Bite-Sized Advice

June 01, 2013

Providence experts offer ways to revamp your child’s diet

We are what we eat.

If you’re a parent, did you shudder just then? Did you have visions of your macaroni-and-­cheese-addicted kid morphing into a poster child for dietary deficiency?

Take heart! You can build healthy nutritional habits into your children’s lives no matter how old they are.

Two Providence Medical Institute physicians share their expertise on childhood nutrition—and, according to statistics, it’s not a moment too soon. Since 1980, obesity among children and adolescents has almost tripled nationwide, with 12.5 million kids ages 2 to 19 considered obese.

Dietary Do-Over

Follow these tips to improve your child’s eating habits:

  • Get crafty. If getting them to eat fruits and veggies has become a daily battle, try “masking” foods, says Francine Atterberry, MD, a Providence Medical Institute pediatrician with Axminster Medical Group. For example, blend broccoli into spaghetti sauce or mix fresh fruit into low-fat yogurt.
  • Make a change and stick with it. “It takes a couple of weeks for the body to ‘reset.’ There is an initial period of being uncomfortable eating in a different way,” says Emily Curran, MD, who works out of Providence Medical Institute locations in Torrance and Manhattan Beach.
  • Eat healthy foods at mealtimes until full. “You really can’t overeat on fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains,” Dr. Curran says.
  • Send processed foods packing. “A child could be well within a normal weight range and still be eating french fries every day. That’s not healthy,” Dr. Atterberry says.
  • Don’t buy junk food. If it’s not in the house, kids can’t eat it.
  • Curb your eating-out habits. It’s more expensive and less nutritious than eating home-cooked meals.

Take Action

If your child is battling obesity, the time to act is now, Dr. Curran says. “I tell teenagers, ‘You have an opportunity to tackle this now, when your metabolism is high.’ ”

Dr. Atterberry adds that family participation is essential. “Sometimes there is one overweight child in the family and they feel like it is their problem, but the whole family should be on board,” she says. “Good nutrition is a family program.”