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Weight Loss for Kids – Your Personal Nutritionist

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I was glad to let you know last month what its like to work with a personal nutritionist. Each person I encounter helps expand my 25 year experience and knowledge base so I thought I’d provide an inside view of a real life case study.

Joey, 12 years old, was referred by his pediatrician for being overweight and having high cholesterol. I assured his mom that losing weight by following my suggestions, accompanied by a consistent exercise regimen, will bring her son’s cholesterol into the normal range.

After a little probing I identified what Joey eats and what his favorite foods are. Breakfast for him consisted of a pop tart, bagel with cream cheese, toast with butter or empty cereals such as the popular Honey Nut Cheerios and Strawberry Special K where his parents thought these supposedly low sugar cereals were healthy. The big issue here is they have absolutely no protein and fiber, where you can count on these breakfasts to create constant hunger and poor attention span at school.

For snack Joey ate a granola bar, fruit leather, yogurt or a piece of fruit with goldfish crackers or wheat thins. For lunch mom packed him a sandwich with a small amount of meat, leftover pasta, pizza, hot pockets, macaroni and cheese or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich usually accompanied by some type of cracker, chips, a fruit and a dessert.. After school Joey usually munched on fruits, crackers, chips and yogurt where he never managed to feel full. The problem here is what I call paste and glue where the typical meals and snacks are terribly low in protein and fiber and what is consumed ends up on hips and makes bellies bulge. The challenge is to have tasty meals and snacks with more protein and fiber.

I first provided a brief education for the family on how to read food labels for protein, fiber, sugar and % of fat where they were shocked to see the fat and sugar content of some of their favorite foods. For example, Joey’s parents were shocked to learn that 2% milk actually is 50% fat where his several glasses a day plus heavy cheese consumption can explain his high cholesterol. After Joey tried some samples of cereals in my office he seemed to like Frosted Mini Wheats, Oatmeal Squares, Fiber One and Kashi Go Lean Crunch. As I told them all the fruit Joey eats after school on an empty stomach just makes him more hungry but when accompanied with snacks of beef jerky, hard boiled eggs, and peanut butter on apples or celery a delicious and nutritious snack is enjoyed. For lunch I suggested packing leftovers from last night like chili, chicken stirfry or the equivalent of a deli sandwich, or Joey’s favorite, a burrito with chicken, beans and salsa. Joey loves having a treat for lunch such as a couple of oreos which I indicated is a better choice than a large bag of chips or crackers.

Since Joey loves soups I encouraged substituting a cup of noodles when he came home with a bowl of protein rich minestrone soup, bean soups or mom’s homemade chicken soup accompanied by veggies and Ranch dressing. Even a scrambled egg with a whole wheat English muffin is so much better than all the crackers and fruit Joey would graze on.

The objective of a solid lunch and afternoon snack is to avoid being too famished for dinner and overeating. His parents often attempt to stave off snacks to save room for the large traditional protein laden dinner. As usual, this approach backfired where famished Joey ate as much as his dad. My approach is to use protein as a condiment ingredient for dinner. I suggested Mom serve a small steak or dishes with a small amount of meat and more vegetables along with salad lightly dressed with a vinaigrette. Joey is very fond of pasta and now I have mom serving him a cup of cooked pasta with a light meat sauce or his favorite vegetable of asparagus. A yummy low fat dessert is permissible a few times a week if starch portions are kept in control.

I am thrilled to say that after working with the family for 2 months Joey has lost weight and his cholesterol is going down to a normal range.

Linda writes for Alamo Today, Lafayette Today and Danville Today newspapers monthly. She is located at her office in Alamo where she welcomes your call to discuss your needs and personal diet challenges. Click here and set up an appointment today. Ensure your family’s health by consulting a registered dietitian now!!

*Published in Alamo Today, Danville Today and Lafayette Today newspapers for the month of March