Tag: low fat foods

Low Fat Foods for Kids

Although most kids get too much fat in their diets, there is one age group of kids for which you shouldn’t limit fat intake — infants and toddlers under age two years.

These children are still growing and need more fat in their diet than older kids. That doesn’t mean that you have to go out of your way to give your 18 month old French fries or have to avoid naturally low-fat foods, including most fruits and vegetables, but they shouldn’t drink low-fat milk, eat commercially made fat-free foods, or be put on a low-fat diet.

The only exception is toddlers who are already overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, who can switch to low fat milk before age two years.

Finding Low Fat Foods

As you learn to avoid high-fat foods for your children, it is just as important to learn to choose low-fat foods as part of your family’s healthy diet.

It is often easy to choose low-fat foods, as many clues are on the food label when a food is low, including nutrition claims that the food is:

  • fat free (less than 0.5g of fat per serving)
  • low fat (less than 3g of fat per serving)
  • extra lean (less than 5g of fat per serving and 2g of saturated fat)
  • lean (less than 10g of fat per serving and 4.5g of saturated fat)

Nutrition claims that are less helpful when choosing low-fat foods include the terms reduced, less, and light, since they only mean that the food has fewer calories or grams of fat than the regular version of the food.

For example, consider these chips:

  • DORITOS Nacho Cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips = 8g of fat and 140 calories per serving
  • DORITOS Reduced Fat Nacho Cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips = 5g of fat and 120 calories per
  • DORITOS Light Nacho Cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips = 2g of fat and 100 calories per serving

If you thought that the reduced fat chips were low fat, you would have been mistaken. They are not a bad choice, since they are not high in fat. You can find “potato chips” with even less fat though, including BAKED! LAY’S Original Potato Crisps, with only 1.5g of fat, and TOSTITOS Light Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips, which has only 1g of fat per serving.

Low-Fat Foods

Unfortunately, just because something is low in fat doesn’t meant that it is low in calories. So while you want to avoid high-fat foods, you also want to avoid foods that are high in sugar and calories. For example, most of the foods that rank at the top of the list for being low in fat in the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference include candy, soda, and fruit drinks.

“Fat Matters, But Calories Count”

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Healthy low-fat foods can include:

  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Egg whites
  • Baked potatoes
  • Grapes
  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Breakfast cereals (most brands, although some are high in sugar)
  • Watermelon
  • Air-popped popcorn (without added butter)*
  • Light tuna fish (canned in water)
  • Green peas
  • Wheat bread
  • Pancakes
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Pretzels
  • Vegetable soup
  • Chicken soup with rice
  • Milk – 1% reduced fat and skim milk

In addition to the fruits and vegetables listed above, keep in mind that most raw fruits and vegetables, except for avocados and olives, are naturally low in fat.

What’s missing from the list of low-fat foods? Hot dogs, cheese burgers, French fries, milk shakes, chicken nuggets, tacos, and many other high-fat kids’ favorites.

Hidden Fats in Foods

Many low-fat foods become high-fat foods when parents unknowingly add high-fat or hidden fat ingredients to them, including:

  • oils, which are 100% fat and should only be used in limited amounts, with an emphasis on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils
  • butter and margarine
  • non low-fat cheese
  • mayonnaise (1 tablespoon = 10g of fat and 90 calories)
  • ranch dressing (2 tablespoons = 15g of fat and 140 calories)

Other foods made with hydrogenated vegetable oils, palm kernel oil, or coconut oil, are likely also high in fat.

What To Know About Low Fat Foods for Kids

While it is important to learn to identify low-fat foods and high-fat foods so you know what your kids are eating, your overall focus should be on helping your family eat healthy foods every day.

For More Information On Low-Fat Foods for Kids

Treating Hard to Control Obesity

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

The Let's Go! 5-2-1-0 message can help keep your kids at a healthy weight.
The Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 message can help keep your kids at a healthy weight.

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

Treating Hard To Control Constipation in Kids

Constipation is very common for kids.

Since your kids will almost certainly become constipated, at least briefly, at some point in their lives, it is important to understand how to recognize the symptoms of constipation.

Symptoms of Constipation

How do you know if your child is constipated?

In addition to grunting and stomach pain, more traditional signs and symptoms of constipation include having:

  • fewer than two bowel movements in a week
  • bowel movements that are small, hard, and like little balls
  • bowel movements that are very big and hard and which may frequently clog the toilet

Most importantly, your constipated child will have bowel movements that are painful and difficult to pass. Very big bowel movements might also lead to small rectal tears and bleeding (usually some bright red blood on the toilet paper when wiping, not blood that fills the toilet bowl).

Not surprisingly, large painful bowel movements commonly lead kids to avoid going to the bathroom, creating a viscous cycle of worsening constipation that can become chronic. Your child with chronic constipation may eventually develop encopresis, having soiling accidents that you mistake for diarrhea. Or because they are holding their stool, they might also hold their urine and develop multiple urinary tract infections or just have urine accidents.

What about grunting and straining? If your baby grunts, strains and even cries briefly, but then passes a soft bowel movement each day, then she probably isn’t constipated (Infant Dyschezia).

Young Children with Constipation

It is often most obvious when young children get constipated, as you are still changing diapers or helping them use the potty.

Keep in mind that:

  • you should talk to your pediatrician if you think that your newborn baby is constipated (not pooping can be a sign that newborn babies aren’t eating enough) or if your child has had constipation problems since he was born (sign of Hirschsprung disease) or is constipated and isn’t gaining weight (Celiac disease)
  • exclusively breastfeeding infants, especially before they start solid foods, once they are gaining weight well, are unlikely to get constipated, but they may only have their soft bowel movements every few days or weeks
  • infants sometimes get constipated when they start rice cereal or other baby foods
  • toddlers sometimes get constipated when they start potty training – this is an especially important time to make sure your child doesn’t get or stay constipated, or it will interfere with potty training

Again, be aggressive if your child becomes constipated when potty training. It is easy to imagine that your toddler is not going to want to have regular bowel movements on the potty if he associated them with pain.

Children with Constipation

Although it is typically harder to recognize, because you likely don’t know how often they are going to the bathroom, constipation is common in older children too.

Common times to develop constipation might include:

  • when they start kindergarten, especially if they don’t feel comfortable going to the bathroom at school
  • after going to camp, on a trip, or any other situation where their diet and routine might have changed
  • after a brief illness, especially if they took or are taking a medication that might have constipation as a side effect
  • during a period of stress, such as starting a new school, moving to a new house, bullying, or social changes (divorce, death in the family, etc.) at home

It is so common, you might even want to watch for constipation at those times, especially if your child has had issues with constipation in the past.

Hard To Control Constipation

Most parents know how to treat simple constipation – more fluids, more fiber, stool softeners, and the occasional glycerin suppository or pediatric enema (the last treatments should likely only be used when nothing else is working and your child is uncomfortable).

But what do you do when that’s not enough?

To help treat kids with hard to control constipation, it usually helps to:

  • make long term changes to your child’s diet, including more fluids (especially water), less fat,  and more fiber, as kids with constipation may have a diet high in fat and low in fluids and fiber
  • make long term changes to your child’s behavior, encouraging him to sit and try to go to the bathroom after breakfast and dinner, but not making him sit until he goes
  • encourage your child to be physically active
  • continue your child’s daily maintenance constipation medicine (usually polyethylene glycol (PEG), lactulose, Milk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide), or mineral oil) until he is having a soft stool each day for several months and continues having a daily soft stool as you gradually decrease (over several months) and then stop the medicine (stopping a laxative as soon as kids begin having regular bowel movements is the biggest mistake that parents typically make when their kids are constipated)
  • consider a clean out regimen over a few days if your child is very constipated, using high dose polyethylene glycol or magnesium citrate, which unfortunately might cause some diarrhea as a side effect of getting a lot of hard stool out

What do you do if your child relapses? You usually just start over, especially if the relapse is because you stopped one or more of your child’s constipation treatments.

If your child relapses even though you had been consistent and had been continuing all of his previous treatments that had been working well, you might consider:

  • switching to an alternative to cow’s milk, like almond or soy milk, as some people think constipation can be due to a cow’s milk protein allergy, plus they will likely be lower in fat than cow’s milk
  • increasing the dose of stool softeners and make sure that you don’t stop them too soon
  • avoiding treatments that have not been found to be helpful, including very high fiber diets, prebiotics or probiotics, biofeedback and other alternative treatments
  • avoiding suppositories and enemas, as oral constipation medicines are just as effective and will be better tolerated by your child

Your pediatrician and/or a pediatric gastroenterologist can be helpful if your child has hard to control constipation. In fact, up to 25% of the visits to a pediatric gastroenterologist are for constipation.

For More Information on Constipation