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Children and Dieting Don't Mix continued...

"Diets are very hard to stick with because most people pick a diet that's going to make them really lose weight and notice changes very rapidly," Field tells WebMD. "Unfortunately, what we really should be recommending is something where you're not going to see the results as quickly, but it's easier to adhere to."

That means making smaller, more modest changes, like changing from a 20-ounce bottle of Coke to a 12-ounce can, or changing from eating super-sized portions to normal-sized portions.

Dieting Alone Isn't Enough

Pediatrician Michael Wasserman, MD, says the findings aren't surprising, because losing weight takes more than just dieting in both children and adults.

"The answer is not that diet is bad, but that changing your lifestyle is a better way," says Wasserman, who works at a child weight-loss program at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans.

"It has to be a multifactorial change in how you live. You just can't change one piece of it, you need to change whole day-to-day lifestyle that the youngster goes through," Wasserman tells WebMD.

But Wasserman also points out that 90% of the study participants were white and they all were children of nurses who participated in the Nurses Health Study II, so the results might not apply to the entire population.

Even so, the study highlights the need for parents to strike a healthy balance between encouraging healthy eating habits and not making food an emotional issue, which could lead to potentially dangerous binge eating or eating disorders.

Smart Ways to Help Kids Lose Weight

How to help children and teens lose weight is a problem more and more parents are facing today as the prevalence of overweight children has risen by 100% in the last 20 years. Currently about 15% of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

Research also shows that children who are overweight or obese have a 90% chance of being overweight as an adult, and that's why experts say it's important to help children develop healthy habits as early as possible. Having obese parents also increases the risks that the child will be obese.

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