“Your child has a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index).  He’s had good growth from last year.” I repeat this line many times during the course of my workday as I am seeing kids for their annual check-ups.  The parents often will smile and say, “Great.”  At this point, if the conversation moves onto the next topic, then I, as a pediatrician, and you, as the parent, have just missed a golden opportunity.

That’s right, a wonderful teachable opportunity for yourself and your child.  Knowing that your child has a healthy weight and height is good, but what is even more important is the conversation that should come after.  This is THE BEST time for the pediatrician and parent to talk to the child and say, “You are healthy.  Let’s talk about ways to STAY healthy.”  This is the time I talk about 5 fruits and 5 vegetables a day.  “Whaaaat?? Five of each.  Can I have some treats too?” is what the kids ask at this point.  “Yes, one junky thing a day and small portion of it is ok,” is usually what I say.  This is the perfect conversation to bring up healthy portions.  Surprise.  Surprise.  Most parents don’t know what a healthy portion is for a five year old vs. a ten year old.  I would prefer to stop all sugary drinks for kids however I know that is not feasible or practical for many families.  So I ask everybody to water down juice and limit the total intake to 4 oz a day.  This conversation is especially helpful when the juice is about to be introduced to an infant or toddler.

Let’s not forget about healthy “screen time” of no more than 2 hours a day.  By screen time,  I mean all the gadgets that have a screen.  Exercise or staying active is another aspect of health that should be touched on for kids with normal weight (not just the kids who are overweight).

Many of us talk to our doctors about how to BECOME HEALTHY when our child is over or underweight.  I prefer to talk about STAYING HEALTHY, when they are already at a healthy weight.  We always hear that prevention is the key to health.  As a pediatrician, I have the unique opportunity to see a child grow up and for me, missing the opportunity to teach them about health is not acceptable.

I would love to hear your thoughts too.  When you or your child is given a clean bill of health, how many of you talk about how to stay that way?

Photo courtesy of free digital