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Toddlers on a Diet? Maybe…

When my daughter was about 15-months-old I took her in for a well-check. “Whoa, she’s gained a lot this month,” my doctor told me. “What is she eating?” My answer was sort of complicated. Big Girl was a hungry kid and a good eater. This was a good thing, I thought, which is why I was letting her eat as much cereal as she wanted in the morning. I’d give her one bowl. She’d finish it and ask for another. And another. As much as she wanted was sometimes three bowls of Joe’s Os. Plus fruit and yogurt. I never thought twice about how much she was eating until I said it out loud.

My doctor admonished me, telling me toddlers were sometimes like puppies. They would keep eating for the sheer fun of eating. “Cut her down to one bowl. That’s all she needs,” my doctor said. She said she didn’t want Big Girl, who from birth had always been 95th percentile for height and 50th for weight, to end up at 95th percentile for both height and weight. (That month she had crept up to 75th percentile for weight.) I listened to my doctor’s advice and watched my daughter’s weight level out at her next check up.

When I told some of my friends, they questioned my doctor’s advice. Cutting back her breakfast was tantamount to putting her on a diet, they said. If she was hungry she obviously needed the calories. I thought about it some more and decided my doctor was right. A 15-month-old should not be eating three bowls of dry cereal in the morning. Heck, a 15-year-old shouldn’t be doing that, either. Turns out my doctor may have helped us dodge the obesity bullet.

Harvard University researchers this month published a study that says that risks for obesity may start while a child is in the womb, which is why obesity prevention should probably start then, too.

According to research, moms who gained more than the recommended amount while pregnant had kids who — at age seven — were 48 percent more likely than their peers to be overweight. This varies depending on how much a woman weighs before she gets pregnant, but it’s typically between 15 and 35 pounds, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Whether or not they got gestational diabetes also impacts childhood obesity.

Here’s where my doctor helped me out: Researchers found that babies who gain a lot of weight during their first few years and are disproportionate — they might be in the 25th percentile for height but the 75th for weight — often end up being overweight as children. Starting solids before four-months-old, and not sleeping enough were two other obesity risk factors that were identified, too. (We didn’t have these problems since Big Girl had the thrust reflex until six or seven months old, and she’s always been a phenomenal sleeper unlike her mom, thank goodness.)

Today she is still on that 95/50 percentile ratio. Her sister is, too. I won’t stop them from having an occasional second bowl of cereal if they want it, but they very rarely want one. Every once in a while Big Girl is ravenous in the morning, but most days she’ll rush out the door after eating her cereal telling me she’s full. (Usually as I am trying to get her to eat a little yogurt, too.) I think it’s because she’s in the habit of eating about the same amount every day. So thank you, Doctor, for letting me know I was making a mistake. Thank you for not being afraid to tell me the truth. One day Big Girl will appreciate it.

What do you think about limiting what kids eat? How about solid foods? Is there such a thing as giving kids food too early? Let’s hear it.

One Response to “Toddlers on a Diet? Maybe…”

  1. sheri says:

    I always thought it was okay to let babies eat what they wanted to as well. I am so glad you shared this information.

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