As we enter full swing into the holiday season, we are all faced with many choices of delicious holiday foods. As a consequence, many of us are thinking about diets. 

As we all know obesity is now a very common problem for Americans and for American children. The Endocrine Society issued some guidelines about obesity in the Sept. 9, 2008, online issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

BMI is the body mass index, which is a reliable indicator of body fatness for most children and teens. It is calculated using accurate measures of your child’s height and weight. For you to calculate your child’s BMI you can go to and they will have a calculator for you.

The guidelines are as follows:

• Overweight is having a BMI greater than 85 percent and obesity is having a BMI greater than the 95 percent. You child’s physician can also help you with this calculation.

• Endocrine or gland studies should not be performed routinely unless the child’s height shows poor growth or is too small for the family history.

• If there is evidence of a genetic problem, consultation with a geneticist is indicated

• If a child’s BMI is greater than 85 percent they should be evaluated for some of the diseases that are associated with obesity.

• The first recommendation for treatment is an intensive lifestyle change, including dietary, physical activity and behavioral habits.

• Dietary recommendations include the following:

1. Avoid calorie dense, nutrient poor foods such as sweetened beverages and fast foods. This includes fruit juice.

2. Control portions.

3. Reduce saturated fats for children older than 2 years. Low fat milk and yogurt are rich in calcium and vitamin D.

4. Increase intake of fiber, fruits, and vegetables.

5. Eat regular meals particularly breakfast

6. Avoid constant “grazing,” particularly after school.

Many of the holiday foods can be enjoyed with portion control and attention to the calories. Perhaps the most important part of any meal is the sharing of attention and affection for those sitting around the table.  

Please have a healthy and happy holiday season.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

(1) comment

Lars Faltskog

I like the "portion control" pieces of this article. It rings true. People basically need to stop eating so much. Simply portion out what you'll eat for a meal, and stick to it. If you're still hungry, load up on celery, cauliflower, broccoli (without the sauce).

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