By Lisa Kenigsberg Fechter, M.D., and Lisa Farkas MS, RD, LD/N, CDE
Nutrition plays a very big role in health in childhood. It is very important that children eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to help them to grow and develop normally. In addition, children should be getting 60 minutes of exercise or activity every day.
There are many reasons why a child may need to see an endocrinologist for nutrition. For example, when children are underweight they can have poor growth in height, called short stature. Children and teenagers who are overweight are at risk for developing many health conditions, including diabetes, cholesterol abnormalities and irregular periods.
At the Broward Health Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital Endocrine Clinic we assess many aspects of a child’s health, including their growth, weight, and nutritional status. To make changes to a child’s diet and overall health, we take a team-based approach. The members of the team include the endocrinologist, dietitian (or nutritionist), parents, and most importantly, the patient!
The endocrinologist can screen for health problems related to being overweight or underweight, and explain the changes that happen to a child’s body when they are not at an ideal weight. The dietitian can do a comprehensive assessment of your child’s current diet and suggest changes to help improve their health.
The first step is to assess your child’s current weight and nutritional state. Our team will identify your child’s dietary and physical activity behaviors, which may be promoting energy imbalance, and we will aid in modifying these behaviors. We also assess a child’s and their family’s desire to make changes and what their means and motivation include.
At the time of the appointment, the dietitian obtains a detailed diet history and assessment of usual food and beverage intake. Behaviors addressed include, but are not limited to, frequency of eating food prepared outside the home, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and frequency and quality of breakfast.
After the assessment, we will provide the child and their family with personalized recommendations based on their specific needs and goals. Specific behaviors we target may include reduced consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, recommending appropriate intake of fruits and vegetables, eating breakfast daily, and proper portion sizes for the child’s age. Some patients may need more specific recommendations, such as carbohydrate guidelines, foods to aid in lowering cholesterol, or even foods to aid in weight gain.
Our goal is to help with children, teenagers, and families help to improve long-term health. When taking care of children, we have an important opportunity to make sure that we are establishing life-long healthy habits. These habits, such as healthy eating and getting enough exercise, will decrease a child’s risk of developing medical problems as they get older, and help ensure that they grow and develop normally.
Broward Health Pediatric Endocrinologist Dr. Lisa Kenigsberg Fechter will discuss how to better understand your child’s growth chart and the factors that influence growth and height on Thursday, March 14 from 6-7pm, at Broward Health Coral Springs (Multipurpose room). Call to register for this free lecture at 954-759-7400.