Healthy Eating

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Sandra writes:

I really hope you can help me. I am going crazy and, at the same time, I am hurting my 4 year old. My daughter turned 4 last month but here is the catch — She weighs 68 lbs. I know she is way over weight. That is what everybody keeps telling me, but they never seem to have any solutions.

I have cut out almost all of her unhealthy foods and she is very active. Please help me. If not for me help a 4 year old nip a life time of battling weight in the bud. Well, at least get it under control.

Jill: First let me say I am not a doctor or weight loss specialist. I don’t know if you have taken her to the doctor or not but if you think her weight is a serious problem (and it sounds like it is) then you should, of course, do that. Now with that being said (remember I am not a doctor and these are only my opinions) here are a few things you might think about trying. It is hard without more details to be exact so I will have to talk in generalities.

I have lived long enough to have seen almost every diet there is to hit the news only to last a couple of years because that is about how long it takes to figure out it’s not working. I remember many years ago the high carb diet was the way to go. Eat as much pasta as you want and lose weight. These days, most people would have a heart attack (literally) just thinking about that diet let alone doing it.

I remember another time a woman arguing with me how “they” said that margarine was so much better for you and less fattening than butter. She just kept insisting that I should stop eating butter. I sat there wondering if she realized the irony of our situation. I was 5’3″ tall at 110 lbs. and she was the same height at 175 lbs. Was I the only one who saw there was something wrong with this picture?

I mention this because you made the comment that you are feeding your daughter mostly “healthy” foods. If it is an eating problem and not a medical one, I have found couple of things to be true.

First, it generally has little to do with what diet you are on or what healthy food your are eating but more to do with the portions you eat. It is just as important to watch portion sizes as what you are eating. Even if you are carefully using the portion size on the package, remember that packages usually describe an adult portion and not a child’s, so adjust it accordingly.

Get a copy of the food pyramid and follow it. These are easy to find. Just type in food pyramid on the computer or go to the library and check out a book on basic nutrition. I think you will be shocked at how small the serving sizes are and how many of them we really need. Often, we eat 2-4 times as much as we really need. Remember, most of the time these charts are geared for adults so again adjust accordingly for a child. (A child’s serving size is smaller.)

Here’s a point that you very rarely hear: All foods have calories, healthy or otherwise. I personally feel that this is why so many people who are continually trying to lose weight don’t succeed, even when going on a “healthy” diet. If you take in too many calories, healthy or otherwise, you will gain weight.

My daughter and I were discussing this just a couple of days ago. Her doctor, for health reasons, had put her on a very strict diet, with the healthiest foods possible, but she was gaining weight. The nuts she was eating were terribly high in calories and so were some of the other things.

I have known people to fill their children with an endless supply of raisins letting them eat handfuls because they were healthy. Sure, raisins are healthy, but they are also very high in calories and sugar. There was a time when the “experts” pushed eating muffins because they were so much healthier than donuts, but boy do muffins have a lot of calories. This is another place where you need to think twice about how many calories are in that healthy snack (especially now that the typical store bought muffin is 3-4 servings instead of one).

You still gain weight off of off most foods, whether they are natural or “junk food” if you eat large portions. Unfortunately, we often think “healthy” means “no calories” or “all you can eat”, so we allow ourselves and our children to eat much more than is reasonable. When we’re in this mindset, it is difficult to understand why we are gaining weight when we are eating healthy.

Another area people forget to watch is their liquid intake especially when it comes to our children. We all know that pop and Kool-aid will cause our children to gain weight, but what we forget is that milk and juice will do that, too.

We often pour milk and juice down our children because we think it is a quick and easy way to make sure they are getting their fruits and veggies for the day. It is much easier to get a child to drink a glass of juice than to eat a carrot stick. It’s also easier for us as moms to pour a glass of juice than to clean and cut a carrot. I know, I have been there and done that.

I know I have said this before but use milk and juice as part of your family’s nutrients and use water to quench their thirst. That means that if they have a bowl of cereal with milk in the morning, that milk provides the dairy for that meal, so just give them water at that meal instead of a glass of milk.

Even though milk and juice can be healthy, more is NOT always better. Once a child has had the necessary requirement of milk or juice, giving them more milk or juice is not  better than giving them Kool-Aid or pop.

One last thing: The Bible says over and over to do things in moderation and that includes our food. Eat a moderate amount of food (that means a moderate amount from each food group, not an all this or an all that diet). And don’t allow food to become your god.

One day I was shocked when it dawned on me that I had spent more time reading food labels and thinking about what I should or shouldn’t eat than I spent reading my Bible that day. Most of us Christians would say in no uncertain terms that we don’t worship idols and have no other gods before God, but be careful — Satan is subtle. What do you think about all day long? Is it about what you are eating, did eat and are going to eat? How much time do you spend studying and reading about food, diets, etc? And who do you go to for comfort? (There’s a reason they are called comfort food).

I am not saying that you personally have a problem with any of these things. This is just what I know to be true in my own life and what I have seen and heard from others around me.

Jared the Subway guy, who lost all that weight said it well. Following the popular diets and “healthy” ways of eating that everyone recommended was not working for him, so he kept trying different things until found out what was right for him even though everyone would have told him it wouldn’t work.

Hopefully these things will help you to look at what your daughter is eating in a new light and mom, don’t panic and get stressed over it. So often parents say “well I don’t let my kids see that I’m upset”. Don’t sell your children short. They are very intuitive. You don’t have to move a muscle on your face but they can still sense how you are feeling, so make sure above all else you get a grip on your emotions concerning anything.

I hope this helps.


photo by: lepiaf.geo


  1. says

    When my children were children they ate healthy.
    They ate the same things and were into the same activities.
    Some sedintary some active but basically they hung out together so they did mostly the same types of things.
    One has always been tall and slender.
    One has always been tall and slightly overweight.
    Just a few pounds but it showed.
    Now they are adults and both 6’3″ and 210 lbs.
    One still looks much heavier than the other.
    So healthy does not mean a perfect weight which is what a lot of people seem to think of as healthy.
    You have to learn what is good for you and what makes you feel good.
    When we would go grocery shopping I always let the boys pick out a treat for the week. The one would pick cucumbers if they were the small pickling ones. The other would pick green peppers.
    Other parents would laugh and say I was not telling the truth but it was the truth.
    They used to call saltine crackers cookies and got quite upset with their granny when she tried to tell them cookies had chocolate chips in them. They explained those were desserts.
    Keep your young children in the loop and decision making when it comes to what they eat and they will probably surprise you with their comments and decisions.

  2. Latosha says

    Wow! I have been just going all over your website here and came across how to eat healthy and save money. I didn’t think it was possible to save money on groceries while eating healthy. Matter of fact, I spend a little more and that is not my problem, because even some of the unhealthy snacks add up as well.(I try not to shop while hungry)

    I was reading your response to the woman with the overweight 4 year old. I was just saying to my husband that as a child I was underweight but ate like food was going out of style. My dear daddy meant well, but would pile our plates with food and expected us to eat every bite. My dear mother would explain to him that we didn’t need that much food and if we ate the proper serving and was still hungry afterwards, then we could go for more. I would eat until I was full and have been doing that for years now.

    I am now considered severely overweight, according to my BMI. My problem is not so much what foods that I eat, but with portion control. I was on a weight loss program where I lost 65 pounds but the plan changed in the past year where they encourage more fresh fruits and veggies. I can eat a whole watermelon and that still adds up if I don’t watch my hunger signals and portions. So where I still struggle is with portions.

    Right now I am taking a Bible Study Course on not so much weight loss but how to crave more of God and not food. I am not giving up, but I just wanted to express how thankful that I am that someone else out there can relate to what I am going through.


  3. carol says

    One key for children is having access to good things to “fill up” on. That usually means a little prep time for mom. Having carrot sticks, celery sticks, snap peas, little tomatoes, and sliced cucumbers readily available and within reach are great. (And yes, children will eat those things without saturating them in Ranch dressing. When you eat them and enjoy them, then they eat them and enjoy them. Then few times that we have vegy chips or baked chip/treats I automatically divide the portions into snack zip lock bags and then they are already portion controlled. We do the same with any bag candy/treats (M&M’s, Skittles, trail mix, yogurt raisins, etc) It does take a little extra time but the food does go farther. :-)

  4. Sheri says

    One cup of apple juice equals two apples, minus the extra bulk of the fibers and skin. That juice can go down in seconds and is not filling. The apple takes longer to eat, makes you feel fuller and the fibers slow down the sugar hit.

    Also, diluting juices or using them to flavor water will make them go further and use less calories. We need to retrain our taste buds to recognize sweetness with less sugar.

  5. heidi says

    If you are used to eating large portions, try this healthy trick. Eat an apple about 20-30 minutes before meal time. The fiber will make you feel fuller and you won’t eat as much.

    • says

      Good tip Heidi. Another thing along this line too and kind of the same idea is don’t allow yourself to get to the point of starving by going long periods between eating because when you sit down to a meal you will inhale everything you see. Have a snack like the apple Heidi mentioned or something to curb your appetite.

      This works good to if you are going out to eat or something. We talk all the time about saving money and don’t eat out but the reality is we all do go out at some point so feed everyone a piece of fruit or something right before you go to eat. When you get to where you are going it will take the edge off of their appetite and they won’t whine about needing to order everything off of the menu. I’m talking about adults here too. I am forever shocked at how adults have no control when ordering and then leave half of their food. Order small and then if you are still hungry order more if you really need to.

  6. Dee says

    Wow, at 4 years old that child is obese & changes need to be made to her diet. I’m not saying this to be mean, but many frown & judge fat children as being spoiled & over indulged. As she grows, her weight problem will only get worse if changes aren’t made now.
    I raised my 2 children on a limited income. I had to make every food dollar count. We ate healthy & never had weight problems. As adults, my children make healthy eating choices. They don’t eat fast food & chose subway over Burger King or McD’s. We do have an occasional pizza. All foods can be eaten in moderation.
    A few small life style changes will make a big difference. Eliminate fast food including ships,soda pop & fried foods. Portion control & moderation is key to a healthy weight. Slowly cut back the number of calories she’s eating everyday. If she’s that heavy, you are feeding her too much. Become a label reader. If man makes it, try to stay away from it. Limit juice to a glass of orange juice in the morning. Always have fresh fruit in the house. Bananas are is season all year, she should have 1 a day. Substitute cookies for an apple with a little peanut butter. If you buy canned fruit, get it in juice, not heavy syrup. Switch to lowfat or skim milk. We have a vegtable every night at dinner. We eat a lot of chicken. Instead of boxed potatoes every night, make baked or mashed from scratch. It doesn’t take that much longer. Cook with olive oil & get her used to eating fresh veggies & salads. We make salads with every veggie imaginable, spinach, romaine or green leaf, mushrooms, peppers, cucumbers. tomatoes etc. Fat free dressing doesn’t taste good, I don’t buy that. A little fat in the dressing makes it easier for the body to absorb vitamins, but use sparingly. Keep low fat mozzerela cheese sticks & fat free yogert on hand for snacks. If these are eaten together, it will fill her up for a few hours in between meals. We also eat turkey burgers & low carb bread or bread enriched with extra vitamins.If healthy eating is started at a young age, it will be a way of life.It will be all she knows & she’ll chose healthy foods.
    She also should be taking a vitamin supplement everyday. My kids still eat gummy vitamins for adults, as they don’t like to swallow pills.
    I also suggest getting her involved in a sport, walking the dog, or martial arts. This will burn calories & build self esteem.
    A friend of mine has a daughter with a weight problem that got worse over the years. She tried everything to get her to lose the weight, to no avail. I realized the problem when her ex husband did repairs on my home every evening for several weeks. Every night he came over with a large chocolate shake for each of us & at times he brought other fast food as well. He was trying to be nice, as he had brought the same food for his daughter, so he bought for us as well. I had to nicely tell him that we don’t eat those kinds of foods. I cook every night & made him a plate which he appreciated, since he didn’t cook. He fed his daughter junk food everyday,for every meal & her weight grew out of control. Mean while the Mom is trying to get her walking to get her weight under control, unaware of how bad her diet is. So make sure others who have the child for the day or at their homes are following the same healthy eating that you are.

  7. Jane says

    In studies on childhood obesity, it has been found that portion control is the biggest problem. Children need WAY less food than adults, and its easy to forget that and just put the same amount of food on all the plates. I am a cook and the kid’s versions of all the meals we serve are very small. But no one complains, because that’s all that kids need. The only point that I would disagree on in Jill’s response is the use of a food pyramid. Maybe to calculate caloric needs for a child, but the food pyramid is extremely outdated. The rise of obesity in America coincides exactly with the release of the food pyramid. It recommends too many grains, and not enough veggies. A good rule of thumb, is half the meal should be veggies, 1/4 meat and 1/4 grains. Good luck!!

    • says

      I’m not totally sure all the blame can be put on the food pyramid because there are so many other things that happened around that time too. For example about that time credit cards came into being and people could buy anything they wanted, including groceries, anytime they wanted. Before that you were very careful of your food and couldn’t buy how much and what ever you wanted. Treats were bought sparingly, going out to eat was something you did a handful of times a year for a celebration of some kind not a handful of times a week because you don’t want to bother to cook. People didn’t carry a drink around with them all the time – this is proven in the fact that cars didn’t start coming out with cup holders in them until then. So as much as it would be easy to blame obesity on the food pyramid there are way too many other things that contribute to it too and most of it has to do with self control whether in spending or eating.
      Besides it is just a guide line and usually tested on men so common sense should tell use women and children don’t need as much as it says. Different people do need different things. For example when I was making half of my meals with veggies I was horribly sick and come to find out my body reacts to an excess of veggies. I even checked with my doctors and the told me not to eat as much. Same way coffee reacts differently in me. It puts me to sleep so that is why I have to drink a cup before I go to bed to get a good nights sleep. I also am not addicted to it either. I can go weeks or months with out drinking it. Just use the pyramid as a guide.

  8. Mary Jane says

    In the letter above, there is no mention of how tall the child is, or if there are larger boned people in the family line. My daughter, at four years old, was often mistaken for a six or seven year old, even at first glance from physicians. At age twelve she was told that she did not qualify for a freebie for children 12 and under. She was mistaken for being 14-16, until we could answer quickly what year she was born in. She was always tall and larger boned, but never had a weight problem. The women in my family are all about 5 ft. 9 to 10 inches, and the men are all well over 6 ft. tall. I personally had most of my adult height of 5 ft. 10 inches by the time I was 12 years old. I would be paying attention to what the little girls is also drinking all day, as suggested before. Also, if the mom lets the little girl get involved with making dinner, even if it is just putting veggies in a pot, she will take more interest in eating healthy foods, if that is an issue. We knew some kids years ago, who came from a family that ate only meat and potatoes for supper, and cold cereal for breakfast. We sometimes took those kids for a week at a time over the summer holidays. Because we had company, I would make dessert. My kids were thrilled as that was a treat, but our visitors were different. They ate every vegetable they could get their hands on, and had seconds of veggies rather than dessert. Veggies were rare in their home. It seems to me, if a good example is set (this includes eating at the table with the kids), good food is provided, and the stigma of a diet is kept out of it, kids will often go for healthy food, as they seem to actually crave it.

  9. hixinthestix says

    God make each of us with controls built in right from the start. Anyone looking at a newborn baby can realize that the baby will cry when hungry and spit out the bottle when full. That is the crux of the whole matter. We have pushed past the hunger and full controls that we were born with. People eat more than they can work off by exercise. It is just that simple, we eat more than we are wearing off. It doesn’t matter if it is chocolate bars or celery, if you eat more calories than you burn off, you will get fatter. If a person eats only when truly hungry and stops when full, they will lose weight, no matter what food they eat.

    • says

      I so agree with you and holler about portion control and over eating all the time. I have discovered another thing that is happening and that is because people are eating these way out of wack diets that call for no this or no that they are not eating a balanced meal and are getting hungrier so they are eating more then they really should of the good stuff. For example a woman was eating a container of yogurt for breakfast each morning but within 30 mins. she was so hungry again she started munching on a bunch of “healthy” things but wasn’t losing weight. She finally confessed that if she ate and egg with a piece of toast with butter on it she didn’t get the least bit hungry all morning and had no urge to munch.

  10. Magdalen says

    I do agree with the comments on portion control. We’ve been using 9 inch plates at home for months so when we went on holiday we found the portions of food served were huge. I’m afraid that ,after the first shock, we reverted to our old, greedy selves,(I put on 3lb) We’re back home now and using the smaller plates again.

  11. Magdalen says

    ” I am hurting my for year old” It might not be you. When I was small, I visited our neighbour a lot. She was a lovely woman, but having no children of her own, she was always giving me food and sweets. I think my own weight problem started there.


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