Children on Diets?: Healthy Eating

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From Weight Watchers to Jenny Craig - Southbeach to Atkins ... diets are big business. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Americans spend more than 40 Billion dollars a year on weight loss programs and products.

But what about our children? Should *they* ever be put on a diet?

"No. I don't think it's a good idea," said local mom, Carol Weller.

"I think diet and fat are not words that are appropriate at that age," said local mom, Angela Amico.

Doctor Jim Ed Martin is a pediatrician at Professional Park Pediatrics in Tallahassee - and says adults should watch their words when it comes to children and weight.

"I think anything that centers on image and how you're supposed to look or putting some sort of qualification on how good of a person you are or what you can do with your life as a result, those things are bad," said Jim Ed Martin, M.D., Pediatrician.

But he says the foods a child eats and his or her weight *is* an issue that often needs to be addressed, one way or another.

"I've definitely told parents that a child medically needs to lose weight and a child's diet needed to be adjusted," said Dr. Martin.

So what exactly should our children be eating from day to day?
According to the Department of Agriculture's new My-Plate Guide - children need Fruits, Veggies, Grains, Protein and Dairy, with at least half of their plate being filled by the first two.

Over at Tom Brown Park, we found Terria McKinney's Pre-K class enjoying lunch outside with many healthy foods.

"They need a well-balanced lunch to stay focused in the classroom," said Terria McKinney

Nutritionist Amy Magnuson says, children are very good at self-regulation, but that internal indicator is often suppressed as additional factors come into play.

"Kids are typically mindful eaters which means they know when they're hungry and they know when they're full and it's really not until we get involved or society gets involved or other pressures that push them to not eat when they're hungry or to overeat when they're full," said Amy Magnuson, Ph.D., Health Promotion Director and Nutritionist at Florida State University.

Those pressures can in turn lead to issues with image, self esteem and even proper growth during the early and adolescent years.
So how can parents keep their children at a healthy weight *and* in a healthy frame of mind?

"Being a good role model is probably the most important thing a parent can do," said Magnuson.

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