Weight Watchers for Children?!

If you haven’t heard already Weight Watchers has launched an app for children. Yep, you read that right, an app targeting 8-13 year olds and focusing on green, yellow and red foods. When I started hearing about this, I was first really surprised. Then that surprise was followed by being slightly upset and then realizing that I shouldn’t be surprised. This “diet culture” that is very pervasive in our world is now reaching our children, who aren’t even in middle school yet.

I can definitely acknowledge that there is an obesity problem facing Americans. From adults to children, as a country we struggle with being healthy, but I strongly believe that an app targeting children and trying to help them “diet” is NOT the answer. This app is called Kurbo. There are lots of articles that are showing up online addressing this app. I am not opposed to the Green, Yellow and Red light method for nutrition education, but it isn’t my favorite. Why? Because children are so literal. If a food is termed as “bad” then they remember that and they don’t want to eat those food items. Children’s processing abilities are very black and white. That is why using the term “good” and “bad” is tough for them. I am in support of the all foods fit method. Focusing on eating more healthy foods, but not overdoing the special, treats.

This picture below is from the Kurbo app and showing how it works. You log your food intake and then the app organizes it into green, yellow and red categories. The part that bothers me is when you consume “too many red foods” then the app will tell you that and “encourage” you to try other “green foods” instead. All of the foods that are listed as “green foods” are fruits and vegetables. That is a great goal, but one can not live on only fruit and vegetables. You need some other forms of protein and fat sources to help your muscles grow appropriately and then a child’s brain develop. Plus, this app is promoting before and after pictures of children who have lost weight. This was extremely upsetting because that is not at all how we want children to gain confidence. Their self worth should not be tied to a picture of themselves.


My point of sharing this with you all is to bring the focus to this “Diet Culture” that is persistent in our environment. This is NOT the message that we should be sharing with our children … that they NEED to lose weight to “make their parents happy.” Children should never be put on a diet, because research shows that is not helpful for their development and leads to a negative relationship with food and often creates more eating issues as they grow. Having a goal to get children to be more active and choose more nutritionally dense foods in their diets are perfect things to focus on as a family. I think the other part of this that really bothers me is the fact that this is suppose to be used by the child and doesn’t include the family. Whenever I counsel a family with a child who is overweight … the goal is lifestyle modification for the family and it is a whole family affair. The child doesn’t go to the store and purchase food … that is the parent’s role so that education needs to include the parent to help provide more nutritionally dense choices and the child can choose how much of those food items to eat.

No child should ever be told that they are fat and they need some app to help them fix some weight problem about themselves. I am not a fan of weight loss apps and I don’t like how people get caught up in “good” and “bad” foods. The goal with weight loss counseling is working to make small life style changes that are sustainable. Using an app can’t really help with that. As a parent be aware that this app is out there. This is dangerous and not at all helpful to building children up and fostering a positive relationship with food/their own body image. Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can be a helpful tool to make small changes for the entire family. If you have questions about your child’s weight or concerns about making food changes - reach out and let me know. This can be tough, but with the help of trained professionals there is a way to encourage and foster a healthy relationship with food and help children grow and develop in a positive manner.

Kids Eat Right

I know that I kind of missed the mark with this post. It is a little late, because August was Kids Eat Right Month and I know it is now the beginning of September, but I am think this is such a great topic that we should continue to talk about it into September. 

As many of you know, I am a pediatric dietitian and I feel passionately about good nutrition for our kids. This week I am was asked to put together a display booth as a Elementary/Jr High Wellness Night at a private school. I also have the chance to be on Indy Style again talking about school lunches (tune in tomorrow at 9am on WISH TV). I thought this would be a great topic for the blog this week and really focus in on recommendations for school-aged children.

There was also a great news article that was released at the end of August from the American Heart Association talking about children and sugar consumption. This statement came from research put out in the publication Circulation, looking at how sugar affect children's overall health. The recommendations are that children/teens (ages 2-18 years old) should not be consuming more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Added sugars are classified as table sugar, fructose, honey found in processed/prepared foods or beverages, sugar that is added to foods at the table or eaten separately. It has been determined that children eating more than this per day (> 6 tsp added sugar) are often consuming more unhealthy food items. 

Now you have to be wondering what in the world can you do to cut back on your child's sweet treats? Well thankful there is a great handout from the USDA on this exact topic. 

In addition to just sugar intake, overall diet is important as well for children to grow/develop to their full potential. As a parent/caregiver, the responsibility falls to you to help make sure that your child is getting the proper nutrition that they need. You should be aiming for a well-rounded, balanced plate at every meal. I know that feel intimidating, specially if you have a picky child. But keep offering healthy options and encourage your child to take at least 2 bites of each food item offered at that meal. 

Your child's plate will be smaller compared with yours, but it should still contain all of the above mentioned food groups (Fruits, Vegetables, Protein, Grains and Dairy) with each meal. Now I know it can be challenging to fit in vegetables with your breakfast, so if that doesn't happen every morning, make sure to offer another vegetable at lunch/dinner and move a fruit to a snack in the afternoon. 

Tips for a Healthy School Lunch

  1.  Incorporate fruits and vegetables in a fun way. Variety your produce options in the lunch bag. Use different dips throughout the week with the veggies (hummus, ranch, sunbutter) or with the fruit (like yogurt). Cut up the fruit/vegetables so that your child is more likely to eat them. 
  2. Make the bread on their sandwich whole grain. This could be sliced bread, crackers, pita or a wrap. You can have a variety of types of sandwiches (lunch meat, PB&J, chicken salad). 
  3. Have a snack for them in their bag for later in day – for the ride home on the bus or in between school and a sports practice. Make this something easy to carry that doesn’t need an ice pack – granola bar, crackers, dried fruit, or nuts.

If you  have more questions or want more information about planning healthy, meals for your family, feel free to get in touch with me! Have a great Monday and hope your Labor Day weekend has been amazing! 

Childhood and Adolescent Weight Management Certificate Program

I had the opportunity to attend the Childhood and Adolescent Weight Management Certificate Program in Indianapolis last week. It had been a goal of mine for the last couple of years to attend that program when it was closer to where I live. They offer the 3 day program twice a year and they rotate the sights all over the country. This spring it was in Indianapolis! I just had to go, because it would have been cheaper and less travel compared to going to another state for this training. 

Now you might be wondering what this training is about. It is focused on combating the obesity epidemic in youth and the goal is for RDs to be able to learn more about this issue and be better equipped to work with patients to help them become healthier. To complete the certificate program you have to complete required readings, complete a pre-test (score minimum of 80%), attend the 2 1/2 day program and then complete a post-test (scoring a minimum of 80%). At the end of all this you get to claim this certified training on your resume and gain useful knowledge in this specialty area. 

So even if you aren't an RD, I did learn some interesting information that you might find interesting. 

  • Children ages 2-19 - 32% of them are obese and 21% of children ages 6-10 years are living in food insecure homes.
  • It is projected that by the year 2072 - 80% of everyone in the United States will be obese (BMI >30kg/m2). 
  • 60% of children 10-14 years old have a TV in their bedroom. Research has shown that kids gain 1 extra pound per year when they have a TV in their bedroom compared with children who didn't have a TV in their bedroom. 
  • Children are often the main target for intense and aggressive food marketing and advertising efforts. Often this is NOT for healthy, food options.

I know some of those statistics are depressing, but I think it helps to realize how big of a problem this is for children and this isn't a problem that goes away in adulthood. This weight gain trend often continues as the child gets older and continues to be a problem throughout the child's entire life. 

There are lots of things that we (as a community) can do to help our youth be healthier now and for the future. 

  • Make an effort with your children to limit screen time, get outside a move more and purchase healthy food for your home. 
  • Try to eat out less and make being healthy an entire family commitment. 
  • Support health/wellness initiatives in the local school systems. 
  • As a parent or caregiver, demonstrate healthy behaviors for your children. 

I wanted to share this video from the FNV Campaign (Food and Veggies) that is a partnership from the Healthier America and Let's Move Campaigns to help encourage healthier food marketing to Americans. I just wanted to leave you on that note and encourage you to make healthy choices for yourself and your children. 

Certified Specialist in Pediatrics

I got the letter. I have been waiting to hear how I did on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics National Board Exam for the Certification in Pediatrics. I took the exam back in November, just prior to Thanksgiving. I had been waiting while they graded all of the exams and determine who passes. I felt better about this exam and after reviewing some flashcards for the exam I felt like I had a better handle on the material. 

For those of you that may be confused about what this means ... the accreditation body for the dietetics profession is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They have several certification exams that you can take in a variety of speciality areas - for example Nutrition Support, Diabetics, Pediatrics, Sports Nutrition, etc. To be eligible to take these exams you must complete a set number of practice hours. For the Certification in Pediatrics it was 2,000 contact hours with pediatric patients. You also must have at least 2 years of experience as a Registered Dietitian. Once these requirements are met you are eligible to sit for the exam. Once you pass the exam you can place these certification letters after your name. I have been wanting to obtain these credentials for several years, ever since I developed a love for pediatrics and working with families in a nutrition setting. 

I got my letter this past week, congratulating me on passing this exam. Now I can sign my name Anna Busenburg, RD, CSP. It is quite exciting to see all the hard work, hours of studying, finally pay off!