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Parents of Obese Children Underestimate Weight?

And parents of normal-weight kids often think they're too thin, review found

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"Pediatricians need to be more firm in saying, 'Your kid is in trouble. Let's take a look at this BMI chart and pinpoint the problem,' " Mittler said.

In particular, pediatricians need to start using BMI charts more often to check a child's weight, Thornton said.

"It's important for us to use those measurements and not simply rely on the way a child looks, because during different stages of development a child is supposed to have a different body shape than a typical adult," she said.

Pediatricians should not pull their punches when it comes to childhood obesity, Thornton said. They need to be straight with parents about the health problems their children will face if their weight isn't addressed.

"Pediatricians need to inform parents of their children's weight status when they are overweight," she said. "Generally, parents are looking to the doctor to give them an assessment of whether their child's weight is appropriate or not."

In turn, Mittler said, parents must be ready to act if their pediatrician warns them of a health problem.

"We need to not make light of it. We need to be more proactive," she said. "It's never too early to start. It's OK to introduce young children to fish and grilled chicken and salad, not just things that are off the kids' menu like mac and cheese."

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