STUDY focuses on obese babies, toddlers

Thursday, July 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ Concerned that children in a federal food program are fatter than their peers, North Texas researchers are conducting an 18-month study on ways to cut obesity in low-income kids.

Gulping lots of high-calorie juice and sitting for hours watching TV or playing video games are some of the ways young children pack on the pounds. And the problem is compounded when children live in neighborhoods where it may be dangerous to play outside, experts say.

``These are low-income parents, they live in small apartments and they often live in housing complexes where there aren't places for them to play. Some parents said it's unsafe where they are,'' said Evelyn Andersson, a research assistant at the Institute of Women's Health at Texas Woman's University.

About 25 percent of children in the United States are obese, but that number jumps to 33 percent of children served by the Women, Infants and Children food supplement program, said Carol Huettig, research professor with the Institute of Women's Health.

Huettig said the 40 participants are from 1 to 3 years old and above the 95th percentile for body mass index. In simple terms, the children weigh too much for their height.

The children and their parents have been participating in a weekly play program for 12 months to learn games and other activities that will keep them active, like tying a sheet around their necks and pretending to be superheros.

``It might not be anything more spectacular than understanding they could set up an obstacle course in their house,'' Huettig said.

Researchers are examining the impact of participation in the program on the body composition and self-image of the child. They hope the study will lead them to better tips to give parents for keeping their children in shape.

``The outcome that we'd like to have is if you can teach women to have appropriate activities they'll have more interaction with their kids and the mother and child will be more active,'' said Charlotte ``Barney'' Sanborn, executive director of the Institute for Women's Health.

``The No. 1 outcome is that the child can overcome being obese,'' Sanborn said. ``They'll grow into their height.''

WIC serves 62,000 women, infants and children in Dallas. It provides nutritional supplements and nutritional counseling to families of at-risk infants and children five years and younger.

The parents are talking to WIC nutritionists and dietitians, but researchers are not monitoring food intake and nutrition.

``We're not trying to put these little guys on a diet,'' Huettig said. ``We hope we can set up a lifestyle program.''

The organizations received about $300,000 from the National Institutes of Health to conduct the program.

Here's a list of the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to food for your kids:
Some of the best include american cheese, eggs, peanut butter, ketchup, and believe it or not, pizza!

An alphabetical list of the best and worst foods for kids,
according to an article in the August edition of Parents magazine.

The Best:

  • American cheese
  • Baby carrots
  • Baked potato
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe
  • Chocolate milk
  • Eggs
  • Frozen mixed vegetables
  • Ground beef
  • Ketchup
  • Kiwifruit
  • Orange juice
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Pizza
  • Sweet potato
  • Tortillas
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Yogurt

The Worst
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Chips
  • Doughnuts
  • French fries
  • Fruit leather (rolled-up dried fruit)
  • Hot dogs
  • Juice-flavored drinks
  • Prepackaged lunches
  • Soda
  • Toaster pastries