“Restrictive diets take patients so far outside their comfort zone that only a few people can keep going for more than three to six months,” says Pediatric Gastroenterologist Dr. Daniel Preud'Homme, adding that a “diet” specifically refers to a drastic change in food types and amounts, as well as the avoidance of cultural food choices – like our Southern fried chicken.
Instead of following the latest restrictive diets, Dr. Preud'Homme suggests that patients focus on changing one behavior at a time in a family-centered approach.
“A stepwise approach works better in a routine and is therefore more likely to be incorporated to become a ‘new normal,’” explained Dr. Preud'Homme, who is director of the Pediatric Healthy Life Center and professor of pediatrics at the University of South Alabama.
According to Dr. Preud'Homme, portion control is tricky territory because everyone describes it differently. He suggests referring to the new USDA recommendation for smaller plates and division by food group. For children, portion sizes can be estimated by using a fraction of the adult size. For example, a portion for a child under 7 is half of the adult portion. A portion for a child under 13 is two-thirds of the adult portion.
In addition to struggling with portion size, many people have a problem with overeating, which is usually triggered by cravings, prolonged hunger, an abnormal “fullness” signal from the stomach, or mental state. It can also be triggered by a situation, like a buffet at a restaurant.
To help with overeating, Dr. Preud'Homme suggests eating often, avoiding prolonged food evasion and keeping control over the food supply in the household.
For those who work full-time, he suggests keeping this advice in mind when planning lunches.
“The fast-food restaurant does not take into account whether someone has high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease,” said Dr. Preud'Homme.
“The store-bought lunch packs, pre-made sandwiches and ready-to-eat microwaveable meals have limitations. They don’t have enough fiber, have too much salt and are nutrient poor,” explained Dr. Preud'Homme. “The best practice is to pack lunch yourself. Adult lunches should have one to two servings of vegetables, one serving of protein (meat or dairy), one serving of grains and a fruit.”
When packing children’s school lunches, Dr. Preud'Homme suggests including nutritious items the child likes, such as salsa and baked Tostitos, fruit, or water with flavor packs.
Dr. Preud'Homme warns to always be wary of portion size. Snacks, in addition to other meals, should follow the same serving size rules. A bag of chips, even baked chips, is an adult portion size, so parents will need to make appropriate adjustments.
Here are Dr. Preud’Homme’s top five nutrition tips for eating right:
Eat a healthy breakfast daily: avoid breakfast with high sugar content such as poptarts, doughnuts and pastries. Oatmeal with some fruit and fat free milk meets all the requirements.
Do not skip meals: you will likely overeat later. Decreased calories below a necessary amount for daily activity and growth may lead to nutrient deficiency.
Use fat free dairy products: animal-derived food contains saturated fats. These are known to increase the bad cholesterol (LDL). Therefore, these fats are extra calories we can do without.
Avoid sugary drinks completely: added sugars in the form of soda, juices, jellies, and others represent calories that one has to burn off. They are called empty calories because they do not serve any purpose but to satisfy a sweet craving or to balance out caffeine bitterness.
Put color on your plate - green, purple, red, orange, yellow: these food items are fruits and vegetables. The color comes from vitamins and antioxidants, which cannot be squeezed into a vitamin pill.
For more information on achieving a healthy lifestyle for children and young adults, visit www.thepediatrichealthylifecenter.net. To make an appointment for your child with Dr. Preud’Homme at the Pediatric Healthy Life Center, call (251) 434-5038.