AUSTIN (KXAN) — Adults play an important role in children’s lives, including helping them build healthy eating habits. Infants, children and teens have special food needs because they are growing and developing.
Saturday morning, Dr. Steven Abrams, a physician at Dell Children’s and a professor at Dell Medical School, spoke to KXAN about healthy eating habits and maintaining a healthy weight for children.
What advice do you have for parents of infants?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (although any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial). Non-Breast-fed infants should get an infant formula for the first year of life selected with the help of your pediatrician.
Iron-fortified infant cereals give babies the iron they need for growth and development.
For older children, fruit juices, like sweetened drinks, are not needed for good health and should never be given to infants under 1-year-old. Sweetened juices are linked to excess weight and tooth decay.
It’s important not to add sugars, salt or fats to food for babies or young children.
What can parents do to help prevent childhood weight gain or obesity?
Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grained products. Serve reasonable-sized portions. Limit sugar and saturated fat.
Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products (whole milk for children under 2 years who are not overweight). No sugar-containing sodas.
Encourage plenty of activity and remove calorie-rich temptations from the home.
Why is childhood obesity considered a health problem?
Children with obesity can be bullied or teased more than their normal-weight peers. They can also suffer from social isolation and lower self-esteem. Children with obesity are at a higher risk for having other chronic health conditions, such as asthma, sleep apnea or type 2 diabetes, which can lead to greater health concerns down the road.
Should overweight children be put on a diet?
It’s important for parents to focus on food quality and quantity, and helping children establish healthy habits. Parents can talk to their child’s pediatrician about what specific nutrients their child needs each day.
Parent or guardians need to be good role models. Consume healthy foods and drinks and choose active pastimes. Children are good learners, and they often copy what they see.
Parents should also monitor screen time, limiting children 2 to 5 years of age to 1 hour/day.