Ware- Childhood overweight and obesity is a significant health problem facing families today. Many parents feel overwhelmed by the problem and don’t know where to start.
To address this health issue, the physicians at Baystate Medical Practices -Quabbin Pediatric Practice, Dr. Jeannette Tokarz and Dr. Scott Siege joined Dr. Kirti Nagpal in developing a program with fun and effective strategies to help children, The Stay Fit Program.
“The Stay Fit Program designed by our physicians is customized to help children and families learn to make healthy food choices leading to weight loss when necessary. The goal is to reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing for the normal growth and development of a child,” said Dr. Nagpal. “The Stay Fit Program motivates children to enjoy healthier eating and to include some form of physical activity in their daily routine.”
“Children go through remarkable physical changes, and what they eat becomes a critical aspect of their growth and development,” said Dr. Nagpal. “Nutrition and physical activity work together for better health and a feeling of well being.”
Studies on Childhood Obesity in America have proven that children who suffer from obesity are at greater risk for health problems later in life. Statistics in Childhood Obesity have shown that individuals who suffer from obesity at ages 8 and under are at an even greater risk to suffer from severe obesity in adulthood.
The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese. Like adults, overweight youth are at risk for health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, sleep apnea and asthma. There are also psychological effects; obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression
Children interested in enrolling in The Stay Fit Program at Quabbin Pediatrics receive a binder that contains helpful information for the child and their family. They also receive a journal to keep a log of their food intake and physical activity. The children are also given a colorful visual, a dishwasher-safe Portion Plate which has images that give children examples of appropriate food portion sizes.
“Learning and understanding portion control is not about putting children on a diet, but is about teaching children how to lead a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Nagpal. “The average portion sizes have grown so much over the past 20 years that sometimes our dinner plates hold enough food for two or even three people. The Stay Fit Program teaches children that 1/2 of their plate should be fruits and vegetables, 1/4 of their plate whole grains and the remaining 1/4 lean protein.
"If the children learn about appropriate portion sizes now, they may be more likely to stick to healthy portions into adulthood,” noted Dr. Nagpal.
“The program is a part of our effort to keep up with the latest developments in health and to reflect the federal government's new food group symbol, MyPlate, which will replace MyPyramid,” said Dr. Nagpal. First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled the federal government’s new food icon to help consumers think about their food choices by building a healthy plate.
“We also offer children an easy way to learn about which foods are more nutritious and have lower fat and calories by using the GO, SLOW, and WHOA, program developed by the National Institute of Health,” said Dr. Nagpal.
“GO Foods are lowest in fat and sugar and relatively low in calories. These are nutrient dense, rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients important to health, and great to eat anytime. They include fruits and vegetables, whole grains ,fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
“SLOW Foods are higher in fat, added sugar, and calories and should be eaten less often and WHOA Foods are high in fat and added sugar and high in calories,” notes Dr. Nagpal. “It’s important to learn that slow foods are not forbidden. Children are taught that they are to be eaten only once in a while or on special occasions, in small portions.
“The best way to fight or prevent childhood obesity and weight problems is to get the whole family on a healthier track,” said Dr. Nagpal. “Making better food choices and becoming more active will benefit everyone, regardless of weight. And with the whole family involved, it will be much easier for your overweight child to make lasting changes.
“We are having great success with the Stay Fit Program, as we teach children at a young age to take responsibility for their health,” said Dr. Nagpal. “Our Stay Fit Program is empowering and educating children about important health issue and giving them an opportunity to make the right decisions.
“We meet with the children that are participating in the Stay Fit Program, frequently throughout the year, and it has been wonderful to develop a personal relationship with them as we track and celebrate their milestones and success in making healthy lifestyle changes,” said Dr. Nagpal. “We know that developing good habits as a child yields healthy behaviors that will continue through the teen years and into adulthood.”
American Academy of Pediatrics tips for weight control among children include the following:
- - drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages;
- - eat breakfast each day;
- - eat meals as a family;
- - eat more fruits and vegetables, calcium and fiber;
- - eat less snacks high in calories and fat
- - limit TV, computer and video time to two hours a day;
- - limit portion sizes;
- - limit restaurant meals; and
- - urge children to do an hour of moderate to physical activity every day.
Quabbin Pediatrics is located on the campus of Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. Office hours are scheduled to accommodate the needs of working families, and priority is given to same-day "sick visits". For more information please call 413-967-2040.