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Parents May Hold Key to Healthy Weight in Hispanic Kids

FRIDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Parents of overweight Hispanic children are willing to make food and lifestyle changes that will benefits their kids' health, a new study suggests.

The findings may help improve efforts to combat the childhood obesity epidemic among Hispanic Americans, the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, said the researchers at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

"Almost half of all Latino kids are either overweight or obese," senior study author Dr. Glenn Flores, a professor of pediatrics and clinical sciences, said in a medical center news release. "It's an important issue in terms of our future generations. If we intervene early enough, we won't have obese adults."

In the study, the researchers asked 19 Hispanic parents about their children's dietary and exercise habits and roadblocks to making healthier choices.

"Themes regarding the most important things parents can do to help overweight children lose weight included encouragement, not making the child feel left out, the whole family eating healthy and the parent setting a good example," said Flores, who is also head of general pediatrics at UT Southwestern and chief of general pediatrics at Children's Medical Center Dallas.

The parents and children also tasted Hispanic foods prepared with healthy alternatives, such as tortillas made with vegetable oil instead of lard, beans made without lard, healthy-grain enchiladas with low-fat cheese, baked fish, skinless chicken breasts and brown rice.

The participants had favorable responses to all of the foods, with the exception of brown rice instead of white rice.

In addition to healthier foods, the parents said other actions that would help their children lose weight included cutting down on portion sizes and second helpings, drinking more water, being more physically active, making exercise a family activity, and limiting time in front of the television or computer.

Barriers to increased physical activity include cost, time constraints and neighborhood safety, according to the parents.

"Sometimes getting kids into organized sports in the inner city is very difficult," Flores said. "The kids usually want it, but it's not always easy to find."

The study was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about overweight and obesity in children.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, news release, Dec. 19, 2011

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