You say that his doctor isn't concerned, but I am because he weighs more than a healthy weight for his height. I would recommend you make an appointment for him to see a registered dietitian near you who can work with your entire family to develop an eating plan that includes your family's food likes and dislikes.

I am also concerned that your son wants to be "thin" not strong and fit. Boys can develop eating disorders as well as girls and he may be developing a distorted image of what he should look like to be accepted by his peers. Talk to him about getting strong which should appeal to a boy. He won't start to lay down a lot of muscle until he hits puberty, but he can strengthen the muscles he does have and exercise to reduce body fat.

How are you counting calories and fat grams in what your son is eating? How do you know what he eats at school? He is at an age where he can take some responsibility for his eating and exercise habits with your help in providing a healthy food environment as well as role modeling healthy food and exercise habits. Don't emphasize the calorie / fat grams too much. Instead, emphasize a healthy eating plan. Is your husband involved in this "healthy lifestyle" plan as well? Hope so.

The sugar content in his food is high at 27% sugar calories when it should be less than 10%. What foods are contributing to the high sugar content? Carbonated beverages?

His fat content is way too low (19%) and possibly adding to not feeling satisfied after meals. Your son needs to eat 47 grams of fat per day and he should be able to add 1 teaspoon margarine or mayonnaise or 1 tablespoon salad dressing to each meal with the rest of the fat in lean meat, poultry and fish. Skim milk would be the best choice to limit fat yet provide calcium and vitamin D for growing bones.

It's not just the sugar in carbonated beverages that is contributing to his overweight. When you eat more calories (food) than you burn through exercise, your body stores the excess as fat. Talk to your son about why and how much he eats. He may be eating when he is bored or watching television rather than hungry.

Obviously you son is concerned about how he is treated at school and would like to make some changes. Biking is a good exercise and gets you both moving three days a week. Make sure you keep moving and in the beginning stick with biking on fairly level surfaces. You should be able to cover a lot of ground in one hour on a bike. Think of something else to do the other 4 days of the week and invite you husband along. Ask your son for ideas. You will find that exercise increases a feeling of energy, suppresses appetite and increases your metabolism for 18 hours after exercising.


I have used food exchanges for over two years for meal planning for my husband and myself based on desired caloric intake and ideal weight for our age and heights. I feel that I am able to plan meals accordingly.

However, this is a different situation for my children. I am trying to find information on how to determine appropriate caloric intake and food exchanges for three of my children, 2 girls both age 9 and my son age 2. I also have a 1 year old, but assume that caloric intake and food exchanges wouldn't apply to his age yet. Are you able to provide me with resources?

Have you tried my Healthy Kid Calculator® as it will calculate your children's calorie and nutrient needs using each of your children's data.

If you understand the diabetic exchanges, then planning exchanges for your kids will be a snap. Your daughters need around 1,600 calories a day with 5 servings of starches, 4 vegetables, 3 fruits, 3 milk, 5 meats & beans and 5 healthy oils and fats. Your 2 year old son needs 1,200 calories a day with 3 servings of starches, 2 vegetable, 2 fruit, 2 milk, 2 meat & beans and 3 healthy oils and fats. An appropriate portion of food is 1 tablespoon per year of age per meal or about 1/4 of an adult portion for a 2 year old child.

Your one year old needs about 1,000 calories per day and should be eating 1 ounce meat, 1/2 cup fresh or 1/3 cup canned fruits and 1/2 cup vegetables per meal and drinking 2 cups whole milk per day if he does not have a milk allergy. Starches could be added as between meal snacks.




I am concerned about my son's height. He is 11 years old and 4 feet 6 inches weighing 65 pounds. When he was born he was 19 inches long and weighed 8 pounds 6 ounces. I believe he grew 1 inch this past year. I haven't really discussed it with his doctor because I didn't want my son to feel self-conscious. I was wondering if you could point me in the direction to a height / weight chart on the web or tell me if his height is in the normal range? When do boys do most of their growing? Should I be concerned? Any advice you give me would be very helpful!

Your son is short for height (25th percentile) and underweight for age (10th percentile). His BMI is 15.7 (25th percentile). The percentiles compare your son to other children born in the U.S. At the 25th percentile for height, he is taller than 25% and shorter than 75% of children his age. You can check your son's height and weight percentiles using the Healthy Kid Calculator®.

As a newborn, he was small for length (25th percentile) and average weight (75th percentile) so it appears he got enough nutrition from you during your pregnancy to gain an average amount of weight. It appears that your son's height is continuing to grow at the 25th percentile since birth, but he is about 5 pounds underweight for height.

Factors which influence height are genetics, nutrition and environment. Are you or your husband short for height? If yes, then that would explain some of why your son is short for height. Please discuss his height with his doctor. Has his doctor expressed concern about your son's height or not?

When your son is in a growth spurt he will steadily increase in height and weight. He will grow more rapidly in height and weight during an adolescent growth spurt. He will keep growing until he is 23, but will reach 90% of his adult height by age 18. FYI, girls growth spurt starts with the onset of menses and peaks earlier at age 15.

Don't worry about your son's height unless he doesn't gain height for 6 months. He does need to gain 5 pounds though as he is underweight for height. Next time, do ask his doctor open ended questions like "what do you think about my son's height and weight?" If you feel you son would feel self-conscious about this, ask his doctor when your son is out of the room or ask his doctor to call you on the phone to talk privately.


I have an 11 year old son who has a constant stomach ache. It doesn't seem to bother him except at bedtime. He goes through the day fine, but at bedtime - or close to it - his stomach hurts. I have taken him to the doctor several months ago with this problem, and he concluded that he had "cranky" bowels. We did a routine of enemas (3 times) and milk of magnesia for 2 weeks to get him regular and the stomachaches seem to go away. He still goes to the bathroom regularly - usually at least 1 time a day. I just don't know what to do.

Should I try a bland diet for a while? Should I take him to an internal medicine doctor? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

It is excellent he is getting medical attention. However, I have never heard a diagnosis of "cranky bowels". Did your son's doctor say he was constipated?

Just because your son has a bowel movement once a day does not mean that he isn't constipated. Do you know or can your son describe the consistency and color of his stool? If it is small balls of stool stuck together, that is constipated stool. Normal stool consistency can vary from firm to very soft and any shade of brown color. Diarrhea is brown water sometimes with pieces of brown stool.

Sometimes when a child experiences constipation, they learn to hold stool rather than trying to pass a painful bowel movement. Enemas and milk of magnesia are not permanent solutions for constipation. A bland diet, which is no longer used, limits fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains which would increase constipation. The following are a few useful dietary changes to consider.

If the problem is constipation, aim for:
  • regular meal times
  • daily physical activities
  • adequate amount of sleep each night
  • adequate fluid so that his urine is colorless after the first morning urine
  • adequate dietary fiber which is 31 grams per day for an 11 year old male
Dietary fiber is necessary for regular soft stools. Fruit, dried beans and oatmeal are very good sources of soluble fibers called pectin or gums that hold more water in stool and results in a softer stool. Bran and cereal fiber are good sources of insoluble fiber and adds bulk to stool and results in larger stools.

Some good fiber sources include:
  • Whole Grains: whole wheat bread, bran cereals like All Bran (try the flakes) or Raisin Bran, buckwheat pancakes, cornbread, couscous, brown rice, oatmeal, barley (soup)
  • Vegetables: cooked beans (navy, baked, kidney, pinto, black, refried, lima, white, garbanzo, great northern, soybeans, chili), black-eyed or split peas, lentils, bean soup, artichokes, green peas, mixed vegetables, pumpkin, spinach
  • Fruits: dried fruit like dates (try medjool) or prunes, Asian pears, berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries), oranges, bananas, apples
  • Nuts & seeds: chestnuts, almonds, pistachio, coconut, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts or filberts, pecans, peanuts, mixed nuts, macadamia, Brazil, walnuts
  • Mixed dishes: pasta with meatballs in a tomato sauce made with tomato paste
It may also be useful for you to assess your child's emotional stress. Is there any activities at school or home contributing to a high stress level which may be upsetting your son's stomach?

Another consideration could be H-Pylori (helicobacter pylori) bacteria that causes ulcers. This bacteria infects the valve at the bottom of your stomach where it connects with your small intestines. People with stomach ulcers often complain of stomachaches, but persons with ulcers in the first part of their intestines (duodenal ulcers) don't usually experience pain. There is a blood test (blood titer) that your doctor can run if he / she hasn't already to confirm H-Pylori which can easily be treated with antibiotics.

Disclosure: I have provided media services about fiber for Kellogg's All Bran.




I am a student at Goshen College and have a presentation on nutrition of children ages 1-3 coming up. I'm wondering if you have any information on any aspect of this topic if you could send it to me either via e-mail or snail mail. I appreciate any help you are able to offer!

There are many books written on the subject of children's nutrition. Would suggest you narrow your topic to a few specific concerns. Are you concerned with normal nutrition (healthy food needs for normal growth and development) or abnormal nutrition (iron deficiency anemia or baby bottle tooth decay). Try to pick a specific topic that interests you and a topic you would like to learn more about.


The Fitness Partner Connection Jumpsite receives quite a few nutrition questions. We usually answer the basic ones ourselves and send the more complex cases to Ask the Dietitian or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. However, I just received a really basic question that perplexed me, so I had to ask you personally.

We'd be oh so grateful if you could humor us for a moment and enlighten everyone about the official role of the potato in the pyramid. I'll pass your answer along to our visitor and refer her back to your site for more information. Ask the Dietitian is a gold mine of great information. BTW we send people there all the time.

Here's the question: My daughter's preschool recently said the meal I had provided for her did not meet all of the food groups. I sent ham, fried potatoes, green beans, fresh carrots and milk. They claim that the fried potatoes are considered a vegetable and not a bread/bread alternative. I was always under the impression that potatoes are complex carbohydrates and do not meet the requirements of vegetables. Please advise.

Thanks to Fitness Partner Connection Jumpsite for the feedback.

The confusion about potatoes is because they are a vegetable in My Plate and school lunch programs, a bread exchange in the diabetic exchange list and a complex carbohydrate when comparing food sources of carbohydrate in carbohydrate controlled eating plans. School lunch programs use specific criteria for planning menus and have strict guidelines from the federal government on what constitutes a school lunch. It was probably these guidelines that prompted the critique of your daughter's lunch which is not under their control if you sent lunch with her to school.

The pyramid recommended servings are per day, not per meal. I think you gave her a pretty good lunch. You shouldn't be chastised by the preschool since they don't know what your daughter eats the rest of the day. Besides, she got 3 vegetables in 1 meal! A preschooler needs between meal snacks which could consist of fruit. To complete your daughter's eating plan, I would also recommend you send some fruit such as a juice box (100% fruit juice), fresh or dried fruit.

The Basic Four which was used before My Plate combined fruits and vegetables in one list. Now in My Plate, fruits and vegetables are in separate groups. My Plate has evolved into a Food Guidance System (formerly called the Food Guide Pyramid). It was designed to guide people to eat an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals per day (i.e. a balanced eating plan) and eat a variety of foods for health. The diabetic exchange list was designed for persons with diabetes to control their blood glucose and for overweight people for weight control by grouping foods with similar amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrate in the same exchange group. Some people are concerned with eating complex rather than simple carbohydrates because they want to limit the amount of sugar in their eating plan. These various methods of meal planning can confuse people wanting to eat healthy. Potatoes are a great food to eat for all these meal plan types.

Funny the preschool made no mention about your daughter's fried potatoes. Sometimes, fat or diet conscious adults forget that kids need some fat. The calorie concentration in low fat foods doesn't provide sufficient calories for growing children and teens.

The only school lunch food group missing in the lunch you sent with your daughter was the grain group. Here are the USDA school lunch guidelines for preschool children:

1 to 2 years 3 to 4 years
6 ounces milk 6 ounces milk
1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or fish or equivalent such as cheese, 1/2 whole egg, 1/4 cup cooked dried beans or peas, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, or 4 ounces yogurt 1 1/2 ounces lean meat, poultry, or fish or equivalent such as cheese, 3/4 whole egg, 3/8 cup cooked dried beans or peas, 3 tablespoons peanut butter, or 6 ounces yogurt
2 or more servings of vegetables, fruits or both (1/2 cup total) 2 or more servings of vegetables, fruits or both (1/2 cup total)
5 servings per week, minimum of 1/2 serving per day, must be enriched or whole grain. A serving is a slice of bread or an equivalent serving of biscuits, rolls, etc., or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, macaroni, noodles, other pasta products or cereal grains 8 servings per week, minimum of 1 serving per day, must be enriched or whole grain. A serving is a slice of bread or an equivalent serving of biscuits, rolls, etc. or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, macaroni, noodles, other pasta products or cereal grains


I have an 11 year male is 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 132 pounds. Thanking you in advance and looking forward to your reply.

Your son is tall and heavy for age with a BMI of 25.8. A healthy weight range is 105 - 116 pounds. A healthy BMI for his height and age is 20 - 23. BMI is a health risk assessment.

Since he has not yet hit puberty, I would suggest maintaining his weight at 132 and allow him to grow into his weight, especially because he is tall for age. This may take until he is 13 years old or 5 feet 5 1/2 inches tall so be patient. The most important thing is to maintain weight and not lose weight as that could negatively impair his height potential or school performance.

To maintain his weight and continue to grow in height, he needs about 1855 calories before any exercise calories are added, 61 grams of fat, 46 grams of protein and 274 grams of carbohydrates.


My nine and a half year old son is 56 inches tall and weighs 125 pounds. He has always been large for his age.

My six year old daughter is 46 inches tall and weighs 50 pounds. She has always been average for her age.

I am extremely overweight and my husband is average weight. As a family, we are physically active for one to one and a half hours a day. Both children are involved in after-school sports also. What should my children weigh and how can I help my son and daughter avoid being extremely overweight like I am?

Your son's healthy weight range is 76 to 87 pounds. He is tall (75th percentile) and overweight for age (more than 97th percentile). His BMI is 28.1 and should be 17.9 to 19.9 based on his height. I would recommend he maintain his weight while growing in height. This may take until he is 13 1/2 years of age, but I would not recommend a weight loss program as his brain is still growing.

Your daughter's healthy weight range is 36 to 52 pounds. She is a bit taller than average (75th percentile) for height and average weight (50th percentile). Her BMI is 16.6 and the average for her age is 15.2 to 17.1. She should continue to gain weight as she gets taller. She is at a healthy weight for height and age.

The best prevention to adult obesity is preventing overweight in childhood and adolescence. Getting regular exercise (30 to 60 minutes per day, 7 days per week) and not spending too much time sitting or inactive is important to maintaining a healthy weight.

In addition to this, provide a healthy eating plan. Kids need a variety of foods in 6 small meals per day or 3 regular meals and 3 snacks. Don't make their weight or food the focus, make healthy lifestyle choices the main attraction. Involve them in grocery shopping and meal planning so they learn some life skills.


My daughter is 7. She weighs 52 pounds and is roughly 45 inches tall. In my eyes she is not overweight, but since she has expressed concern about her appearance, we have made a conscious effort to offer low fat, low sugar nutritious meals and snacks for her (and the rest of the family). Even so, there is not a day that goes by that she does not mention feeling "fat". Her stomach protrudes some (mine did too at her age) which I believe is the source of her obsession. I try to reassure her that as she grows taller, her stomach will become flatter.

I am not making much progress and I fear that her mental well being is beginning to suffer. I am very concerned. How can I pull her out of this downward spiral? I have tried telling her that she looks fine. I've showed her pictures of myself at her age and later when I was thin. I've talked with her about food and nutrition and why we eat certain foods. I don't know what else to try. I am in the process of losing weight from a pregnancy 2 years ago. I have about 25 pounds to shed, but I try not to talk about it at home because I fear it will reinforce her negative feelings about herself. I'd appreciate any help.

Have you tried the Healthy Kid Calculator®? Your daughter is short for height (10th percentile) and average weight (50th percentile) for her age. Her BMI is 18.1 (90th percentile), which is a health risk assessment. Normal BMI for her age is 13.8 to 18.3. Your daughter is at a healthy weight for height and age.

Her preoccupation with feeling fat and a round tummy can predispose her to developing anorexia or bulimia. Instead tell your daughter that she looks healthy and avoid any discussion of her weight or individual body parts. Work to build her self esteem and self confidence. I would suggest positive feedback about healthy eating habits instead of telling her she doesn't eat enough which will encourage her to restrict food.

Is she involved in food purchases or menus? She is old enough to be involved in these food related activities to get her to understand the concept that eating is healthy. You can talk to her school counselor and ask for suggestions on dealing with body image issues for girls her age. Perhaps the counselor knows of some good books for either you or your daughter to read. You are correct in not discussing your weight loss plan with your daughter as it may create competition for attention.

Actually, children don't need to eat "low fat" just a healthy amount of fat or approximately 30% of the food she eats can come from fat. Unfortunately, the current focus on eating low fat foods has fallen on children who actually need extra fat calories to grow normally. Most children should drink 2% reduced fat rather than 1% low fat milk, not skim and they don't need the low fat or fat free versions of food unless they are over the 90th percentile for BMI. FYI, the human body uses fat to produce hormones, including those necessary for puberty which could be delayed if your daughter doesn't eat enough fat.

Is your daughter involved in sports? If yes, a sport can encourage girls to have strong, muscular, healthy bodies and improve their self confidence. Ever take a look at Olympic or collegiate female athletes? They have strong, muscular bodies to compete athletically.


What happens when you drink dish soap? What does it do to your body?

Depends on how much dish soap you drank in how much time. Would suggest you contact your local poison control center immediately. They would have the best information about what it does to your body.


I am 12 years old and measure 5 feet 2 inches. I weigh 108 pounds. Is that about right?

You are average height, weight and BMI for age (75th percentile). What that means is you are taller than 75% of girls your age. A healthy weight range for you is of 89 - 119 pounds. A girl's body grows until she is 18 and reaches 90% of her adult height by age 15. So if you diet now, you may not grow to your maximum height. Taller people burn more calories and can eat more food!

Also make sure you eat dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt rich in calcium so that your bones reach their maximum density which occurs around age 25 though that may seem a long way off to you right now.


My question is regarding my son. I am concerned about his rate of growth. How much weight and height should a child gain during the 2nd and 3rd years of life. My son is 34 months and is 35.5 inches and 28 pounds. At birth he was 8 pounds 6 ounces and 20.5 inches; at his first birthday he was 33 inches and 23 pounds. I guess what concerns me is the sudden slow down of growth. He's only gained 5 pounds and 2.5 inches in the last 2 years, is this normal?

Doctors tell me he's fine since I'm short (5 feet 3 inches) and my husband is (5 feet 9 inches). Doctors always seem short on time and don't go into much detail on why the sudden slow down in his growth. I would appreciate any info you could provide. Thank you.

Growth rate slows down between 2 and 3 years of age. The average child gains 3 1/2 pounds and 3 inches as opposed to the rapid doubling of birth weight that occurs in the first year.

At birth his length was at the 75th percentile and weight was at the 50th percentile which is probably due to good nutrition during pregnancy. We don't perform BMI calculations for children under 2 years of age. At 12 months his height was above the 97th percentile and his weight was at the 50th percentile. I am wondering if his height measurement is accurate and if it was measured lying down or standing up since a person's height is taller when lying down. It would have been expected that his height would have been around 30 inches or the 50th percentile for height at 12 months. Please confirm your son's height at his 12 month doctor visit was 33.5 inches.

On current growth charts (2000), your son is in the 25th percentile for height, 25th percentile for weight and 25th percentile for BMI. (This means that 75% of kids his age are taller than him and weigh more.) What that means is he is small compared to children his age which is a departure from his birth weight / height and at 12 months when he was tall for age. This could be due to his individual growth or it could be due to other factors. You should discuss this with his doctor.

It is good that his height and weight are in close percentiles. I am concerned that his height has dropped from the 75th to the 25th percentile since birth and that it may have dropped from the 97th percentile to the 25th percentile at 12 months. I would suggest that you measure his height every three months to share with his doctor at the next visit.

If his doctor is not concerned and you still have some questions, I would suggest you talk to a pediatric nurse practitioner. Ask you doctor if one works in his office. Otherwise, call your local public health department. Next time your son goes into the doctor, bring a list of questions and ask the doctor for answers.

You didn't say anything about his eating habits, but children do eat more during a growth spurt. Unfortunately, 2 year olds start to get picky with what they will eat and will often pick one food and eat just that for several days or even longer. Just remember that children will eat when they are hungry. So as his parent, provide a variety of foods in 3 meals and 3 snacks per day. Let him pick what he wants to eat from the food you offer. If you are unsure about his nutrition, write down what he eats for 3 days and make an appointment to see a registered dietitian who can analyze the nutritional content of his food record.


I have two children one eight years and the other six years. Both of them are the smallest in height in their school classes. My wife and I are of medium to above medium in height so I don't think it is a hereditary problem. Is there any vitamin supplements that can aid growth or what natural foods can also help.

Height is genetically determined, but food and environment can also make a difference. If calories or protein are restricted early in life, children may not grow to their genetic potential. Because of improved prenatal care and increased protein intake children are getting taller with each generation.

Have you discussed this with your children's physician? What percentile were their heights and weights at birth? What are their respective heights and weights now?

The 50th percentile (average) for a six year old boy is about 45 1/2 inches in height and 46 pounds in weight. Less than 43 inches and 39 pounds would be below the 10th percentile (small) for a six year old boy.

The 50th percentile (average) for an eight year old boy is 50 1/2 inches in height and 56 pounds in weight. Less than 47 1/2 inches and 47 1/2 pounds would be below the 10th percentile (small) for an eight year old boy.

Another consideration is growth spurts, which generally occur around birthdays. When comparing your children to their classmates remember that children in one grade can be up to 12 months apart in age. Are you children younger than their classmates?

Food choices and meal patterns can be planned from My Plate which is also geared to current healthy eating guidelines which recommend increased fiber with reduced fats and sweets. A variety of foods from the six food groups in the pyramid are a good basic eating plan.

If you are concerned that your children are not getting the nutrients they need because of their food preferences, you can give them a daily multivitamin. Generally, it is not necessary though. No specific vitamin or mineral directly influence height yet the absence of calcium and vitamin D would produce less dense bones.


I am 41 and have a 10 year old daughter, 11 years in October, that is overweight. She is 5 feet 3 inches and weighs 135 pounds. She is not huge fat, but large. She is coordinated and attractive and I want to help her with this weight thing.

When she was born she was measured and I remember them saying that only 5 out of 100 children will be larger then her. I am large, 6 feet 2 inches and weigh about 230 pounds. My ex-wife is the type that does not gain weight and can eat virtually anything. She does not exercise either. So for the past 7 years, to my disagreement, my daughter has eaten poorly and not exercised regularly. I've had to learn about exercise and diet because of my tendency to overeat and gain weight. I too have set poor overeating examples for my daughter and need to change.

Last night I downloaded My Plate to show my daughter what to eat generally speaking. I am in the process of getting my daughter to live with me for an extended period, a few months, to teach her diet and exercise, at this point in her life. I use a Nordic Track regularly. I know veggies, fruit, grains, some protein, low fat is the way to go. I told her if she is 15 pounds overweight she is carrying two of these gallon containers all day. It was a good example.

My question is do you have a simple diet for her to follow to knock 10 pounds off? Also, training material in plain English regarding food groups, maybe a graphic of the pyramid, to help me teach my daughter to manage her diet and weight? Any help is appreciated.

Generally children should not go on weight loss eating plans unless they have health complications due to overweight. If children are overweight for height, they should be allowed to grow into their height by maintaining their weight.

Your daughter is not overweight for age just because her height and weight are greater than the 97th percentile. She is taller than 97% of girls her age and considering your height, she probably has your genes for growing tall.

At birth, if she was in the 95th percentile for height and weight, then she is continuing to grow at the same growth rate which is very good. When she hits an adolescent growth spurt around puberty, she will probably continue to grow taller than 97% of girls her age. Teach her to respect her body, be active and stand straight to embrace her height.

My Plate is a good place to learn about eating a balanced eating plan. She can go to My Plate as there is a section for kids to learn about a healthy eating plan.

What I am most concerned about though is the messages she gets from you about her weight and what she eats. It sounds like you may be projecting your own weight concerns on your daughter or perhaps fearing that she inherited your tendency to be overweight. Concern is good, but "diet" talk is not around a pre-adolescent girl. You are setting her up for an eating disorder.

Ask her what sports or exercise she likes to do and join her doing some of them regularly. The best support you can provide her is by modeling appropriate food and exercise behaviors and keep healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, meat and beans and a moderate amount of oils) in your house for meals and snacks. If you don't buy it or make it, she (and you) will have a difficult time eating junk food.

Your positive feedback and support can do more to guide her to make good food and exercise choices that she will carry with her into adolescence in spite of the negative social messages given females about their weight. Send your daughter the message to be healthy, physically strong and athletic which will do more to build her self esteem as well as her body.

FYI, your BMI is 29.6 and your healthy body weight is 144 to 194 pounds. Read the overweight topic for more information for yourself.


I have a child that I have to pack a cold lunch for. All he ever seems to want is peanut butter, Is he getting enough protein?

What is your son eating at other meals during the day? Depending on what he eats at the other meals, he may or may not be getting enough protein. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) of protein for children one to 13 years of age ranges from 13 to 34 grams of protein. This can be achieved by eating two to three cups of milk and four to five ounces of meat daily. Two tablespoons of peanut butter can be substituted for two ounces of meat. Does your son have that much peanut butter on one sandwich? If he had an egg for breakfast and two ounces of meat for supper, one tablespoon of peanut butter at lunch, that could be enough protein depending on his age. Children seem to do just fine, eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, even on a daily basis. Please note that many schools have banned foods with peanut butter due the number of children with severe peanut allergies.

Peanut butter, by itself however, is not a complete protein. For a meal, you should serve peanut butter with a grain since they compliment each other's protein content. In other words, peanut butter and bread are not lacking in the same amino acids (building blocks of protein). Together, peanut butter and bread make a complete protein.

I would recommend a "real" type peanut butter that only has peanuts and salt. You can usually find them in the refrigerator section in your store. The peanut butter is refrigerated so the peanut oil doesn't separate out like unrefrigerated "natural" peanut butters found on the grocery store shelf. For a snack, peanut butter on celery or an apple is great.

It would be nutritionally better to vary the foods offered at lunch. Sandwiches like peanut butter, cheese, leftover roast beef, chicken, turkey or ham, tuna, or egg salad are all right. He could also try the school lunch program occasionally.

Lunch should contribute about one third of a person's nutritional requirements. Try to include one serving from each of My Plate, meat or beans, milk, bread, fruits, vegetables and oils.

Include raw vegetables and dip or fresh fruit in season, especially in the warm months. Remember to include milk or real fruit juice to drink. Individual drink boxes are convenient. Look for the juice boxes that contain 100% fruit juice without added sugar. Many contain less than 10 percent real fruit juice. The other 90 percent are sugar and water. One draw back is that the drink boxes are more expensive than frozen cans of juice concentrate, but the juice boxes travel well and if you freeze them, a juice box can keep the rest of a lunch cool.

Look for a children's cookbooks for lunch ideas. When I run out of lunch box ideas, I thumb through cookbooks for lunch suggestions.

Lastly, remember that children will eat when they are hungry and they should be provided with appropriate choices. Children also eat more when they are in a growth spurt and less when their growth has reached a plateau.


My sister gives in to her four year old daughter at meal time. She makes a nice meal, but her daughter won't eat the regular meal like the rest of the family. My sister makes something else like a hot dog or grilled cheese sandwich for her. Isn't it time her daughter start eating like the rest of the family?

You are right. Your sister's four year old has learned that if she is persistent, she will get what she wants.

I encourage parents to provide regular meal times and regular snack times for children. Snacks should be provided about two to three hours after meals. Offer appropriate foods during those times. Encourage children to taste each food offered at mealtimes and show them by your example, a bite of each food, especially vegetables. Never force children to sit at the table until they have cleaned their plates or have eaten all of a disliked food.

Allow an appropriate amount of time for the child to eat (30 minutes maximum). When more food is ending up outside the child than inside, remove the food. Don't offer other food if the child refuses to eat. Children learn that if they hold out long enough that mom will give in to their demands. Remember children will eat if they are hungry. Some exceptions to these guidelines are sick or underweight children. They should be offered food more often or as desired, especially their favorite foods.

Your niece will learn that she will have to eat at meal time or go hungry until snack time. Kids learn that Mom may say no the first 9 times, but the 10th time she says yes. Your sister will have to be consistent to change her habit of giving into her daughter.


The only vegetables my kids will eat are corn and beans. I like most others, but I'm the only one in the family that will eat other vegetables. How can I get them to try something else?

Your family's vegetable preferences are most common compared to other Americans. Corn and beans are probably the most liked vegetables. Broccoli, however, is making some headway as the number three best liked veggie.

I would guess that the rest of the adult family members (father) only like corn and beans also. Children watch adult's reaction to different foods and learn what to like by watching their parents eat. If every time you serve spinach or asparagus, other adults say "yuk", your children will think, "oh if they don't like ...... , we shouldn't either".

Also, children form their eating habits by age six. It is important to introduce new foods when children are young. Start out by serving raw carrots with a meal of their favorites, like hamburgers or chicken. Be positive and show by example, that carrots taste good. You need the other adults support on this. They need to try the new vegetable themselves.

Don't ever force a child to eat all of any new food or meal time may become a battle ground of control. Give a child a small portion (one serving spoon full) and be encouraging to try one bite. Never force and don't criticize your child for eating slowly.

In regard to tasting vegetables, most children prefer them raw. Some vegetables have a stronger flavor when cooked especially to young children who have more acute taste buds. Try raw carrots, celery, green pepper, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, fresh peas or pea pods. Vegetables can be served raw with a dip or cooked with a cheese sauce to get children interested in a vegetable.

Don't overcook vegetables. Cook only until tender, not mushy as the flavor get stronger with longer cooking. Try adding cooked peas or carrots to stews instead of just green beans. Change the vegetable you usually add to a casserole and don't get upset if your child picks them out. They will be watching for your reaction.


According to the doctor's chart, my six year old son is 15 pounds overweight. Should I put him on a diet?

What did his doctor say about your son's weight? Was he / she concerned? How tall is he? Does his weight compare to his height?

In children, 0 to 18 years of age, their height should correlate to their weight. If he is at the 95% for weight, his height should be the next percentile more or less than the 95%. Any child that is over the 90th percentile for weight by age needs nutrition counseling if their height is less than the 75th percentile. We have learned that fat children make fat adults. You need to structure his food environment to basic foods like meat, milk, grains, fruits and vegetables with some oils. He needs to limit his food portions and stop eating when he is full.

Don't put him on a weight loss plan. I would suggest holding his weight where he is now and let him grow into his weight. It may take two to four years for this increase in height. On the other hand, a weight loss plan could impair your child's brain development. Exercise should be increased to decrease more sedentary activities like watching television.


My daughter is overweight and I am picky about what she eats. I pack her lunch for school, but she wants to eat school lunch. I'm concerned she will gain weight eating hot lunch at school.

You did not say how old your daughter is, but if she were in elementary school, I would suggest she have some input into deciding what she eats.

By overweight, do you mean her doctor said she is overweight where her weight is disproportionate to her height according to children's height / weight charts?

You did not say how much overweight your daughter is. A suggestion would be, let her try school lunch for one month and encourage her to choose fruit for dessert. After one month, if her weight is within the 50th to 75th percentile and corresponds to her height percentile for her age, she could try school lunch for one more month. If she weighs more than the 75th percentile (unless she is tall for age like over the 75 percentile for height), discuss bringing a bag lunch instead. Your daughter needs to be involved in this discussion if it is to be successful.

Research has proven that when parents are the food restrictors for overweight children, the overweight kids tend to eat more and continue to gain weight by altering children's response to internal cues of hunger and satiety. Your responsibility is to provide a positive food environment for your daughter. If you don't buy salted snack foods or make sweets for dessert, your daughter will be less likely to eat them.

Your daughter's responsibility is to self-monitor her food intake. Initially, she may seem to eat more, but with time she will probably level off or even lose weight. Don't make a big deal out of the weight issue with her. You should leave some of the food choices up to your daughter or she will feel angry with you for depriving her. She needs to assume some responsibility for her food choices and weight. She may also blame you for any weight gain since you are the one buying the food and serving it to her.

School lunches should provide about one third of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for children. From the printed school lunch menus I've seen in the newspaper, they are pretty good.

Another important consideration is to offer food that children will eat. Researchers have looked at the food thrown away by students eating school lunch. Though the meal was balanced and nutritious, a lot of the food ended up in the garbage. Low fat versions of popular foods like hamburgers, pizza and tacos are now on school lunch menus because students will eat them.


My friends say my two year old son is overweight. He's 37 inches tall and 33 pounds. Are they right? Is he too fat?

Your son is tall for his age (>97th percentile) and his weight (95th percentile) is appropriate for his height. No, he is not too fat. Your doctor can advise you if your son's weight becomes excessive for his height by measuring his height and weight on a regular basis.

It is good that people are more conscious of the fact that fat children make fat adults. However, weight reduction plans for children are not recommended unless they have health complications. A very low calorie eating plan could impair optimal brain development and growth potential. By the time a child is two, he has reached 50% of his adult brain size. From three to six years of age is the period of most rapid growth when his brain grows to 95% of adult brain size. New research from the National Institute of Health indicates that children's brains may increase up to age 15. If protein and/or calories are limited during these growth periods, intelligence and/or potential height may be lower.

Usually a diagnosis of overweight is made after a height-weight assessment. Then a goal of maintaining the current weight for several years may be made. This allows the child's height to catch up to their weight. A weight loss plan for a child should only be prescribed by a doctor, not a weight conscious adult.


My two and a half year old son eats dirt and potting soil from my houseplant. He also sucks on rocks, but he spits them out when he's done. How can I get him to stop? Every time he's out of my sight, he gets into something. I've told him to stop and he has been spanked for eating dirt. He knows it's wrong and tries to sneak. Could there be something wrong with his diet?

Your son's eating of dirt and rocks are unusual. He could have pica, which is the eating of any non-food material. People with iron or zinc deficiencies often have pica. Its cause is not understood.

One of the first reports describing pica was about pregnant African American women in the South who ate red clay and laundry starch. It was discovered that they were iron deficient. Substantial doses of supplemental iron cured their iron deficiency and they stopped eating clay and starch.

The danger from possible eating soil and rocks is a serious one. Get your son to his doctor for a thorough physical immediately. His habit may be difficult to break even after solving any nutritional deficiencies and will require careful supervision.






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