Help Kids Lose Weight

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Avoid Starchy Carbs

If your child had a bagel for breakfast this morning, it wasn’t much more nutritious than eating a bowl of sugar, says Parents advisor David Ludwig, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. That’s because most starchy carbohydrates, like bread, white rice, and potatoes, dissolve into glucose soon after you swallow them. Starting the day with eggs or another source of protein instead will not only help your child feel fuller, but it will help him lose weight.

Dr. Ludwig is seriously worried about how many kids are getting fat — the percentage of 6- to 11-year-olds who are overweight has doubled in the last 25 years. And the situation is only going to get worse: Children who are overweight are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and could face kidney failure and amputations by age 30. Ironically, our focus on low-fat eating over the last decades — and the subsequent boom in high-carb meals and snacks — may be a key factor in the obesity epidemic, says Dr. Ludwig. But an Atkins-style low-carb diet isn’t the answer either. In his eye-opening new book, Ending the Food Fight: Guide Your Child to a Healthy Weight in a Fast Food/Fake Food World, he offers a road map — backed up by the latest scientific research — for helping kids stay slim.

Nutrition Tips

The glycemic load is key. This is the measure of how quickly a food containing carbohydrates turns into glucose. Studies have shown that when a kid eats a high-glycemic meal, his blood-glucose surges and then plummets — leaving him even hungrier. A low-glycemic meal takes longer to digest so a child’s blood sugar stays steady, and he’ll feel full longer. In general, low-glycemic carbs have more fiber and are less processed.

Choose lots of veggies and fruits (but not all of them). No surprise here: You should pile on the produce. However, corn and potatoes have a high glycemic index, and certain tropical fruits, such as bananas and pineapple, are more likely to contribute to weight gain than apples, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe, kiwi, or berries.