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Diets and Children By Dr. Margaret Gaglione, M.D.

How To Raise Healthier Children

By Dr. Margaret Gaglione, M.D., Tidewater Women - August 2007

I've found the quickest way to educate a loving mother about children and nutrition is to say, "Every time you feed your children you have an opportunity to prevent diabetes and cancer." I see the light go on, and I know our future is getting healthier.

Conversely every time you allow your children to have sodas, fast food, fried food, and high-calorie snacks, you increase the likelihood that your children will be obese. Additionally, when you allow them to develop poor eating habits, you place them at risk for developing type-2 diabetes and cancer. For these reasons, obesity is the number-one health crisis facing our children.

As mothers we strive to protect our children and keep them safe and healthy. Often times, this is at the expense of their immediate contentment.

We have all battled a screaming and kicking toddler who does not want to be in a car seat. As our children grow, the battles turn from tantrums to verbal persuasion as our sons and daughters try to get us to focus on their happiness and instant gratification rather than their long-term health and safety.

Many of my adult patients tell me that they eat fast food because their children want it. Mothers who insist that their children will eat only chicken fingers or cheeseburgers fail to recognize that this is because they have allowed their child to eat only chicken fingers and cheeseburgers rather than put up with the “kicking and screaming.” Children will eat healthy food and will try new foods when they're available to them.

Most mothers agree that it is irresponsible to put a child in a car without a car seat. It is just as irresponsible to routinely provide them with harmful food and drinks.

I realize that changing habits is not an easy task. Providing our children with good nutrition in an environment that is overwhelmed with unhealthy foods is a difficult battle. It can be done, however, if we change our thinking and view nutrition as the most important health and safety issue for our children.

You may have recently read about the six-week-old boy who died from malnutrition in Atlanta because his parents fed him only soy milk and apple juice. His parents abandoned proper nutrition fundamentals and ultimately caused the death of their child.

Many children today are suffering from a different form of malnutrition. Not teaching our children proper eating habits will not kill them as fast as the infant in Atlanta, but it will lead them to a life of increased medical complications and ultimately an early death.

There are a few simple changes that will have a dramatic impact on your child’s eating habits. Start with saying no to fast food restaurants and regular soda. Once you have conquered the soda and fast food, ensure that your children eat breakfast every day. Start adding multiple servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Just by having fruits and vegetables readily available, children will eat more of them.

Then focus on the behaviors associated with eating. Insist on three meals per day, only eat food at the kitchen table, and don’t use food as a pacifier or reward. If you reward your children with food items at a young age, they will learn to reward themselves with food as an adult. Try using non-food items as a reward.

Instituting these changes will come with lots of kicking and screaming. But responsible mothers understand that learning healthy eating habits will last their children a lifetime

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This is the first step in improving your health and lifestyle.

At Tidewater Bariatrics, my staff and I are committed to helping you achieve your weight loss goals.

I am a board certified Bariatrician and Internal Medicine physician. I will tailor a program specific to your needs, time constraints and abilities.

Our program is modeled after successful academic university medical center programs, and is dedicated to decreasing your health risk, improving nutrition, providing health education, and increasing your overall wellness. You can expect to lose weight, improve your cardio-vascular health, and reduce your risk of developing long-term obesity complications.

Even if you already have the complications of obesity, weight loss can decrease or eliminate their effects.

Dr. Margaret Gaglione

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