Frequently Asked Questions About Weight Management

Weight Management in Children

The pediatricians at Children’s Community Pediatrics have answers to your frequently asked questions about managing your child’s weight.

Q. My teenage daughter wants to become a vegetarian. How can I make sure she’s getting the nutrients she needs?
I asked my young adult children for their thoughts, since they are vegetarians. My husband was brought up a vegetarian, and as a family we have had an ovo-lacto vegetarian household. What’s ovo-lacto? We eat eggs and dairy products, but no meat, foul, fish, shellfish, or animal-derived products – such as gelatin.

Here are some suggestions for exploring vegetarianism, as well as ways to make sure your child’s diet contains enough nutrients: 

  • Explore why you want to be a vegetarian. This will help you and others make decisions about your food choices. Have your family eat vegetarian regularly – one or more times a week. It’ll help them understand that quality, quantity, and variety are both important and possible for all kinds of vegetarians.
  • Try a wide variety of foods and cuisines. Vegetarian options can be fascinating and delicious, but they sometimes involve trying new ingredients and different forms of preparation. As with all cuisines, there are recipes with both simple and complex preparation. Find simple preparations first, unless you have the time to cook more time-consuming ones.
  • Find a community with whom you can share and explore your vegetarian choice. This may be a café, a farmer’s market, a vegetarian-friendly food shop, a family, or a friend. You’ll share ideas and find solutions to challenges.
  • Find a book in the library or a store, and explore online resources and recipes. If you don’t like one, try another. There are lots!
  • Avoid diets that are too restrictive – vegetarian or not. Vegans, who do not eat any animal products (including dairy and eggs), can be at risk for Vitamin B12, iron, and protein deficiencies if they do not make careful food choices, and they may need supplements. For girls, especially girls who are athletic, attention to adequate amounts of iron in the diet is important.
  • Remember:
    • - "Junk food" is still junk, even if it is vegetarian.
    • - Be wary of diets that eliminate whole categories of nutrients (fats, all sugars), and diets controlled by rigid routines. A “too healthy” diet that results in rapid weight loss may be a sign of an eating disorder – seek professional evaluation.

Have fun on your vegetarian adventure!
Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

Q. My children are usually very active, but come winter, all they do is sit on the couch and watch television. How do I get them to do something else?
One option is to turn off the TV and say, “Enough”! You should limit your children to a maximum of two hours of sedentary time a day. This includes TV, video games, and the computer. Be a model to your kids by joining them. If it’s not too cold out, go for a nature walk. Has it snowed yet? Build a snowman together. Put on music and dance, or play follow the leader. How about a game of hide-and-seek?
Victoria A. Kisslinger, MD, FAAP
CCP - Mt. Lebanon

Return to  Ask the Pediatrician.

Last Update
January 16, 2015
Weight Management
A program for children and families

Achieve and maintain a healthy weight by learning good nutritional and lifestyle habits.

Read more