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A recent study in the journal Pediatrics caught my eye as it related to childhood obesity. I spend a good deal of time discussing healthy eating and exercise with my patients and their families, but I continue to see children who gain too much weight each year. Some of my patients even qualify as obese.

The study out of Cincinnati Children's Hospital looked at 100 obese 7- to 12-year-olds and randomly assigned them to one of three different eating plans. One plan followed the wisdom of portion control, another followed a low-carb diet, and the last was a "reduced glycemic load" plan that cut down on certain carbs (like white bread, sweets and white potatoes).

Over a one-year period, all three plans worked equally well in helping control a child's weight gain. Researchers did find that the low-carb plan was tough for kids to stick to. Most of the children in this group followed the plan to an extent by reducing carbs and calories, but they did not stay within the "strict limits of the low-carb plan." In other words, they modified the plan.

The plan that "reduced the glycemic load" was essentially a modified low-carb diet. Children could eat certain "unrestricted" carbs, like fruits and vegetables low in starch, as well as whole grains. The limits were only placed on starchy carbs, but even some of those were not "forbidden."

The beauty of teaching these children about modifying their diets early on is that they can see changes in their BMI (body mass index) more quickly than adults. Why? They're still growing!

I explain to patients (and their parents) that a pre-pubertal child grows about 2 inches a year and should gain somewhere around 3 to 6 pounds a year. All of that changes with puberty, as a child's growth velocity and weight gain both increase. But, since a child is growing, by just maintaining their weight, not losing weight, they'll see changes in their body. Although children think this is "easy," it still requires effort and changes.

Small changes like cutting portions and reducing carbs (rather than trying to eliminate them) will reduce total daily calories. Add in daily exercise and your child will see real results. It's still a matter of burning more calories than you consume.

Lastly, the whole family has to be involved in the changes. You need to pick a plan that the entire family can follow and stick to.

(Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com.)