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Health & Parenting

So Long, Soda...Hello, Fruit

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Q: What diet-related health problems do you see most among older kids?

We've all read about skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol in children and adolescents. I see plenty of proof of those alarming trends every day in my practice. But the most surprising thing I've noticed is the link between a bad diet and kids diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

Recently, I had a mom come in with her 12-year-old son because the school told her that he has ADD. I started to take a medical history, and I asked what her son eats for breakfast. She said, "Usually sugary cereal, or sometimes we'll stop at Starbucks and he'll have a donut." Whether or not her son has an attention deficit problem, there's no way he can do his best work with a breakfast like that. So the mom made some adjustments. Getting up a half hour earlier to scramble some eggs and toast some bread was an effort. But her son managed to turn his performance around. Is he the best student in the class? No, but his teachers have noticed that he focuses better and is improving. A child's brain is developing even well into adolescence, and he needs the right kind of food to help it work its best.

Q: How can parents avoid getting their kids so hung up on food that they develop an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia?

In the past couple of decades, pediatricians have been so concerned about eating disorders that we've been afraid to talk too much about nutrition. But now I realize that we have to keep this worry in perspective. For every one child with an eating disorder I see in my practice, I have probably 1,000 kids who are unhealthy because they are overweight or obese. When you present good nutrition in a positive light-telling your kids that healthy foods will help them be the best they can be-you're not setting them up for a body image problem; instead, you're building confidence.

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