The problem with 'diet' foods for your kids -

The problem with 'diet' foods for your kids

Despite an abundance of dietetic foods on grocery store shelves across the country, child obesity is at an all-time high.

"Obviously, diet foods are not helping Americans slim down," says Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson. She says diet foods can actually do more harm than good.

"When a parent goes to the store and buys something that's labeled diet, they're doing it for the right reasons. You're trying to reduce the number of calories that your kid eats. Unfortunately, what has happened is that people aren't just replacing serving for serving, but they're actually increasing the amount that they are eating in the diet food. So, instead of eating one regular cookie, someone might eat five diet cookies," says Dr. Natterson.

In fact, the artificial sweeteners used in "sugar-free" snacks can have the same effect as the sugar they're replacing.

"It is causing kids to develop a sweeter and sweeter palate, so they're looking for more sweet foods," says Dr. Natterson.

And just because a diet food has fewer calories doesn't mean your child's body will respond in the way you'd expect.

"When you consume a lot of diet foods, you change the metabolism of your body. And you actually don't metabolize calories as efficiently, and you might gain more weight," says Dr. Natterson. She suggests gradually reducing the amount of diet foods and snacks children eat by not replacing them after they've run out.

"If you talk to your kids about what you're doing, you're trying to create healthier eating habits for everyone in the family," says Dr. Natterson, "Explain to your kids, they're much more likely to go along with it. What they're not going to go along with is an ambush where you suddenly take away everything that they love and you replace it with all this stuff that they perceive as healthy and not good."

Dr. Natterson says parents should also practice portion control. "We don't need to show our kids a tremendous amount of food at once.We can serve smaller portions at a time. Slow down our kids' eating. And if they're hungry and they want more, we can always give more."

Just as with adults, the key to a child maintaining a healthy weight is moderation.

"Rather than focus on too many diet foods, maybe a couple of diet foods and many more whole foods that are healthy, that are going to get your kids well nourished, and that are going to get them on the path of really good nutrition," says Dr. Natterson.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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