Your health
By Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

As we enter full swing into the holiday season, we are faced with many choices of delicious holiday foods. Consequently, many of us are thinking about diets.

As we all know, obesity is a common problem for Americans and for American children. The Endocrine Society issued new guidelines about obesity in the Sept. 9, 2008, online issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

BMI is the body mass index, which is a reliable indicator of body fatness for most children and teens. It is calculated using accurate measures of your child’s height and weight.

To calculate your child’s BMI, go to www.pediatrics.about.com and use the Body Mass Index calculator.

The guidelines are as follows:
 

• Overweight is having a BMI greater than 85 percent and obesity is having a BMI greater than the 95 percent. Your child’s physician can also help you with this calculation.

• Endocrine or gland studies should not be performed routinely unless the child’s height shows poor growth or the child is too small based on family history.

• If there is evidence of a genetic problem, consultation with a geneticist is indicated.

• If a child’s BMI is greater than 85 percent, he or she should be evaluated for some of the diseases that are associated with obesity.

The first recommendation for treatment is an intensive lifestyle change, including diet, physical activity and behavioral habits.

Dietary recommendations include the following:

• Avoid calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods such as sweetened beverages and fast foods.

• Control portion sizes.

• Reduce saturated fats for children older than 2 years.

• Increase intake of fiber, fruits and vegetables.

• Eat regular meals, particularly breakfast.

• Avoid constant “grazing,” particularly after school.

Many holiday foods can be enjoyed with portion control and attention to calories. Perhaps the most important part of any meal is the sharing of attention and affection for those sitting around the table.

Please have a healthy and happy holiday season.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Children’s Hospital and Keith Bly is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the UTMB Children’s Emergency Room. This column is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.