Life Ever Changing

A pursuit to become a Registered Dietitian and to promote healthy living

End Mealtime Battles with One Question

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If you have picky eaters in your family, you already know the signs of when they dislike a meal: a blank stare, a turned-up nose, the plate pushed away. Instead of getting upset with their pickiness and falling into familiar mealtime battles, try a new tactic. Ask: “How can I make that better for you?” This question seems simple, but it can work like magic to open lines of communication between you and your children, and can give kids a feeling of control to make the meal more enjoyable. It also may take the pressure off you, since you won’t have to guess what they want — which changes frequently, anyway.

Phrasing is key. Instead of a negative question — such as, “Why don’t you like it?” — a positive question allows for constructive problem-solving and innovative solutions that you create as a team.

Make It Better

The first time you ask “How can I make that better for you?” your child may not know how to answer. That’s OK. Here are some common complaints and suggested solutions (note that nuts and seeds are choking hazards for children under 4):

  • “The food is too hot.”
    Put the plate in the fridge for a few minutes or add ice to hot soup.
  • “The food is too cold.”
    A quick zap in the microwave or a few minutes under the broiler will help.
  • “The food is plain.”
    Use “sprinkles” to add pizzazz to plates: flax seeds, sesame seeds, slivered almonds, fresh mint, shredded coconut, nutritional yeast, cinnamon, or shredded Parmesan or cheddar cheese.
  • “The food is boring.”
    Add a dip such hummus, guacamole, mild salsa or a yogurt-based tzatziki. A dollop of dip adds flavor and fun.
  • “The food is too crunchy.”
    Lightly steam vegetables or add a sauce or spread to crackers or toast.
  • “The food is too creamy.”
    Add texture to soup or yogurt with nuts, seeds, panko breadcrumbs, croutons, granola, diced vegetables or fruit
  • “The plate has [fill in the blank] on it, and I don’t like it.”
    Something as simple as a speck of green herbs or a bit of diced red pepper can be enough to ruin an entire dish for a child. Give your child permission to put the offending food to the side of the plate.

Be warned: The solution that works today may not work tomorrow. The answer to “How can I make that better for you?” will often change but it will always lead to some answer. Whether it’s a sprinkle of cheese or removing the “green stuff,” a simple question can save you from troublesome mealtimes and ensure everyone enjoys what they are eating.

Adapted from: Cara Rosenbloom, RD

Tip of the Day

Jot it down! Before making a grocery list, write down meals you want to make for the week. Shopping for the week means you’ll make fewer trips to the store and buy only the items you need.

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Water: How Much Do Kids Need?

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Water is one of the body’s most essential nutrients. People may survive six weeks without any food, but they couldn’t live more than a week or so without water. That’s because water is the cornerstone for all body functions. It’s the most abundant substance in the body, averaging 60 percent of body weight. It helps keep body temperature constant at around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and it transports nutrients and oxygen to all cells and carries waste products away. Water helps maintain blood volume, and it helps lubricate joints and body tissues such as those in the mouth, eyes and nose. And, water is truly a liquid asset for a healthy weight — it’s sugar-free, caffeine-free and calorie-free.

How Much Water Do Kids Need?

The daily amount of water that a child needs depends on factors such as age, weight and gender. Air temperature, humidity, activity level and a person’s overall health affect daily water requirements, too. The chart below can help you identify about how many cups of water your child or teen needs each day. These recommendations are set for generally healthy kids living in temperate climates; therefore, they might not be perfect for your child or teen.

The amount of water that your child or teen needs each day might seem like a lot, but keep in mind that the recommendations in the chart are for total water, which includes water from all sources: drinking water, other beverages and food. Notice that fruits and vegetables have a much higher water content than other solid foods. This high water content helps keep the calorie level of fruits and vegetables low while their nutrient level remains high — another perfectly great reason for kids to eat more from these food groups.

So how do you apply total water recommendations to your kid’s day? As a rule of thumb, to get enough water, your child or teen should drink at least six to eight cups of water a day and eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Also, pay special attention to your child’s or teen’s water consumption when they are physically active. Before, during and after any physical activity, kids need to drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. The goal is to drink a half cup to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising.

Kids Total Daily Beverage and Drinking Water Requirements

Age Range Gender Total Water (Cups/Day)
4 to 8 years Girls and Boys 5
9 to 13 years Girls 7
Boys 8
14 to 18 years Girls 8
Boys 11

Data are from Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) Tables. Recommended Daily Allowance and Adequate Intake Values: Total Water and Macronutrients.

Adapted from: Mary Mullen, MS, RD; Jo Ellen Shield, MED RD LD

Tip of the Day

Variety is key! Vary your protein food choices. Eat a variety of foods from the Protein Foods Group each week. Experiment with main dishes made with beans, peas, nuts, soy, seafood, or lean meats.

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Do’s and Don’ts for Baby’s First Foods

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Introducing your baby to solid foods is an exciting milestone your little one is sure to enjoy. When you start introducing children to the world of solid foods, you are helping them shape food and feeding habits while establishing healthy eating patterns. Not sure how to get your baby started on solid foods? These tips will help.

Is My Baby Ready for Solid Foods?

DO check with your pediatrician before starting solid foods. Most people in the medical community agree the best time to start your baby on solid foods is at 4 to 6 months old. Look for physical signs that your baby is ready for solids, such as sitting up with limited support, good head and neck control and keeping most of the food in the mouth and swallowing it.

DON’T get caught up in comparing your baby’s progress or readiness to start solids to another baby. Not all babies reach milestones at the same time. Never force your baby to eat if crying or turning away when you offer solids. Your baby might not be ready to try eating from a spoon, or she might just not be hungry! Go back to nursing or bottle-feeding exclusively for a day or two before trying again.

What Should I Feed My Baby?

DO start with a single-grain infant cereal mixed with breast milk or formula, or a pureed fruit or vegetable. Some easily tolerated first foods are iron-fortified infant rice or oatmeal cereal, pureed avocado, banana, sweet potato, carrots, pears or peas. Mix breast milk or formula with your desired pureed food until it has a thin, liquid consistency. Gradually increase the thickness of the puree when your baby can swallow without trouble. Wait three to four days before introducing another food to your baby. If you suspect a reaction, stop feeding your baby the new food immediately and contact your pediatrician.

DON’T stop breast-feeding or formula-feeding just because you’re working on the switch to solids. Breast milk or formula is still your baby’s main source of nutrition and calories. And, even if it might seem like an easy out, never add honey, salt or sugar to baby food to “entice” or “trick” your baby into liking it.

How Do I Feed My Baby?

DO try to relax. Most of the first few solid-food feedings will wind up on your baby’s face, hands and bib. While there is no exact serving size of solid foods for babies, the general rule of thumb is to start small, giving your baby about one to two teaspoons of pureed food. Gradually increase this amount over time.

DON’T feed your baby solid foods from a bottle. Always spoon-feed from a bowl, not from the jar of food unless your baby will finish it. Feeding directly from the jar may introduce bacteria from your baby’s mouth to the spoon and back into the food, creating a food safety issue. If your baby is still hungry, use a clean spoon to take more food from the jar. Sometimes children will turn away from the spoon or clamp their mouth closed. If this happens, stop feeding your baby. It’s important to never force-feed a baby.

Whatever happens, don’t get discouraged and do enjoy the ride. With a little patience and creativity, you can make your baby’s first solid food eating experience fun for everyone involved!

Adapted from: Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN

Tip of the Day

Shop smart! Beans and peas like kidney beans, split peas, and lentils, are low-cost protein options that are great for sides or main dishes.

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8 Ways to Get Picky Eaters to Become More Adventurous

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Getting kids to eat new foods sounds simple enough (“Just take one bite”). However, parents and caretakers know that for many children, new foods — with their new appearances, smells, tastes, textures, temperatures and names — can be scary. So, how can you get kids to develop positive relationships with food instead of mealtime battles? Try these eight fun tips to lay a foundation for stress-free, adventurous eating habits before the first bite.

Story Time

Learn about foods and recipes from around the world, including what children in different cultures eat. Read about food-based professions such as bakers, farmers and chefs. Watch cooking shows and videos with your kids about cooking and food prep.

Scrumptious Smells

Smell is a significant and sometimes forgotten part of the eating experience. Playing games to positively engage with food smells outside of mealtimes can demystify the experience. Use spice jars to guess scents or add vanilla extract to bubbles before blowing them outside. These non-eating activities will build happy associations with new smells before you use them in recipes.

Unleash the Artist

Make art projects using food. Use fruit to make stamps: halved strawberries make heart-shaped stamps, and halved apples are star-shaped. Use a string to make garlands or jewelry from uncooked pasta, popcorn or cranberries. (Popcorn and chunks of food can be choking hazards in young children.)

Flip the Script

Do you find yourself telling friends and family, “My child is a picky eater”? Train yourself to use hopeful language instead: “My child is learning to love new things.” Instead of “He doesn’t like it,” say, “He hasn’t had it enough times.” Using positive statements will validate your child’s feelings in your mind while recognizing that opinions can change.

Sort by Color

Chop brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as red cherry tomatoes, green kiwis and purple grapes into small pieces. Practice sorting them by color while saying the color aloud. This can cultivate an acceptance of new textures by allowing your child to focus on the game rather than on his or her discomfort with new foods. As with popcorn and apples, be aware that whole cherry tomatoes and grapes are considered choking hazards in young children.

Name It

Which do you think your child would rather eat: steamed carrots or X-Ray Vision Coins? In the same way that descriptions on restaurant menus can influence what you order, creative names in the kitchen or cafeteria can pique a child’s interest.

Shine the Spotlight

Many kids love being the star, so use that instinct to explore new foods. Take videos of your child speaking to his or her ideal audience — a younger sibling, a stuffed animal, a favorite superhero — about trying new foods.

Get in the Garden

A garden not only improves children’s knowledge of produce, it increases their consumption of fruits and vegetables. From flipping through seed catalogs in the winter, to starting seeds in the spring, to weeding and harvesting all summer long, gardens can be joyful and patient teachers.

Adapted from: Holly Larson, MS, RD

Tip of the Day

Be an active parent! Whether you’re watching a soccer game or at the park, get moving with your kids. Play with them on the jungle gym or walk up and down the sidelines of the game.

Daily Inspiration 

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Is a Low-Carb Diet Safe for Kids?

 

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Low-carbohydrate eating plans continue to be popular. And while there is no official definition of a low-carb diet, most advise curbing or eliminating some or all grains, fruits, legumes and vegetables. Preteens and adolescents may be particularly interested in trying carbohydrate-restricting diets due to the promised weight loss. Or, maybe an older relative is following a new diet and you’re wondering if it’s healthy for kids to do the same.

Kids Need Carbohydrates

Experts recommend that about half of the calories children and adults consume come from carbohydrates. Abundant in nutritious foods including grains, fruits, vegetables, milk and yogurt, carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source.

Low-Carb Eating for Kids: The Upside

Carbohydrates are also found in foods such as sugary beverages, candy and baked goods. According to Jill Castle, MS, RDN, limiting these kinds of carbs is fine. “You don’t need those foods to be healthy,” she says, “and kids eat too much of them anyway.” Extra calories from any source, including added sugars, may contribute to overweight and obesity when not balanced by physical activity.

What’s Bad about Low-Carb Diets for Kids?

While your preteen or high schooler may look like an adult, his or her needs for certain nutrients are higher than yours, and drastically decreasing carbs may be asking for trouble. “Cutting back on nutritious carbohydrate-containing foods, such as whole grains, fruits and veggies, can lead to deficiencies for several nutrients, including fiber and a long list of B vitamins,” Castle says. In addition, when you decrease nutritious high-carb foods in your eating plan, there’s not much left to eat. Castle says she is concerned about kids loading up on protein and fat to fill in for the missing carbohydrates. “In addition, low-carb diets can sap a teen’s energy, which is disastrous for athletes because carbohydrates are the primary fuel for exercise,” she says.

High-Quality Carbohydrate Foods May Foster Weight Control

Eating fewer carbohydrates may produce weight loss, but including certain carbohydrate-containing foods actually helps promote a healthy weight, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Whole grains, such as brown rice, are digested more slowly than refined grains such as white rice, possibly preventing hunger. And a New England Journal of Medicine study found that adults who increased their intake of whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables over the course of 20 years gained less weight than those who didn’t.

Instead of avoiding all carb-containing foods, it’s better for kids and adults to get into the habit of eating healthier choices.

Adapted by: Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD

Tip of the Day

Make fruit fun for kids! Top off a bowl of whole-grain cereal, waffles, or toast with a smiley face of sliced bananas for eyes, raisins for a nose, and an orange slice for a mouth.

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Easy Foods Kids Can Grow in the Garden

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Parents and caregivers know how challenging it can be to get kids to eat enough fruits and vegetables, but gardening may help. An expanding body of research shows that when kids help grow fruits and vegetables, they are likely to eat more produce and to try different kinds, too. The benefits of gardening don’t end there. Gardening helps kids engage their curiosity, learn to be resourceful and gain self-confidence. It is also a great way to get the entire family outside for fresh air and physical activity.

Consider Your Kids

Depending on their age, children take to gardening differently. For example, preschoolers tend to be fascinated with exploring dirt, seeds and the garden hose, while older children are more interested in how a single seed turns into an edible plant.

Make Kids Part of the Planting Process

Ask children which fruits and vegetables they’d like to grow. While older kids can read seed packets and start to understand growing regions, younger ones may not understand that it’s probably not possible to grow oranges in northern Maine. Suggest fun, reliable plants such as purple carrots and striped beets, and make sure you plant a couple of sure bets for your region of the country.

Go Herbal

Herbs are perhaps the easiest plants to grow and can be a good place to start to interest kids in gardening. Herbs grow like weeds, so you’ll probably have more than enough. Choose one or two herbs to start, such as parsley, basil or rosemary. Don’t worry if you have too much by summer’s end. An excess of basil can be made into pesto, frozen in ice cube trays and stored in the freezer to use during the fall and winter. And, all herbs can be dried.

Dig What Grows Below Ground

What’s more fun for a kid than yanking a carrot she planted out of the ground, washing it and taking a bite? Beets, another “underground” crop are colorful and can be a great way to get a child to try a new vegetable. Potatoes are easy to grow and are kid favorites.

Gardening for the Space-Challenged

No yard? No problem! Try using large pots placed on the patio or porch to grow foods such as tomatoes, salad greens and even cucumbers. Most herbs can grow in small pots on indoor windowsills. Picking herbs is a great task for younger children. And, if they are old enough, let them cut the herbs with kitchen shears.

Take Gardening to the Extreme

Children are fascinated by very small and very large objects … including vegetables. Whether in the ground or in a pot, cherry tomato plants grow to the perfect height for little hands to pick the deep red orbs. Small kids may find it exciting to watch how low-maintenance, easy-to-grow and brightly colored butternut squash and pumpkins grow and expand during the season.

Keep Gardening Year-Round

The gardening experience doesn’t have to end with the last harvest. Make growing edible fruits and vegetables a year-round activity. Read through seed catalogs during the cold winter months with your kids and decide what to grow next summer. Buy a grow light and get started on those tomato, bean and squash plants in the early spring. Kids will be fascinated by the growing process, whether it’s indoors or out.

Adapted from: Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD

Tip of the Day

Clean as you go! Like to cook but don’t like to clean? Clean as you go. Fill up the sink with warm, soapy water and wash dishes as you cook. It will make clean up go much smoother!

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Kids and Portion Control

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When kids follow MyPlate recommendations for daily servings of foods, they are well on their way to healthy growth and development. Unfortunately, many kids today seem to be suffering from “portion distortion.” When talking about what kids eat or drink, keep these definitions in mind.

What Is a “Serving Size”? What Is a “Portion Size”?

A serving is a specific amount of food or drink that is defined by common measurements, such as cups, ounces or tablespoons. Examples include recommended servings from MyPlate (the amount kids should eat) and the serving size on a Nutrition Facts Label, which is the basis for all the other nutrition information on the label. In many cases, the serving size listed on the Nutrition Facts Label is different from the MyPlate recommended serving size. In fact, many of the MyPlate serving sizes are smaller than those listed on the Nutrition Facts Label.

A portion is the amount of food that happens to end up on the plate. Think of portion size as the actual amount of food kids choose to eat at breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack. Portions may be larger or smaller than the recommended serving size.

Visualizing Appropriate Portion Sizes

One reason kids may not be eating appropriately sized portions based on the recommended MyPlate serving sizes is that they may not recognize what a reasonable portion looks like. What does one-half cup of pasta look like? What about three ounces of chicken or two tablespoons of peanut butter? The good news is that kids don’t need a measuring cup or scale to measure the portions they should eat — instead, they can visualize them by using familiar objects, such as a tennis ball or CD, that are similar in size to recommended serving sizes. Before they eat or drink, they can think of the relevant object and choose a portion that matches its size.

Here are some tips to help you and your kids visualize portion sizes:

Food Portion Size About the Size of…
Grains Group
Bread 1 ounce or 1 regular slice CD cover
Dry cereal 1 ounce or 1 cup Baseball
Cooked cereal, rice or pasta 1 ounce or ½ cup ½ baseball
Pancake or waffle 1 ounce or 1 small piece (6 inches) CD
Bagel, hamburger bun 1 ounce or ½ piece Hockey puck
Cornbread 1 piece Bar of soap

 

Fruits Group
Orange, apple, pear 1 small fruit (2½ inches in diameter) Tennis ball
Raisins ¼ cup Golf ball

 

Vegetables Group
Baked potato 1 medium Computer mouse
Vegetables, chopped or salad 1 cup Baseball

 

Dairy Group
Fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt 1 cup Baseball
Cheese 1½ ounces natural cheese or 2 ounces processed cheese 9-volt battery
Ice cream ½ cup ½ baseball

 

Protein Foods Group
Lean beef or poultry 3 ounces Deck of cards
Grilled or baked fish 3 ounces Checkbook
Peanut butter 2 tablespoons Ping-pong ball

 

Oils Group
Margarine 1 teaspoon Standard postage stamp
Oil or salad dressing 1 teaspoon Standard cap on a 16-ounce water bottle

Helps Kids Listen to Their Bodies

One core strategy for healthy eating at all ages is listening to internal hunger and fullness cues. Discuss what it feels like to be hungry and what it feels like to be full with your child. A discussion about the difference between physical hunger and boredom, sadness or tiredness is appropriate for older children. When kids listen to their bodies, the chances of overeating are lessened. Help them understand it is OK to stop eating when they feel full, even if there is food left on the plate.

Adapted from: Ellen Shield, MED RD LD and Mary Mullen, MS, RD

Tip of the Day

Remember to wash fresh fruits and vegetables! Rinse fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating them. Under clean, running water, rub fruits and vegetables briskly to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. After rinsing, dry with a clean towel.

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Fish Intake During Pregnancy Increases Risk for Childhood Obesity

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High intakes of fish during pregnancy increase the risk for overweight and obesity in offspring, according to a study published online in JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers monitored 26,184 women and their children for fish intake and BMIs, respectively. Those who ate fish more than three times per week while pregnant had children with higher BMIs through early childhood and increased their children’s risk for rapid weight gain when compared to those who ate less fish per week. Researchers suspect chemical pollutants found in fish may alter fat metabolism and thus contribute to weight gain.

Stratakis N, Roumeliotaki T, Oken E, et al. Fish intake in pregnancy and child growth: a pooled analysis of 15 European and US birth cohorts. JAMA Pediatr. Published online February 15, 2016.

Tip of the Day

Growing family? When a woman is pregnant, she has a higher need for some vitamins and minerals. It is important for expecting mothers to make healthy choices from each food group.

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Help Kids Cope with Food Peer Pressure

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Much of life revolves around eating, so you want to be sure that your child is equipped to make healthy choices when you’re not right there. The older a child gets, the more meals and snacks take place outside the home — from school to sleepovers to parties. As kids grow up and gain more independence, outings with friends often include eating in restaurants. Peer pressure, a social reality that affects many areas of life, can easily influence a child’s food preferences and selections in each of these situations.

It Starts At Home

Habits formed at home will follow your child out the door. While studies have shown that peer influences are associated with kids’ eating patterns, it is known that behaviors modeled by family members are a powerful force as well. A review article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that parents have the opportunity to model positive or negative eating habits, and that this can impact children’s choices in any setting. Finding a healthy balance at home is important.”Partner with your child by understanding your child’s food preferences, encouraging them to participate in food selection and preparation, and setting realistic guidelines on food intake per age,” says Nancy Farrell, MS, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Remember it’s OK to be a ‘B’ student with food intake. Perfection shouldn’t be the rule, as that can backfire and create distorted body image issues leading to disordered eating.”

Healthy Choices at Restaurants

Extravagant portion sizes present a challenge for health-minded kids who are eating out with their friends. “It’s easy to think that the portions of food we are served are what we should be consuming, so we eat everything that comes on our plate, in our cup or brought to the table,” says Farrell. “Social events can also trigger an increased appetite. Take the time at home to teach kids about true hunger levels and appropriate child or teen portion sizes so they will be better able to handle portion sizes on their own.”

Help children and teens practice mindful eating by encouraging them to eat at a slower pace and heed the internal cues that the body sends to let them know they are full. Tell them that cleaning their plate is not always necessary. Help them pick healthy options when you go out as a family.

Confidence Under Scrutiny

Friends and even family members may pose awkward questions — such as, “Are you on a diet?” — when kids make different food choices than their peers, or they may tease them for things including drinking water instead of soda at social gatherings. Kids with a strong sense of self-esteem will be more confident in their actions. Encourage them to open up to you regarding their feelings about conversations they’ve had regarding choices that have gone against the norm. Praise them for good decisions. Suggest that they explain that they do eat “sometimes” foods, but that they also want to make healthy choices as often as possible.

So Many Options!

School, visits with friends and “special occasions” are ever-present opportunities for kids to practice balanced eating. When there is an array of options, teach them that they can take a “sometimes” food along with a few healthier foods. Get together with other parents of children from school and talk about ways you can promote healthy eating in the group as a whole. Anticipating the kinds of pressures your child will face and preparing for them will give you confidence that he or she is going to do well when you’re not present. Congratulations on setting the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating habits!

Adapted by: Andrea Johnson, RD, CSP, LDN

Tip of the Day

Kid-sized snacks! Prepare single-serving snacks for younger children. Sliced fruit or veggies, whole-grain crackers, or single serving low-fat yogurts can all be healthy options!

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ADHD Link with Childhood Obesity

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Girls with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to become obese adults, according to a study published online in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Researchers compared height, weight, and other measurements in 5,718 participants as part of the Rochester Epidemiology Project. Those with ADHD during childhood were more likely to be obese or become obese later in life when compared to those without ADHD. Researchers suspect neurological abnormalities as a result of ADHD inhibit satiety and satisfaction and recommend dietary counseling as part of treatment.

Castaneda RLA, Kumar S, Voigt RG, et al. Childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, sex, and obesity: a longitudinal population-based study. Mayo Clin Proc. Published online February 4, 2016.

Tip of the Day

Serve with small plates! To help with portion control, use a smaller plate for meals, like a salad plate. That way you can finish your entire plate without overeating.

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