Question: My daughter is 4-foot-7, and weighs 132 pounds. She also has high blood pressure and reflux. I've been trying to cut back on sugar drinks and fried food. Can you suggest any other changes to her eating plan to help?
Answer: It's great that you're working on improving your daughter's diet! Cutting back on sugared drinks and fried food is a good way to start.
Sugared drinks are the largest source of added sugars in children's diets. They add many calories, but little or no nutrition. Encourage your daughter to drink water and low-fat milk instead.
Avoid fried foods, as they're a high source of fat. Show your daughter how to choose healthy snacks instead. Pick fresh fruit instead of French fries and grilled chicken over fried chicken nuggets.
You've made great changes. It's important that your daughter form her own healthy eating habits, too. This starts at home. Make sure yours has plenty of healthy choices on hand — and encourage those choices! Here's what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends:
1. Make and eat meals often as a family.
2. Eat breakfast every day.
3. Eat low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt, milk and cheese.
4. Limit fast food, take-out food and eating out at restaurants.
5. Eat a diet rich in calcium.
6. Eat a high-fiber diet.
A healthy weight isn't just about food choices. Families should strive to live healthy, active lifestyles, too.
Encourage physical activity: Make physical activity fun. Remember, you're the role model. If you're active, your child will follow your example. The AAP recommends children get at least one hour of physical activity a day.
Limit screen time: Kids today spend too much time watching TV, using the computer or playing video games. The more time your child spends in front of the screen, the less time he or she is outside being active. The AAP recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time per day.
One out of three U.S. children and teens are obese or overweight. Excess weight can raise their risk for serious diseases, such as heart disease, later on in life. So keep up the good work of improving your daughter's eating habits. And check in with her doctor from time to time so he or she can monitor her progress.
THE MEDICINE CABINET is a column in which doctors from the Harvard Medical School respond to questions from consumers about health-related issues.