Having just completed the holiday season with all the wide variety of delicious foods and having made our resolutions, 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.

Body Mass Index 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, visit www.pediatrics.about.com 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. Your child’s physician also can help you with this calculation.

• Endocrine or gland studies should not be preformed 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 2 and older. 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 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 new year.

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.

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