Children aren’t just little adults, even big or overweight children.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that obesity treatments might be different for children.
Childhood Obesity Treatments
Most people know, even if they can’t get motivated to follow, basic treatments for obesity. They include eating and drinking fewer calories and being more active.
How are these treatments different for kids?
Kids are still growing, so calories shouldn’t usually be overly restricted. So we more often talk about healthy diets instead of dieting.
Remember that the goal for overweight and obese children and teens is to reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development.
CDC Tips for Parents – Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight
Treating Hard to Control Obesity
What do you do if your child continues to gain too much weight or just can’t seem to lose any weight despite trying?
Ask yourself these questions and bring the answers to your pediatrician:
Are other family members overweight?
Is your child physically active for at least one hour a day?
Does your child drink non-diet soda, fruit juice, or sweet tea each day?
How much milk and water does your child drink each day?
Do you eat out with your child one or more times each week?
Does your child get more than one to two hours of screen time each day?
Does your child have a TV and/or computer in their room?
Does your child frequently eat meals and snacks while watching TV?
How many fruits and vegetables does your child eat each day?
Do your child’s portion sizes at meal times resemble an adult portion size?
Does your child frequently get seconds at meal times?
What does your child eat at snack times?
How many snacks does your child eat each day?
How often does your family eat dinner together?
Are you waiting for your child to “grow into” his weight?
If physically active, what activities does your child do?
Do you know about how many calories your child should be getting each day?
Are you expecting a quick fix and for your child to lose weight quickly?
And perhaps most importantly, do you know why your child is overweight? If you don’t, or if you don’t really believe that he or she is overweight, then you will have a hard time helping get to a healthier weight.
A registered dietician can help teach you and your child more about healthy eating.
What To Know About Treating Hard to Control Obesity
Getting to a healthy weight is rarely easy, but there is help for kids who are overweight and with hard to control obesity.
For More Information About Treating Hard to Control Obesity
You wouldn’t think that the idea that kids should drink milk would be controversial…
Of course, it is.
The controversy is more over the type of milk now and not so much over the amounts though. Few people disagree with the American Academy of Pediatrics 2014 clinical report on Optimizing Bone Health in Children and Adolescents, in which they recommended that “Children 4 through 8 years of age require 2 to 3 servings of dairy products or equivalent per day. Adolescents require 4 servings per day.”
Which Kind of Milk You Got?
While you used to have to go to Whole Foods to get soy milk, nearly every grocery store now has every type of “milk” you can think of, and some you haven’t.
So in addition to raw and pasteurized cow’s milk, it is possible to buy:
flax milk (flax seeds)
lactose free milk (cow’s milk without lactose)
potato milk (as powdered milk)
ripple milk (peas)
7 grain milk (Oats, Brown Rice, Wheat, Barley, Triticale, Spelt and Millet)
sprouted rice milk
Complicating matters even more, once you decide on the type of milk to give your kids, you will have a lot of other options to choose from – organic, hormone free, sweetened vs unsweeted, enriched vs original, and a long list of flavors, etc.
The question is no longer simply Got Milk?
Best Milk for Kids
So which milk is best for your kids?
While each type of milk has its fans, in general, unless your child has food allergies or intolerances, the best milk is going to be the one you can afford, with the nutrients your child needs, and which he is going to drink.
What about the idea or argument that cow’s milk is made for baby cows?
Following that logic, if you weren’t going to give your kids cow’s milk, then you probably wouldn’t give them most plant based milks, as they are commonly made from seeds. Almonds, peas, and soybeans, etc., aren’t “made” to make milk. They are produced to make more plants. But just like we pasteurize and fortify cow’s milk so that we can consume it, we have learned to use these other foods.
Best Milk for Kids with Food Allergies
While the wide availability of so many different types of milk is confusing for many parents, it has been great for pediatricians and parents of kids with food allergies and intolerances. Having more of a variety has also been helpful for vegan families.
In general, you should breastfeed or give your infant an iron fortified formula until they are at least 12 months old, avoiding milk or other allergy foods as indicated if you are breastfeeding and your child develops an allergy, or switching to a hypoallergenic or elemental formula if your child develops a formula allergy.
And then, after your toddler is old enough to wean from breastmilk or formula, you:
should avoid cow’s milk, lactose-free cow’s milk, and goat milk if your child has a milk protein allergy
should avoid almond, cashew, coconut, and hazelnut milk if your child has a nut allergy (yes, even though almonds and coconuts are really stone fruits and not true nuts, they have been rarely known to cross react and trigger allergic reactions)
should avoid soy milk if your child has a soy allergy
should make sure your child’s milk is fortified with calcium and vitamin D
Most importantly, talk to your pediatrician and/or a pediatric allergist before switching to a plant based milk if your child has food allergies and before trying to switch back to cow’s milk after you think they have outgrown their allergy.
Other Things to Know About Kids Drinking Milk
Kids don’t necessarily need to drink any kind of milk. They do need the nutrients that you commonly get from milk, including fat, protein, calcium, and vitamin D, etc. You should also know that:
the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that most toddlers drink whole milk until they are two years old, when they should switch to reduced fat milk.
switching to reduced fat milk can be appropriate for some toddlers who are already overweight or if their pediatrician is concerned about their becoming overweight or about their cholesterol, etc.
most cow’s milk that you buy in your grocery store doesn’t have any added growth hormone (labeled rBST-free), even if it isn’t organic
the AAP, in a report on Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages, states that “there is no evidence of clinically relevant differences in organic and conventional milk”
if a company makes more than one type of non-dairy milk, such as rice, almond, and soy, then cross-contamination could be a problem for your child with food allergies
most kids with a lactose intolerance can tolerate some lactose in their diet, so may be able to drink some cow’s milk and eat cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, even if they can’t tolerate a lot of regular cow’s milk
while plant based milks are lactose free and some are unsweetened, others might have added sugar, including cane sugar or cane syrup
unlike cow’s milk, most plant based milks are very low in protein
although they aren’t labeled as 1% or 2%, plant based milks typically have less fat than whole milk
phytoestrogens in soy milk are a concern for some people
most milk, even oat milk, is gluten-free, with the exception of 7 grain milk, which obviously contains wheat
UHT milk undergoes ultra-high temperature processing or ultra-pasteurization to allow it have a longer shelf life, even if not refrigerated, at least until the carton is opened
although some experts warn about cross reactivity, like between peanuts and green peas, the Food Allergy Research & Education website states that “If you are allergic to peanuts, you do not have a greater chance of being allergic to another legume (including soy) than you would to any other food.”
raw cow’s milk, in addition to being a risk for bacterial contamination and outbreaks of Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella, is very low in vitamin D and has no proven health benefits over pasteurized milk
reduced-calorie and no added sugar flavored cow’s milk often use artificial sweeteners
some brands of almond milk contain only about 2% of almonds, which leads some critics to say that you should just eat a few almonds to get even more nutritional benefits
But don’t forget about cost. Plant based milk can be at least two to four times more expensive than cow’s milk.
So again, remember that while each type of milk has its fans, in general, unless your child has food allergies or intolerances, the best milk is going to be the one you can afford, with the nutrients your child needs, and which he is going to drink, whether it comes from a cow, soybean, almond, or hazelnut, etc.
Parents often have a lot of questions about breastfeeding.
One thing that they shouldn’t question is that breastfeeding provides a number of “short- and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages” for their baby.
That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics, in their 2012 policy statement on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk recommended:
“Exclusive breastfeeding for about six months…”
And for breastfeeding “to continue for at least the first year and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child…”
Since the AAP has concluded that “breastfeeding and the use of human milk confer unique nutritional and nonnutritional benefits to the infant and the mother and, in turn, optimize infant, child, and adult health as well as child growth and development,” be sure you get all the help you need to effectively breastfeed your child.
And remember, if breastfeeding was easy, we wouldn’t need lactation consultants. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.